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Abstraction: The Amerindian Paradigm by Anni Albers

Less familiar strands of the history of modern art are often obscured by the canonical history of Western abstraction. In rethreading them, Abstraction: The Amerindian Paradigm ascertains the unfolding of an abstract art that was born of a cross-fertilization with the indigenous arts of the Americas. The abstract forms that have emerged from practices such as weaving and ceramics, which the West has long deemed "lowly crafts," are reread, challenging the dominant assumption that abstract art is a prerogative of the modern West. The uncompromising geometry and bold colors of ancient Andean weavings--insistently characterized in ethnographic and art historical discourses as decorative--are heralded here as the textile paradigm of abstraction, a grid that precedes by millennia the Western modernist grid. Between the 1920s and 40s, Paul Klee, Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Josef and Anni Albers, Barnett Newman, and Adolph Gottlieb led the way in gazing at the ancient American arts. Later, Louise Nevelson, Alfred Jensen, Mathias Goeritz, Tony Smith, Helmut Federle, and South American artists Libero Badii, Francisco Matto, Gonzalo Fonseca, Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar, Alejandro Puente, and Cesar Paternosto, as well as textile artist Lenore Tawney and poet/artist Cecilia Vicuna, had significant encounters with the Amerindian arts.

In their accompanying essays, Cesar Paternosto focuses on the emergence of an abstraction rooted on the indigenous arts of the Americas; Lucy R. Lippard writes on her experiences while researching the rock art of New Mexico; Mary Frame discusses the cultural resonance of textile structural forms in the ancient Andes; Cecilia de Torres narrates the story of the pioneering trecks to pre-Columbian sites by Torres-Garcia's disciples; and Valentin Ferdinan discusses the formative aspects of modern culture in Latin America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789074816274
Publisher: Societe des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles
Publication date: 03/01/2002
Pages: 172
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

German born abstract painter Josef Albers, laid the foundations for some of the most important art education programs of the 20th century. In 1936, during his time working at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, he had his first solo exhibition in New York at J. B. Neumann's New Art Circle. In 1949, Albers left the college and began his famous Homage to the Square series. He taught at various institutions throughout America, including Yale University, New Haven, where he lectured for eight years. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized Albers' traveling exhibition in 1965 and a retrospective of his work was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1971. The artist died in 1976.

Paul Klee was born in Munchenbuchsee near Bern in 1879. In the early 1910s, he met Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in Munich, and together they founded the Blaue Reiter movement. Through his involvement with Cubism, Klee then began to move towards abstract representation and to add greater depth of differentiation to his palette by using watercolor painting. He taught at the Bauhaus under Walter Gropius and later at the Dusseldorf Academy of Fine Arts, leaving his post to escape the Nazis for Bern, where he died in 1940.

Barnett Newman was born in New York in 1905 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. A lifelong New Yorker, he studied at the Art Students League and the City College of New York. Close friends with Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock, he was at the center of the New York art scene just as Abstract Expressionism was ascending to prominence in the early 1950s. In spite of his important role during the formativeyears of the New York School, Newman achieved recognition for his own work only late in his career, after decades of struggle. In the 1960s he served as an unofficial father figure to the emerging generation of minimalist and conceptual artists. Newman died in 1970.

Tony Smith was born in 1912. Initially acclaimed as an architect and painter, Smith did not concentrate on or exhibit his sculpture until 1961. From the time of his first one-person museum exhibition to that of his death, Smith established himself as one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century. His work continues to be widely shown, including at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1998; and it is represented at museums and in public spaces in major cities throughout the world.

Mary Frame, an independent scholar living in Vancouver, Canada, is a specialist in the pre-Columbian textiles of Peru, also trained as a weaver.

Cesar Paternosto, painter, sculptor, and author, was born in Argentina in 1931, and has lived in New York since 1967. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1972 and has exhibited widely in the Americas, as well as in Europe and Japan. His works are included in public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; and the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas. His book The Stone and the Thread: Andean Roots of Abstract Art was published in 1996 and illustrated with his own photography and drawings.

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