Out of Phantom Africa

In 2009, I was asked by Wendy Grossman to contribute a chapter to her book Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens. Entitled ‘Out of Phantom Africa’, this essay looked closely at the coming together of a text by Michel Leiris and photographs by Man Ray in a feature on Dogon sculptures in Cahiers d’art (1936).

This was an opportunity to develop some further ideas about Man Ray’s photography and to connect them with the ‘surrealist ethnography’ of Leiris, which I had discussed in a previous essay, ‘Phantom Africa’. (See the section on ‘Leiris and the Dogon’ on this website.)

My thanks to Wendy for providing me with a PDF version of the essay from the book itself.

The book accompanied an exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Washington, and contained much valuable research and insightful analysis. It was published by the University of Minnesota Press and further information can be found at their website: www.upress.umn.edu

One review of the book that particularly drew attention to my chapter was by Elizabeth Edwards in the Journal of Art Historiography, no.3 (December 2010):

‘The only substantial essay not by Grossman is an elegant piece by Ian Walker on the tense and complex relations between Man Ray, Surrealism and ethnographer Michel Leiris, whose Mission Dakar-Djibouti resulted in the acquisition of some 3500 Dogon objects for Paris. In a volume so focused on the ways in which meanings were made across a range of cultural productions, Walker’s projection of the analysis into the recent debate around the aesthetic appropriation of African objects in the new Musée du Quai Branly suggest the ways in which the arguments that informed and entangled Man Ray’s responses to African objects are far from dead.’

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