This pioneering history examines the major themes and accomplishments in African art from the past fifty years, achieving an impressive balance between the critical reexamination of frequently discussed artists, groups and workshops and the introduction of less publicized or more recent material. Postcolonial art in Africa has built seamlessly upon already existing structures in which the older, precolonial and colonial genres of African art were made. It is in this sense, and in the habits and attitudes of artists towards making art, rather than in any adherence to a particular style, medium, technique, or thematic range, that the art is recognizably "African." Beginning in the early 1950s, the transformations in patronage, training and literacy brought about the birth of new genres which have been propelled onto a world stage.
While respect for modern African art has been slow to develop in the Western world, Kasfir's book is solid evidence that attitudes are changing. Formerly, contemporary African art was seen as a deterioration and degradation of the traditional arts, which had only won grudging admiration in the West under the influence of the modernists. Over the last 15 years, a growing list of books re-evaluating modern African art have appeared, and Kasfir's is among the best and most thorough. Focusing primarily on the period from the 1950s into the 1980s, Kasfir (art history, Emory Univ.) analyzes the political and social dynamics that have shaped the many directions that modern African art have taken. The introduction usefully explores how the subject has been previously handled and explains the author's innovative approach. Accompanying the text are numerous illustrations, satisfactory in quality if sometimes too small or dark to be fully useful. This important milestone in our changing view of world art is highly recommended for any library with art holdings.--Eugene C. Burt, Data Arts, Seattle Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\