Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List


Northern Africa : Algeria

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Abrous, Mansour, 1956- Algérie, arts plastiques: dictionnaire biographique, 1900-2010. Paris: Harmattan, 2011. 653pp. N7388.A36 2011 AFA. OCLC 703208990.

An updated and expanded biographical directory of Algerian artists, Abrous includes here 3,328 short biographies. The earlier directory, Dictionnaire des artistes algériens 1917-2006, was published in 2006. Entries in the new edition many include birth years, primary medium, solo and group exhibitions, bibliography, and infrequently, other biographical or electronic (web site) data. No illustrations.

Cherufi, Achour, 1955- Le livre des peintres algériens: dictionnaire biographie. Algiers: Éditions Anep, 2002. 249pp. Bibliog. (pp. 231-235). ND1088.C45 2004 AFA. OCLC 60552272.

Although the title indicates a biographical dictionary of Algerian painters, the book of 1,250 Algerian artists includes all media - - ceramicists, designers, photographers, sculptors. Some of the entries are very short. There are no illustrations. Appendices include a chronology (1847-2001); the Manifest du Group Aouchem and other documents and a bibliography.

Perrot, Raymond, 1935- De la tache à la figure: la Guerre d’Algérie et les artistes, 1954-1962. Ailly-sur-Somme: E. C. Éditions, 2002. 119 pp. illus., bibliog. (p. 114-116). N6848.P47 2002 AFA. OCLC 288986741.

Algerian-French art critic Raymond Perrot analyzes the work of artists, both French and Algerian, presented in the exhibition L’Art et la Révolution Algérienne, Paris, 1964. He concludes that art that does not follow the rule of semiotics—which holds that meaning must be legible—is not adequate to express the moral and social misery of this or any other war, nor can it represent a political stance. Therefore, the lines, scratches, stripes, and splotches of “lyrical abstraction,” well represented in the exhibition, are not equal to the task. Perrot favors using figurative art to express a “new narration” of engagement.

Appendices include a list of artists and their works presented in the exhibition, reproductions of newspaper articles reporting renewed interest in the Algerian war (2001), and an extensive reading list.

Pouillon, François. "Exotisme, modernisme, identité: la société algérienne en peinture," Annuaire de l'Afrique du Nord (Paris) 29: 209-224, 1990. + 4 plates. illus., notes, bibliog. DT181.A74X AFA.

The Algerian artist is still in search of an identity and an authentic iconography. Such a quest has been caught up in politics all along -- during the French colonial period, the war of liberation, the socialist realities of the post-war period, and the current FLN austerity confronting Islamic fundamentalism. The political culture in Algeria has been propelled by conflicting impulses. The revival of Orientalism and folkloric art after independence (especially seen in Dinet and Racim) was rejected by modernists, who favored abstract expressionism. Subsequently, art was marshalled in service of socialism, and a kind of censorship (or self-censorship) of expression was imposed. The quest continues.