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Primitivism between modernity and tradition: comparative perspectives

Grant number: 21/04635-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2021
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Arts - Art Fundamentals and Criticism
Principal Investigator:Sônia Salzstein Goldberg
Grantee:Janaina Nagata Otoch
Host Institution: Escola de Comunicações e Artes (ECA). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):22/14710-9 - Investigating primitivism beyond modernism, BE.EP.DR


This project focuses on the discussion of the notion of "primitivism" in modern art, questioning its different meanings in the European artistic and cultural debate and in Brazilian Modernism, from 1860 to 1930. In order to trace a comprehensive understanding of the problem as it have been formulated by canonical historiography on modern art and by art literature in general, the project encompasses, on the one hand, the analysis of essays that first identified "primitivism" as an important issue of art production and debate in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition, it examines recent criticism on the notion of "primitivism", aiming to bring to light both the contradictions underlying the appropriation, by artists in the West, of objects produced by non-European cultures, and, more broadly, the recurrence of the figures of the "primitive" in the artistic production of the mentioned period. Seeking a wide-ranging interpretative framework, the project also turns to the manifestations of "primitivism" in Brazil, devoting special attention to the production of the 1920s, when the word "primitive" began to circulate in the cultural environment more often. Great importance will be assigned to the analysis and interpretation of the work of Tarsila do Amaral, given the emblematic position she occupied in Brazillian modernist cultural environment. The hypothesis which sustains the project is that, in Brazil, artistic "primitivism" is imbricated - differently from what happens in Europe - in an impasse between "tradition" and "modernity", "belatedness" and "progress" , "Identity" and "otherness", "national" and "foreign", revealing aspects that have not been sufficiently explored by studies which proposed the revaluation of the notion of "primitivism" in modern art. The project aims, thus, to contribute to the debate comparing European modernity and Modernism in Brazil, without losing sight of the relationship between artistic production and the issue of national identity in the history of Brazilian Modernism. (AU)

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