Overview of Course
“The face of modernism in Europe is a black face. Buried within all this high modernism is the presence of the African.”
-Henry Louis Gates
In the West, interest in African art has centered on its traditional, precolonial visual culture, paying little attention to the continent’s thriving, cosmopolitan, contemporary art scene. Although African artists have been exhibiting in international art exhibitions since the 1950s, until recently they have been marginalized in contemporary art scholarship. This course will introduce students to contemporary African art beginning in roughly 1980 and continuing into the present day. Using works of painting, sculpture, film, photography, installation and performance as our primary texts we will analyze the idea of contemporaneity and consider it in relation to what it means to be an African artist in a period of postcoloniality and mass mobility. We will witness firsthand the impact African art has on visual culture in and outside of Africa, paying particular attention to the ways in which the museum and the marketplace have attended to contemporary and traditional African arts. In port, we will visit museums, galleries, cultural markets, and artists’ studios. Tools of assessment will include discussion, reading notes, museum reflections, and a research paper.