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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List


Northern Africa : Morocco

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Artistes singuliers d’Essaouira: 23 juin au 15 septembre 2002. Martigny, Switzerland: Le Manoir de la Ville de Martigny, 2002. 74pp. illus. (pt. color). N7390.2.E77A78 2002 AFA. OCLC 52271059.

The artists of Essaouira, Morocco are known for their naive, colorful style of (mainly) painting. They were encouraged and promoted by Frédéric Damgaard, a Danish gallerist. Indeed it could be argued that Damgaard’s intervention “created” the Essaouira artists. He first visited Essaouira in 1969 and became so enamored that he settled there and opened an art gallery in 1988. The Essaouira artists have exhibited their work in several European venues. This latest exhibition in 2002 in Switzerland features fifteen artists, one of whom is a woman.

Boutaleb, Abdeslam. La peinture naive au Maroc. Paris: Les Éditions du Jaguar, 1985. [128]pp. illus. (pt. color), portraits, bibliog. qN7390.B77 1985 AFA. OCLC 13740560.

Naive painters, however they are characterized -- intuitive, primitive moderns, popular masters of reality, Sunday painters -- have a rightful place within the realm of artistic creativity. In Morocco, this is no exception. There are numerous inspired, talented painters, who without benefit of formal training have made successful careers as artists. Naive painting first appeared on the Moroccan art scene in the 1950s in any significant or noticeable way. Among the early practitioners was Ahmed Louariri (1928-1978). He and nine other Moroccan painters are selected by Boutaleb as representative of diverse stylistic approaches to contemporary Moroccan naive painting. What is unifying in their work is the realism and concentration on detail in depicting scenes of domestic or urban life, festivals and communal gathering. The others are Saïd Aït Youssef (1920- ), Moulay Ali Alaoui (1924- ), Moulay Ahmed Drissi (1924-1973), Mohamed Ben Allai (1928- ), Mohamed Lagzouli (1937- ), Mohamed Naciri (1943- ), Lahcen Ezzekri (1939- ), Fatima Hassan El Farouj (1945- ), and Fatima Louardiri (1956- ), daughter of Ahmed Louardiri.

Flamand, Alain. Regard sur la peinture contemporaine au Maroc. Casablanca: Société d'Edition et de Diffusion Al-Madariss, 1983. 221pp. illus. (color). qND1090.F57 1983 AFA. OCLC 23126550. qND1090.F57 1983 AFA. OCLC 23126550.

Something one can call "Moroccan painting" does not exist, at least not yet, and perhaps never. Rather there are several strong "individualities," but no single school of painting. Cherkaoui was one such artist of towering stature. Many young painters have emerged on the scene since Moroccan independence, a watershed which freed artists from a colonial academic painting. Because it is difficult and perhaps still too soon to categorize post-independence Moroccan painters, Flamand chooses instead to present a kaleidoscope of twenty-seven artists, which offers a sampling of the diverse trends and styles and impulses that are shaping late twentieth-century Moroccan art. His choices: Mahjoubi Ahardan, Farid Belkahia, Fouad Bellamine, Mohamed Ben Allal, Ahmed Ben Yessef, Mohamed Kamal Boutaleb, Chaibia, Saad Cheffaj, Hamid El Alaoui, Hassan El Glaoui, Mustapha Hafid, Mohamed Hamidi, Abdalah Hariri, Fatima Hassan, Saad Hassani, Mohamed Kacimi, Meki Megara, Mohamed Melehi, Abdelhay Mellakh, Meriem Meziem, Labied Miloud, Hossein Miloudi, Abdelkebir Rabi, Abderrahmane Rahoule, Abbès Saladi, El Mostapha Snoussi, and Hossein Tallal. Several works of each are illustrated (in color) and commented upon by Flamand. Biodata is also included.

Goldenberg, André. "1956-1986: trente ans de peinture marocaine: le Maroc, culture d'hier et d'aujourd'hui," Cahiers de la méditerranée (Nice, France) 38: 45-57, juin 1989. VF -- Artists - North Africa & Ethiopia.

In the thirty years since Morocco's independence, Moroccan painters have evolved in sophistication, assurance and in numbers. Three streams are evident: the non-figurative abstract painters (the most prevalent style), the figurative painters, and the naive self-taught painters. Goldenberg highlights exemplars of each tradition. No illustrations.

Higher atlas: the Marrakech Biennale [4] in context = Au-delà de l’atlas: la Biennale de Marrakech [4] en context. Marrakech: Marrakech Biennale; berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012. 351pp. illus. Text in English and French. NX430.M8H54 2012 AFA. OCLC 798254558.

The fourth Marrakech Biennale offers an opportunity for reflections on the state of arts in Morocco. In twelve essays, the history of 20th century Moroccan art and of African biennales and other art events are explored.

Mana, Abdelkader. Artistes d'Essaouira. Essaouira: La Galerie d'Art Frederic Damgaard, 1990. [66]pp. illus. (pt. color). N7390.M26 1990 AFA. OCLC 30370627.

The artists of Essaouira faithfully reflect the crossroads culture of their native city. A sea coast frontier post to the Sahara, yet part of the Berber and Islamic Maghrebian civilizations, Essaouira offers its artists a wealth of sources -- cultural, historical, spiritual -- on which to draw. The twenty-two Essaouiran painters and sculptors featured in this exhibition display a refreshing diversity of styles and imagery. Though modern in outlook and choice of medium, they skillfully and creatively mine their cultural heritages. Mana provides a commentary on each artist, mainly young painters, and one work of each is illustrated. Short biographies included.

M'Rabet, Khalil. Peinture et identité: l'expérience marocaine. Paris: L'Harmattan, 1987. 170pp., xxxiip. of plates. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N7390.M2 1987X AFA. OCLC 21299237.

Moroccan artists' quest for identity and authenticity is rooted in the colonial period, but it is more than mere reaction to the Western styles and techniques that were introduced during that period. In the search for authenticity, the artist looks back to traditional Moroccan art for inspiration, but must ultimately arrive at wholly new artistic solutions. It is a struggle not unlike that which artists in many developing countries experience: translating, re-expressing and re-affirming older aesthetic forms and sensibilities in ways that anchor the artist very firmly in the present. The modern artist must become relevant to the community from which his training and exposure have distanced him.

M'Rabet traces the evolution of this quest, an evolution still in process, by focusing on several key painters who were instrumental in articulating for themselves [and others ways of expressing this identity and in of negotiating the distance between academic painting] and folkloristic painting. Jilali Gharbaoui and Ahmed Cherkaoui each in his own way mediated the differences between the local (Islamic or Berber) signs and sensibilities and the universal; others followed. M'Rabet is not writing a history of modern Moroccan painting, but is instead documenting the artistic solutions that carry Moroccan painting up to the present.

Salam, Naima. Marokkanische und europäische Kunsttraditionen als Inspirationsquelle für die marokkanische Malerie der Gegenwart. Münster: LIT, 2004. 325pp. illus., bibliog. (pp. 239-256). ND1090.S25 2004 AFA. OCLC 55149029,

Western artistic concepts have influenced Maghreb art, just as European artists of the nineteenth century were influenced by Moroccan art. Younger Moroccan artists in particular are looking outward for inspiration. This study discusses both Western and Moroccan artistic traditions. The reciprocity that is the essence of globalization and post-modernism is the central focus of this study. Salam presents a comprehensive overview of Moroccan cultural heritage with its “form- and picture-language,” Islamic arts, the calligraphy of Arabic scripts, and the signs of the Berber.

Sijelmassi, Mohamed with the collaboration of Abdelkebir Khatibi and Brahim Alaoui. L'art contemporain au Maroc. Courbevoie, Paris: ACR Édition, 1989. 288pp. illus. (color), bibliog. N7390.S53 1989X AFA. OCLC 21375592.

Contemporary Moroccan art is inspired by the collective memory of a tripartite artistic heritage: pre-Islamic (Berber and African), Arabic-Islamic, and `Orientalist' (European) easel painting. The emergence of modern Moroccan painting in the early decades of the century occurred at the fringes of the "colonial school," the European painters, amateur and professionals, who installed themselves in studios in Morocco and held local exhibitions. The first generation of Moroccan easel painters were largely self-taught; their work is characterized as naive; but gradually a few developed their own styles and became noticed. It was not until 1945 that the first École des Beaux-Arts was established in Tétoutan; in 1950 a second was founded in Casablanca. The orientation was still French academic art.

Not until after Independence (1956) did truly modern Moroccan art in the sense of avant-garde emerge. Ahmed Cherkaoui (1934-1967) was perhaps a key figure in defining a national identity and character for Moroccan painting. Out of the Casablanca art school, under the guidance of artists Farid Belkahia, Chebaa Mohamed, and Melehi Mohamed, a new sense of one's cultural heritage and a technical mastery of forms and color became evident. In the 1970s and 1980s there has been a flowering of styles and trends, and an internationalizing of the Moroccan art scene. Art brut, naive art, figuration, abstraction, calligraphic art have all found their niches on the contemporary scene. Although two-dimensional work seems to predominate, sculptors are also present. The works of 145 Moroccan artists are illustrated in color along with short biographies on each. Fourteen more artists are listed but without illustrations.

Zahi, Farid. D’un regard, l’autre: l’art et ses meditations au Maroc. Rabat: Marsam, 2006. 151pp. illus. (chiefly color). (Collection regards obliques). N7390.Z34 2006 AFA. OCLC 144568531.

Contemporary Moroccan art is predominantly painting, as is clearly reflected in this survey. Part One looks at the underlying influences on 20th-century Moroccan paintings, the tendencies, the paradox of figuration (in an Islamic society), abstraction, lyricism, symbolism, with a nod to sculptural arts. Part Two surveys the body in Moroccan art, murals, artists’ ateliers, and globalization. The color plates placed at the end are not integrated with the text, which makes for drier reading.