from the dust jacket
African art -- with its powerful forms, complex symbolism, and formal inventiveness - -has only recently come to be recognized as one of the great artistic traditions of mankind. African Art in American Collections showcases this rich tradition in a remarkable selection of outstanding works.
African Art in American Collections addresses several audiences. For the newcomer, it serves as an introduction to African art. For the professional, it provides a comprehensive survey of the principal styles and forms. For the African reader, it conveys the Western view of African art and the high esteem in which it is held. Warren Robbins's opening essay responds to the many questions repeatedly raised by those new to African art -- questions Robbins has been asked at his lectures in universities and museums throughout the United States and in Africa, as well as questions asked by countless visitors to the National Museum of African Art, a Smithsonian museum Robbins founded in 1964. In his personal and thought-provoking introduction, Robbins helps the newcomer become aware of the salient features of the traditional art of Black Africa, of its significance as a form of human creative expression, of its relationships to 20th century Western art, and of the controversies surrounding it in the world's museums.
For the scholar, teacher, student, curator, collector, and dealer, this book constitutes the broadest photographic survey yet assembled of some 230 styles of African art. Captions and brief introductions by Nancy Ingram Nooter provide the latest scholarly information available on the style, usage, meaning, and cultural origin of the almost 1,600 objects illustrated. Featured individually by section are the styles of Western Sudan, the West African Coastal Region, West Central Africa, Central Africa, and Eastern and Southern Africa.
For Africans themselves, the book should serve as a source of deep pride and satisfaction as they observe in its pages the broad scope of the traditional art of the Continent and the diversity and profound aesthetic sensibility it reflects. "The art of Africa has taken on a vital new communicative function," Robbins states, "leading to its recognition as one of the great artistic traditions of mankind -- the patrimony, indeed, of all peoples. "
About the Authors
Warren M. Robbins, Founding Director Emeritus and Smithsonian Senior Scholar at the National Museum of African Art, served for fifteen years with the United States Information Agency and the Department of State as a cultural attaché and public affairs officer in Austria and Germany. In 1964, Robbins established in Washington, D.C., the first museum in the United States devoted exclusively to the art and culture of Africa. The museum won the attention of a broad cross section of the American public, including members of Congress who passed legislation in 1979 making the museum a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution. Robbins currently devotes his time to writing and to lecturing at museums and universities throughout the United States and in Africa.
Nancy Ingram Nooter received her introduction to African art in Africa, where she accompanied her husband on Foreign Service assignments in Liberia and Tanzania. Upon returning to the United States she pursued graduate studies in art history and anthropology while working as a curatorial associate at the Museum of African Art. She carried on field work on the Swahili Coast, has published articles and monographs in academic and popular journals of African art, and has lectured at museums and universities in the United States and Africa.