All the books reviews
Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens - (ENGLISH)
Though Man Ray is popularly renowned as an iconic photographer who put a distinctive mark on the aesthetic of the modernist era, his interest in and engagement with traditional African art is, in the general perception, still somewhat overlooked. Grossman's book and its namesake traveling exhibition, which she also curated, is likely to change this state of affairs and expand our knowledge of the photographer and his work. Through a selection of more than seventy photographs by Man Ray (some of which have never been published before), along with other works by his contemporaries, the influence that African art had on the modernist movement during this seminal era of experimentation is clearly revealed. The essays in this catalog are also highly informative, and are augmented by numerous illustrations of both the traditional works that inspired the artists and the creations that grew from that inspiration.
Mangle Boards of Northern Europe - (ENGLISH)
A mangle board is a wooden implement used from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries for smoothing linen. They reflect the work both of skilled carvers, trained in the classic styles of their times, and of naïve carvers, unschooled in woodcarving and academic visual traditions. They often incorporate traditional motifs that predate Christianity in Northern Europe and, though completely unrelated to these traditions, aesthetically many could easily be mistaken for being of Asian, African, Native American, or Indonesian origin. This book is oversized and lavishly produced. It is a thorough investigation into its subject matter and reveals the surprising aesthetics of an obscure object type.
Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanmar, India and Bangladesh - (ENGLISH)
This lovely book is the product of four years of research about the history, culture, and textiles of the Chin people, a heterogeneous group of people hither- to inadequately studied. Their rich textile culture emphasizes grand blankets and intricate tunics made of homespun cotton, flax, hemp and silk, which are dyed with indigo and lac, and woven on a back-tension loom. In considering Chin textiles as art and cultural objects, the authors describe their beauty and technical virtuosity as well as their integral role in the Chin effort to achieve merit in this life and the next. A particular strength of the book is its emphasis on the importance of structure in sorting out the inter- relationships between the complex subdivisions of the Chin and their neighbors. Research for the book involved visits to Chin villages; interviews with weavers and Chin elders; examination of textile collections of private individuals, museums, and other institutions; review of the anthropological, missionary and colonial literature and private papers; and the assembly of a body of Chin textiles for analysis. More than 600 color illustrations along with detailed drawings of textile structures, early photographs and field documentation reveal the complex and beautiful world of Chin textiles.
Marionnettes du Mali - (FRENCH)
This catalogue accompanies an exhibition being held in Montreuil until February 15, 2008. It examines a little-known aspect of Malian culture, the tradition of marionette theater. The sogobo marionette theater has descended from a form that has existed for more than 600 years. It retains traditional values yet remains open to the influence of the changing world, and displays endlessly renewable artistic vitality. Functioning at the intersection of modernity and tradition, sogobo draws on many disciplines, including storytelling, music, song, mime, the sculptural arts, and choreography. In the small bush villages of Mali, the dances of the mask- marionettes as they are practiced today have lost none of their meaning or original spontaneity, as the richly colored characters and animals shown in this volume clearly demonstrate.
Masques de l’Himalaya - (FRENCH)
These three generously illustrated catalogs were produced in conjunction with last winter’s Masques et Arts Tribaux de l’Himalaya exhibition at Le Toit du Monde in Paris’ Sixth Arrondissement, which is now on view again at the Musée d’Art Asiatiques in Toulon. The first of these three books provides a broad overview of mask production in a number of Himalayan religious traditions. The second is devoted to ghurras, revered objects replete with symbolic significance, which are sculpted by herdsmen and used as handles for their butter churns. The third volume is devoted to the diverse and complex forms of shamanism that are practiced in Nepal. The illustrations offer a complete view of the panoply of items used by Nepalese shamans in the course of their rituals.
Masques miniatures de Côte d’Ivoire, de Guinée et du Liberia - (FRENCH)
After the success of his Une passion pour l’art africain (2005, Joël Cuénot Éditeur) on the sensitive and unique collection assembled by Marie-France and Jean Vivier, the latter now signs his name to a new work that will certainly also be of interest to aficionados. This one is devoted to a fine collection of 101 miniature masks from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire that are remarkably varied in form. Although it is not a comprehensive treatment, it nonetheless fills a gap in the literature on this subject. Masques miniatures is not a scholarly book; rather it reveals the sensitivity and the curiosity of the collector’s eye. Emphasis is placed on the object photographs, which Vivier shot himself. The author’s familiarity with the objects is apparent. This collector’s book is as much an exercise in editorial rigor as it is an homage to the genius of the creators of the miniature masks it honors.
Master Weavers of the Altiplano: The Ancestral Artistry of Highland Women - (ENGLISH)
In the mid 1970s, Bradley Cross spent three years in Colombia as a Peace Corps volunteer. This was the beginning of what was to prove a long-term engagement with South America, both professionally and as an art collector. This exquisite book documents many fi ne examples of Andean Highland textiles drawn from his extensive collection. Primarily largescale costume items such as ponchos skirts and mantles, these fi fteenth- to twentieth-century textiles are heirlooms that maintain links to ancestors as well as striking works of minimalist visual art, where seemingly simple stripes and patterned insets vibrate with unusual strength against a subtly variegated background fi eld in a manner that many associate more with abstract expressionism than tribal textiles. The object images, which were created using the revolutionary technology of a 4’ x 6’ scanner, are effectively counterpointed with Cross’ own photography, comprised of more than fi fty forty-year-old Kodachrome slides of Andean life. The text by Robert Duff, who has been a key dealer in this area, is both entertaining and educational, providing perspectives on technique and context. This is an excellent and welcome contribution to a sadly underpublished fi eld.
Masters of the Americas In Praise of the Pre-Columbian Artists of the Dora and Paul Janssen Collection - (ENGLISH)
The remarkable treasures of pre-Columbian art assembled by a private collector are revealed in this lavishly illustrated publication that is illuminated by commentary by the leading authorities on these civilizations (see the article devoted to the exhibition of this collection elsewhere in this issue). From their origins through the Conquest, pre-Columbian artists excelled in the production of works in stone, clay, fabric, feathers, and gold in a tremendous variety of styles and techniques. The book is a source of discovery and pleasure, and informs not only on the great Olmec, Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations, but on less well-known cultures as well.
Maternity. Mother and Children in the Arts of Africa - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
This book is the result of a lifelong fascination with the subject of the mother and child in the arts of Africa. Its author, Herbert M. Cole, professor emeritus of art history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, uses this book as the vehicle for sharing the results of his long years of research. He delivers a pointed analysis of the breadth of notions from across the continent on the subject of maternity, as well as visual interpretations of the representation of the mother and child take in both a biological perspective (fertility) and a social one (ritual practices and the expression of power). Enhanced by illustrations and descriptions of a wide selection of choice works both from institutional and private collections, this book offers a panorama of the sensibilities and styles through which this subject has been approached throughout Africa, realized through the creation of many kinds of artworks, including ritual figures, stools and thrones, architectural elements, and royal scepters.
Maya-Textilien aus Guatemala “Kleider für die Seele” - (German)
This book, unfortunately presently only available in German, gives an easy and introductory overview to the Mayan textiles of Guatemala. After first displaying the various elements of female and male clothing through text and images, the collection of Zürich’s Völkerkundemuseum is examined, including how it came to being and how the material was acquired. Much of the material came from Otto Stoll and two schoolteachers, who collected over decades of traveling in the area. Regional variation is then examined with maps and detailed information. The book looks into past and present, from pre-Spanish time to the colonial period and then the post-Spanish country. As a final chapter, the book offers an introduction to the technical aspects of Mayan textile production. This publication’s organized format and many beautiful images that accompany the easily accessible text make it an important contribution.