Wifredo Lam (1902–82) is one of the most important figures in global modernism. Born in Cuba, he travelled extensively in Europe in the 1930s where he was inspired by (and knew personally) many of the 20th century’s greatest artists, most significantly Picasso. He returned to Cuba in 1942, where he nurtured his personal connection to the Afro-Cuban iconography and spirit, combining modernism with the vitality and force of the native culture. His work lies between East and West, between surrealism and tradition, reflecting on the European debt to African art and addressing Europe as ‘the other’.
His work was initially viewed as “dangerously savage” but he is now recognised as an artist who made a lasting contribution to international modern art. A major retrospective at Tate Modern showcases his singular career from the 1930s to the 1970s, with particular focus on the central 15 years of his work from his first encounter with Picasso in 1938 to his return to Europe in 1952.
The catalogue features contributions on: his encounter with cubism and surrealism in Paris; his engagement with Caribbean intellectuals in Martinique, Haiti and Cuba; his stay with André Breton and Pierre Mabille in Haiti; and the post-war circles he worked within in Havana.
An anthology of key writings on Lam and a fully illustrated biography enrich this unparalleled survey of his life and work. Dazzlingly illustrated with over 300 works, including paintings, drawings and photographs, this beautiful book serves to introduce newcomers to Lam, as well as deepen the understanding of those already familiar with his work.
Catherine David is Co-Director of the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Matthew Gale is Curator (Modern Art) and Head of Displays at Tate Modern
Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University
Anthology: Alain Jouffroy, Michel Leiris, Pierre Mabille, Fernando Ortiz, Lowery Stokes Sims, John Yau and Maria Zambrano
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