Joseph L. Underwood’s book, Forging a New Contemporary: Art from Senegal in Transnational Networks, 1974-1984 will revisit an overlooked exhibition of contemporary art, “Art Sénégalais d’Aujourd’hui” (or “Contemporary Art of Senegal”), that traveled across 24 cities (15 countries, 5 continents) between 1974 and 1984. It remains the sole large-scale African exhibition to tour so extensively. Connecting artists from Africa with audiences and opportunities in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia, Underwood’s book aims to redefine the nascence of so-called non-Western contemporary art, diversifying the canon by addressing the imbalances of power inherent to art’s transnational framework. Across six chapters, Underwood’s book will examine the exhibition content that made “Contemporary Art of Senegal” resonate with its local audiences: francophone affinities in Quebec, the role of primitivism in local modernity in Mexico, experiences of peripherization from the art world with Tokyo, and the history of slavery with the US.

Joseph L. Underwood is a scholar and curator whose research focuses on artists from the African continent and its diaspora and encompasses major themes of the Postwar-era such as post-colonialism, (trans)nationalism, and biennialism. After receiving his PhD in Art History from Stony Brook University, Underwood contributed to projects at the Musée Boribana, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. He currently holds an academic position at Kent State University where he teaches modern and contemporary African art, the history of exhibition and display, and curatorial studies. Complementing his academic writing and presentations with curatorial projects—including “The View From Here: Contemporary Perspectives From Senegal” and “TEXTURES: the history and art of Black hair”—Underwood has won several awards, including a Tyson Scholar fellowship from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.