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Reviews369 enthusiasm for the work of untrained naive artists (now often called outsider art) by the art world of the timeā€”one could say the Greenwich Village set of which Johnson was a part. Indeed, the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibition of "modern primitive" art in 1938. Powell further suggests that the widespread interest in Picasso's recent work, decorative in quality and influenced by African art, probably influenced Johnson. He also suggests that Johnson was stimulated by John Graham's provocative and vague book, Systems and Dialectics ofArt, which catalyed the thinking of the group becoming known as abstract expressionists. (A careful study of Graham's influence as a provocative thinker and art dealer is still to be written.) Graham, who dealt in African art, briefly sketched in qualities of Negro art as including "reiterated insistency upon a Statement . . . eternity through endlessness, inevitability, formality of poise." Johnson skillfully and deliberately used repeated elements of lines and forms in his compositions featuring blacks, especially in the rural paintings. Powell does not mention Johnson's childhood fascination with the linear and simply-colored art of newspaper comic strips as yet another source for the artist's late style. Whatever the evolution of the artist's choices of stylistic handling in the 1940s, it is clear that Johnson's primitiveness is the work of an artist highly skilled in the manipulation of color and line. It is as if he refined and condensed down his academic and expressionistic skills and arrived at a new clarity, creating easily understood images and stories of his people. Although Powell mentions that money was always a problem during the Scandinavian years and afterwards, nowhere does he explicitly mention the Great Depression in the U.S. as another possible reason for Johnson's prolonged stay in Europe. In the discussion of the circumstances facing Johnson upon his return, only brief mention is made of this economic catastrophe. Powell does, however, provide an illuminating account of the broader African American artistic and intellectual milieu of Harlem in 1939, the achievements in literature, popular and classical music, theater, film, and the work of younger African American artists. Here more attention to the political, literary, and artistic milieu of the depression years would have placed the African American experiences within a broader context. Steinbeck 's Grapes ofWrath, for example, like Richard Wright's Native Son, represents the literature of the dispossessed. Ben Shahn's paintings of the Sacco and Vanzetti series conveyed social and political consciousness in some ways comparable to Johnson's Chain Gang. Shahn also used simplified outlines, distorted proportions, and flat areas of color to convey his messages . Powell has rightly concluded thatJohnson's importance to the development of American modernism can no longer be ignored. By the same token the study of African American art and artists can be best understood as a part of the complex overall American experience. Archaeology of Precolumbian Florida. By Jerald T. Milanich. University Press of Florida, 1994. 476 pp. Cloth, $49.95; paper, $24.95. Reviewed by H. Trawick Ward, an archaeologist at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill Research Laboratories ofAnthropology. He is interested in Native American cultural change during the contactperiod. This book is the second to be written about Florida's archaeology. The first, Florida Archaeology , by Milanich and Charles Fairbanks, was published in 1980. Because of the tremen- 370Southern Cultures dous amount of research accomplished since then, this volume, which is almost twice as long as the first, was needed to incorporate more recent information into a comprehensive statewide synthesis of precolumbian Florida history. Milanich also informs us that a third volume, dealing solely with colonial period Indians and the impact of Europeans on their culture, is in the works. This is an excellent book. As someone who is in the process of preparing a similar volume on North Carolina archaeology, I cannot help but be a little envious of the job Milanich has done. His writing style is clear and fluid; he informs as well as entertains; and he makes his subject equally interesting to the professional archaeologist and the lay reader. The volume is also well organized and richly illustrated. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 369-371
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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