About This Artwork

Walker Evans
American, 1903-1975

African Sculpture [Bamileke figure, Njuindem. “Bangwa Queen,” Bangwa Kingdon, Cameroon], 1935

Gelatin silver print
23 x 10.2 cm (image/paper)

Restricted gift of John A. Bross in memory of Louise Smith Bross, 2016.124

Before holding his own one-person show at the Museum of Modern Art, Walker Evans was commissioned by that museum to document their ambitious exhibition of African sculpture. The 1935 exhibition emphasized the works’ formal qualities, a then-radical approach to presenting African art. Evans photographed the sculptures after museum hours with an 8 × 10–inch camera, carefully rotating light sources during exposure to eliminate shadows and emphasize sculptural shapes. In the darkroom, he made contact prints from negatives tightly trimmed to the shape of their subjects. The resulting images are deceptively straightforward. They advance what Evans later described as his “documentary style”: photography that, though highly intentional, gives the impression of “detachment and record.”

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