[Ancestral Figure, Head, Gabon]

Walker Evans American

Not on view

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.

[Ancestral Figure, Head, Gabon], Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut), Gelatin silver print

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