African American Artists during the Twentieth Century
Lois Mailou Jones, Les Fetiches (1938). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY
By the late 1930s when Boston born and bred Lois Jones (1905–1998) was studying painting in Paris, African art had become a staple source material for many European artists within the avant garde. Similar to her French and German colleagues who found great elegance and beauty in the various works of tribal art that found their way north through the colonial occupation of much of West Africa, Jones was also drawn to the highly developed simplicity of form and the powerfully evocative character of African dance masks and wooden figures. In Les Fetiches Jones has retained the structure of the masks and animated them by arranging a selection of such objects as if they are floating in space before the viewer, like phantoms in a dream. Rather than abstracting their forms into unrecognizable shapes, she presents her subject matter as discreet material objects.