The names, cultures, and nationalities of African artists who influenced Picasso have historically been omitted from scholarship. Yet Picasso's interest in African masks is well-known. In her essay published by Post, MFA Photo faculty and MoMA staff member Kunbi Oni charts the implications—and possibilities—that closer attention to the makers of such masks could shed on modern art.
The following is an excerpt from Kunbi's article, "Closing the Gap: Picasso and Narrating More Specific African Identities in Modernism:"
“'I want to understand the Primitive sculptures in terms of the Western context in which modern artists ‘discovered’ them.' Today, more than three decades later, we are more than ready to reconsider how we engage with the twentieth-century “traditional” African objects embedded within the modernist narrative...
We know that “none of the African pieces Picasso saw in his first few years of fascination with ‘art nègre’ were more than just decades old,” and that they came from a set of cultures in the region of West Africa...Applying this small detail makes it possible to deepen our scholarship and to broaden our scope—and thus, potentially, to provide us with a new way of telling the story of modernism..."
To view the full text, visit the "Post" website here.
Kunbi Oni is an Administrator in the General Counsel's office at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts with more than 10 years of experience teaching Art History to both undergraduate and graduate students.