2022 Joshua I. Cohen

Joshua I. Cohen

The Dedalus Foundation’s 2022 Senior Fellowship has been awarded to Joshua I. Cohen, for his book project Art of the Opaque: African Modernisms, Decolonization, and the Cold War. Sandra Zalman was also awarded a fellowship for her book The Modern Remodeled: Museums of Modern Art at Mid-Century and the Construction of the Canon​

Joshua I. Cohen’s Art of the Opaque: African Modernisms, Decolonization, and the Cold War, examines a range of African modernist practices (c 1940-1990) in relation to troubling dimensions of decolonization that seldom surface in scholarship about modern and contemporary art. Whereas strong narratives of liberation have rightly underlain most previous accounts of African modernism, Cohen’s project investigates how Cold War geopolitics drew new African states and their artists into a succeeding imperial age. The book’s four main chapters seek to sensitively locate individual African modernists’ extraordinary work within decolonization’s tumultuous histories, lest their output appear too straightforwardly emblematic of an independence that in fact never fully arrived. Extended discussions of major cultural festivals and exhibitions, and of the work of South African painter Gerard Sekoto, Guinean polymath Fodéba Keita, and the Vohou-Vohou group of Ivorian abstract painters provide specific instances within Cohen’s conceptual framework.

Joshua I. Cohen is assistant professor of art history at The City College of New York/CUNY. His first book, The "Black Art" Renaissance: African Sculpture and Modernism across Continents (University of California Press, 2020), received honorable mention for the Modernist Studies Association First Book Prize.

Image: Kerfala Yansané in “Bigolo,” Le Théâtre Africain de Keita Fodéba, c 1949-50; image from Le Théâtre Africain de Kéïta Fodéba(Paris: Pierre Seghers, 1950); photo by Müller.