Video Interview by The Studio Visit’s Cheryl Edwards and Isabel Manalo.
Dr. Wendy Grossman is an Art Historian, Man Ray Scholar, Curator, and an Adjunct Professor . We had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Grossman on Zoom this past week about her pioneering research on the Guadeloupean dancer and model Adrienne Fidelin. Her work to bring this long lost black figure to an international attention came to fruition with her co-authored essay in the catalog for the exhibition on the Black Model last year 2019, at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Dr. Grossman published an article this past April, 2020 in Modernism/Modernity magazine titled “Unmasking Adrienne Fidelin: Picasso, Man Ray, and the (In)Visibility of Racial Difference”. Most recently Dr. Grossman was interviewed in Bonjour Paris.“Wendy A. Grossman on Man Ray’s Muse Adrienne Fidelin”. Her research has been referenced in the past in Griot Magazine in 2017 and The New York Times in 2008.
More than a muse, Fidelin was one of many individuals and entities who—in a newfound confluence of African diasporic cultures in the interwar period—changed the face of modernism. Unmasking her, as it were, as the subject of Femme assise sur fond jaune et rose, II puts a name to the intriguing portrait’s sitter, spotlighting the individual whose story has been shrouded in anonymity for over three-quarters of a century. At stake in this exegesis is more than simply enriching the already exhaustive biographical information on Picasso or adding yet another figure to his extensive repertoire of portraits of women. Recognizing this painting as one of the few examples in which the artist drew on a living black model for inspiration raises provocative questions about the manner in which this figure is represented and considerations as to how it reflects Picasso’s shifting understanding of an imaginary Africa in surrealist or anticolonialist terms. As such, the establishment of Fidelin’s identity in this painting provides a springboard for an investigation into critical issues of race, gender, and difference in the construction of modernism.Dr. Wendy Grossman, April 2020, Modernism/Modernity
The Studio Visit was fortunate enough to connect with Dr. Grossman through Cheryl Edwards who first met Dr. Grossman (Wendy) about five years ago at an event called the Monroe Street Art walk at the Brookland studios located in Northeast, Washington D.C. In 2019, Cheryl asked Wendy to give a presentation about her research for her ‘PRISM’ artist talk series that was hosted at her own studio at the time.
The work Wendy has done is critically important for the purpose of illuminating and in this case, correcting a Eurocentric history of art where people of color were literally negated. It is also very relevant during the current events of the day, as it validates the movement of the fact that Black and Brown artists lives matter. I encourage you to spend time with her published article “Unmasking Adrienne Fidelin: Pablo Picasso, Man Ray & The (In)Visibility of Racial Difference” and how it provides a critical view of the carefully documented story of Ady Fidelin.Cheryl Edwards, 2020