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Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist

Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist (Hardback)

£65.00
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Synopsis

The history of world art has long neglected the work of modern African artists and their search for forms of modernist expression as either irrelevant to the discourse of modern art or as fundamentally subservient to the established narrative of Western European modernist practice. With this engaging new volume, Sylvester Ogbechie refutes this approach by examining the life and work of Ben Enwonwu (1917-94), a premier African modernist and pioneer whose career opened the way for the postcolonial proliferation and increased visibility of African art. In the decades between Enwonwu's birth and death, modernization produced new political structures and new forms of expression in African cultures, inspiring important developments in modern African art. Within this context, Ogbechie evaluates important issues such as the role of Anglo-Nigerian colonial culture in the development of modern Nigerian art, and Enwonwu's involvement with international discourses of modernism in Europe, Africa, and the United States over a period of five decades. The author also interrogates Enwonwu's use of the radical politics of Negritude ideology to define modern African art against canonical interpretations of Euro-modernism; and the artist's visual and critical contributions to Pan Africanism, Nigerian nationalism, and postcolonial interpretations of African modernity. First and foremost an intellectual biography of Ben Enwonwu as a modern African artist, rather than an exhaustive critical exploration of the discourse of modernism in African art history or in modern art in general, Ben Enwonwu situates the artist historically and interprets his work in ways that surpass traditional discourse around the canon of modern art. Sylvester Ogbechie is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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