Art: Return of the Native

The Museum of Modern Art traces the sources of primitivism

Of all the questions posed by modern art, none are more intriguing than what it took, and why, from tribal culture. From Matisse structuring his Blue Nude of 1907 along the lines of African carving, to Robert Smithson emulating the vast projects of South American archaeology in his Spiral Jetty in Utah 63 years later, the list of "borrowings" is as long and as old as modernism itself. After 1850, the cultures of Africa and Oceania, dissolving under the acids of colonialism, released their...

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