An art history of contact, 1920–60

Christian Kravagna
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This book intervenes in current debates on global art history and transcultural modernism from a postcolonial perspective. It reacts to the challenges of elaborating a post-Eurocentric art history by providing a joint study of the transcultural in artistic practice, theoretical concepts, and anti-colonial liberation movements of the 1920s to 1960s. The notion of the transmodern refers to an artistic and theoretical impulse aimed at a decolonial transformation of white and Western conceptions of modern art. Transmodern understands the diversity of global modernisms not merely as regional effects of cultural globalisation but as intentional and political responses to the coloniality of Western modernity. During the first half of the twentieth century, within the framework of anti-colonial and anti-racist movements, a transcultural modernism emerges at many places of the globe. Concurrently, Western concepts of race and culture, shaped by colonial worldviews, become subject to fundamental theoretical critique. Demonstrating the emergence of global modernism in the context of decolonisation, this book is oriented towards the motif of contact. While anthropological and sociological works – by e.g. Fernando Ortiz and Melville J. Herskovits – examine situations of contact under colonial conditions and develop new conceptions of culture and identity employing terms like transculturation and syncretism, the transmodern movement in the arts is based on contacts and collaborations between artists across colonial boundaries. Alongside methodological considerations on a postcolonial history of modern art, this book presents case studies in Indian modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, and postwar abstraction.

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