Wifredo Lam and the International Avant-Garde, 1923-1982

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With its signature style that marries Cubism and Surrealism with Afro-Cuban and Caribbean motifs, the art of Wifredo Lam occupies a unique position in the history of modern art. Like many modern artists, specifically Pablo Picasso, Lam participated in the primitivist movement, drawing inspiration and imagery from non-western, pre-technological cultures. Yet, unlike European and Euroamerican primitivists, Lam, who was a Cuban of Spanish, African, and Chinese descent, was engaging with his own cultural heritage in his works. His authenticity as both "primitive" and "primitivist" challenges the fundamental tenets of primitivism and makes Lam an ambiguous, fascinating figure in twentieth-century art.

This wide-ranging study explores Lam's enduring contribution to world art history—the reclamation and projection of an African identity within mainstream art. Lowery Stokes Sims surveys Lam's work, focusing on the period from 1947 onwards, in which he demonstrated the viability of nationalist pursuits within modernism to a new generation of artists. She traces his career and life and the critical reception of his work in Cuba and Latin America, the United States, and Europe as each locale predominated in his career.

This masterly assessment of Lam's later work demonstrates the evolution of primitivist concepts in modern art from the specifically ethnographic to the more psychic and existential. What emerges from Lam's story is the fate of Surrealism in the postwar era as it permutated into international artistic movements such as the CoBrA, the Group Phases, and the International Situationists.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This monograph offers an unprecedented opportunity to reconsider Wilfredo Lam's (1902-82) work and sphere of influence after 1947, a period of productivity traditionally relegated to footnote status in previous analyses of his career. The study contemplates his late-career work in relation to his early development, from his 15-year sojourn in Madrid, to his close relationship with Picasso and the surrealist luminaries in Paris, to his turn from European simulated exoticism toward an authentic cultural lexicon that fed the political activism of traditionally marginalized Cuban Africans. The book also serves as a valuable window into the complexities of exile culture, as Lam's lengthy stay in and subsequent flight from Europe ultimately had profound generative effects on both his own work and the course of modern art. Executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Sims (Stuart Davis) demonstrates Lam's international legacy, revealing his participation in or influence on the European and American avant-garde movements in subsequent decades. Sims considers the fate of Primitivism and Surrealism after World War II and evaluates the significance of Lam's work for the story of modern art. Recommended for collections focusing on modern and contemporary art.-Savannah Schroll, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

1. The "Primitive" within "Primitivism": Lam's Encounter with the School of Paris
2. Mediating the Sacred and the Profane: Lam's Cuban Work in the 1940s
3. Myth and Totemism: Lam and the New York School, 1942-1952
4. Surrealism after World War II: Lam in Europe, 1947-1960
5. "Lo Maravilloso" and the Antillean Ethos: Lam in Cuba and Latin America, 1946-1960
6. The Demise of Surrealism: Lam and the U.S. Art Scene, 1950-1980
7. The Artist in the Revolution: Lam in Cuba, 1960-1982
8. A Shaman for Modern Times: Lam in Europe, 1960-1982
9. New Means and New Media: Lam's Late Work, 1970-1982
10. The "Deft Juggler of Cultural Modes": Lam in the Postmodern Context
11. Toward a New Art History: Lam Scholarship in the Twenty-first Century
Selected Bibliography
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2006

    A Beautiful Book

    A real good book I love IT from a Cuban-American Fine-Artist, Is a book for any one to now our Fine Arts. Corie G Rodriguez Hialeah, Fl.USA

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