In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art organized the groundbreaking exhibition “African Negro Art,” which displayed African sculptures as works of art valued for their formal qualities, rather than ethnographic objects. The minimal installation emphasized the sculptures’ influence on European and American artists at the time. The museum commissioned Evans to photograph the works on view for a series of portfolios. As he did throughout his career, Evans positioned the sculpture in a relatively tight composition and then trimmed the prints to achieve his desired effect. Although exhibitions like MoMA’s presented African and so-called “native” art as direct, unmediated expressions, these photographs reveal the extent to which such encounters were mediated by the viewer’s cultural position.
Inscription: Inscribed, verso C: "446 [sideways]"; inscribed in a different hand, verso BL: "397"; dealer's box stamp in ink with inscriptions in pencil, verso BC: "Walker Evans // XX [in pencil in box] 446 [in pencil in box]"
Samuel and Marilyn Stern
This photograph is #397 in African Negro Art, a corpus of photographs prepared by the Museum of Modern Art in 1935 as a record of the exhibition curated by James Johnson Sweeney. See 1992.5081 for an image of this object in 3/4 profile.