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New Book: Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism

29 January 2015

Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism

A Charter for the Avant-Garde

Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism
Website price:£63.00(Regular price: £70.00) 


Imprint: Ashgate

Illustrations: Includes 75 b&w illustrations

Published: February 2015

Format: 234 x 156 mm

Extent: 318 pages

Binding: Hardback

Other editions: ebook PDF, ebook ePUB

ISBN: 978-1-4724-3974-1

ISBN Short:9781472439741

BL Reference: 709.2

LoC Control No:2014033421


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Jeremy Howard, University of St Andrews, UK; Irēna Bužinska, Latvian National Museum of Art, Latvia; Z.S. Strother, Columbia University, USA

Series : Studies in Art Historiography


Hailed as a brilliant theoretician, Voldemārs Matvejs (best known by his pen name Vladimir Markov) was a Latvian artist who spearheaded the Union of Youth, a dynamic group championing artistic change in Russia, 1910-14. His work had a formative impact on Malevich, Tatlin, and the Constructivists before it was censored during the era of Soviet realism.

This volume introduces Markov as an innovative and pioneering art photographer and assembles, for the first time, five of his most important essays. The translations of these hard-to-find texts are fresh, unabridged, and authentically poetic. Critical essays by Jeremy Howard and Irēna Bužinska situate his work in the larger phenomenon of Russian ‘primitivism’, i.e. the search for the primal. This book challenges hardening narratives of primitivism by reexamining the enthusiasm for world art in the early modern period from the perspective of Russia rather than Western Europe. Markov composed what may be the first book on African art and Z.S. Strother analyzes both the text and its photographs for their unique interpretation of West African sculpture as a Kantian ‘play of masses and weights’. The book will appeal to students of modernism, orientalism, ‘primitivism’, historiography, African art, and the history of the photography of sculpture.


Contents: Part I: Introduction to Matvejs, Markov, and ‘primitivism’, Z.S. Strother, Irēna Bužinska and Jeremy Howard; ‘The treasure-house of world beauty’: Markov and Russian primitivism writ large, Jeremy Howard; Markov’s development as a theoretician, Irēna Bužinska (translated from Russian by Jeremy Howard and Ronald Meyer); The politics of face in the African art photography of Vladimir Markov, Z.S. Strother; Markov’s legacy: photographs for Art of Northern Asia, Irēna Bužinska (translated from Russian by Jeremy Howard). Part II Translations: Translator’s notes, Jeremy Howard; The Russian secession: concerning the union of youth exhibition in Riga, Voldemārs Matvejs (translated and annotated by Jeremy Howard); Principles of the new art, Vladimir Markov (translated and annotated by Jeremy Howard); The principles of creativity in the plastic [visual] arts: Faktura, Vladimir Markov (translated and annotated by Jeremy Howard); Iskusstvo Negrov, Vladimir Markov, with a memoir by Varvara Bubnova and foreword by Levkiy Zheverzheev (translated by Jeremy Howard and annotated by Z.S. Strother and Jeremy Howard); On the ‘principle of weightiness’ in African sculpture, Vladimir Markov (translated by Jeremy Howard, annotated by Jeremy Howard and Z.S. Strother, with a note on authorship by Z.S. Strother and Irēna Bužinska). Bibliography; Index.


About the Author: Jeremy Howard is Senior Lecturer, School of Art History, University of St Andrews, UK; Irēna Bužinska is Curator, Latvian National Museum of Art, Latvia; Z.S. Strother is Riggio Professor of African Art, Columbia University, USA.


Reviews: ‘Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism: A Charter for the Avant-Garde is a stellar contribution to the literature on primitivism and its complex relationship to the formation of the European avant-garde. A combination of new translations of Markov’s seminal texts and critical assessments by Irēna Bužinska, Jeremy Howard, and Z.S. Strother, this text expands our understanding of how non-Western art traditions were regarded in the early twentieth-century and, in the process, underscores the myriad uses and perceptions of “the primitive” in currency before the First World War. Markov’s texts offer to contemporary readers different and surprising examples of European entanglements with primitivism. In addition to further cementing the primacy of primitivism to the formation of European modernism, the authors’ discussions effectively position Markov’s central position in these important developments.’
Steven Nelson, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

‘Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism: A Charter for the Avant-Garde provides a much-needed examination of the career and work of Vladimir Markov, or Voldemārs Matvejs, the Latvian-born cultural theorist, most famous for his pioneering work on African art. This volume challenges histories of primitivist dialogue between the West and its “other”, bringing out the complexity of Markov’s identity and intellectual affiliations as a Latvian raised to speak German, working in St Petersburg. If the reception of African art in the early twentieth century is seen to be mediated by the colonial ambitions of the major Western powers, this collection of essays complicates and enriches our understanding of this by their focus on Eastern Europe and Russia, and their connections to Asia, proposing a model of cultural syncretism rather than hegemonic encounter.’
Jon Wood, Henry Moore Institute, and co-editor The Sculpture Journal


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