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Modernity in Black and White
Art and Image, Race and Identity in Brazil, 1890–1945


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Part of Afro-Latin America

  • Date Published: April 2021
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108481908

£ 41.99

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About the Authors
  • Modernity in Black and White provides a groundbreaking account of modern art and modernism in Brazil. Departing from previous accounts, mostly restricted to the elite arenas of literature, fine art and architecture, the book situates cultural debates within the wider currents of Brazilian life. From the rise of the first favelas, in the 1890s and 1900s, to the creation of samba and modern carnival, over the 1910s and 1920s, and tracking the expansion of mass media and graphic design, into the 1930s and 1940s, it foregrounds aspects of urban popular culture that have been systematically overlooked. Against this backdrop, Cardoso provides a radical re-reading of Antropofagia and other modernist currents, locating them within a broader field of cultural modernization. Combining extensive research with close readings of a range of visual cultural production, the volume brings to light a vast archive of art and images, all but unknown outside Brazil.

    • A comprehensive and meticulously researched introduction to artistic modernization in Brazil
    • Analyzes the tension in Brazil between Western definitions of 'the modern' and Brazil's largest African-descended population, from which popular cultural markers such as carnival dominate
    • Showcases a vast archive of images across a range of visual cultural production, including painting, graphic art, and photography
    Read more


    • Winner, 2021 Roberto Reis Senior Author Award, Brazilian Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Modernity in Black and White takes aim at the origin story of Brazilian modernism, which until now centered on a cadre of elite intellectuals from São Paulo. In Rio de Janeiro, Cardoso uncovers a competing modernism, rooted in the city's mass culture, that engendered alternate visions of Brazil's multi-racial identity beyond primitivism. Moving seamlessly among texts and images, academic and commercial art, and various forms of elite and popular culture, this is art history at its liveliest and most engaging.' Paulina Alberto, University of Michigan

    'Tackling persistent myths related to key topics of Brazilian society - favela and carnival, race and identity - Modernity in Black and White enlivens the debate on a crucial period of the nation's cultural modernization. Rafael Cardoso rekindles the embers of Brazil's modernist battles, balancing argument with analysis, solidity with enthusiasm.' Roberto Conduru, Endowed Distinguished Professor of Art History, Southern Methodist University

    'Rafael Cardoso takes his readers into the fascinating world of artistic innovation in Rio de Janeiro during the early decades of the twentieth century, revealing the engagement of a diverse community of artists with modernism and popular culture. The result is a study of the visual arts that rethinks the question of race, and that explodes prevailing narratives about the birthplace of Brazilian modernism.' Barbara Weinstein, New York University

    '… excellent book.' Benjamin Moser, The European Review of Books

    'Cardoso's insightful revision highlights new areas for further research.' ReVista

    'Rafael Cardoso's book comes in the wake of numerous initiatives, editorial and curatorial (academic or non-academic) dedicated to the revision of modernisms (plural, since they are in fact multiple) in Brazil, in light of post-colonial theories and through the perspective of a global art history.' Ana Gonçalves Magalhães, Figura: Studies on the Classical Tradition

    'Modernity in Black and White is an important work for reflecting upon the construction of Brazilian identity from a broader perspective on the notion of modernism.' Flávio Thales Ribeiro Francisco, ARS

    '… elegantly written and meticulously researched study … Essential.' E. Douglas, Choice Magazine

    '… Modernity in Black and White is unique for its art historical perspective: topics long discussed now receive a long due scholarly fundament in a discipline still incipient in the country.' Laura Ammann, Sehepunkte

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2021
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108481908
    • length: 282 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Ambiguous modernities and alternate modernisms
    1. Heart of darkness in the bosom of the modern metropolis: favelas, race and barbarity
    2. A pagan festival for the up to date: art, bohemianism and carnival
    3. The printing of modern life: a new art for a new century
    4. The cosmopolitan savage: modernism, primitivism and the anthropophagic descent
    5. The face of the land: depicting 'real' Brazilians under Vargas
    Epilogue. Images of a culture at war with itself.

  • Author

    Rafael Cardoso, Freie Universität Berlin
    Rafael Cardoso is a member of the postgraduate faculty in art history at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Instituto de Artes) and a research fellow at Freie Universität Berlin (Lateinamerika-Institut). One of the leading historians of modern art and design in Brazil, he has authored numerous books and essays and curated major museum exhibitions.


    • Winner, 2021 Roberto Reis Senior Author Award, Brazilian Studies Association
    • Winner, 2022 Choice Outstanding Academic Titles

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