PULLMAN, Wash. – In 1930, Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History commissioned sculptor Malvina Hoffman to produce three-dimensional models of racial types for an anthropology display called the Races of Mankind.
 
Eighty years later, Marianne Kinkel, an associate professor of fine arts at Washington State University, has assessed the colossal impact of Hoffman’s 91 bronze and stone sculptures on perceptions of race in 20th century visual culture with the release of her book, “Races of Mankind: The Sculptures of Malvina Hoffman,” published this month by the University of Illinois Press.
 
Tracing the exhibition from the 1933 debut and nearly four decades at the Field Museum to numerous reuses, repackagings, reproductions and publications worldwide, Kinkel taps archival sources and period publications to construct a cultural biography of the “Races of Mankind” sculptures.
 
She examines how Hoffman’s collaborations with curators and anthropologists transformed the commission from a traditional physical anthropology display to a fine art exhibit. Kinkel also tracks influential exhibitions of statuettes in New York and Paris and photographic reproductions in atlases, maps and encyclopedias.
 
The volume concludes with the dismantling of the exhibit at the Field Museum in the late 1960s and the redeployment of some of the sculptures in new educational settings.
 
Kinkel demonstrates how the sculptures participated in various racial paradigms by asserting fixed racial types and racial hierarchies in the 1930s, promoting the notion of a Brotherhood of Man in the 1940s and engaging Afro centric discourses in the 1970s. Despite the enormous role the sculptures played in representing race in American visual culture, their history has been largely unrecognized until now.
 
Kinkel’s book is a “provocative new study,” according to a review in Art in America. “Kinkel shows how the images contributed to a contentious and mutating discourse on race through the end of the 20th century.”
 
Library Journal finds that “Kinkel’s original research brings to light much archival material, and the amply footnoted text is generously illustrated.”
 
Kinkel joined the WSU faculty in 2003. She received a doctorate in art history from the University of Texas at Austin.
 
Her research focuses on anti-prejudice cartoons, comic books and animated films of the 1940s. She teaches courses surveying the history of 19th and 20th century art as well as special topic seminars on contemporary art for undergraduate and graduate students.
 

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Source:
Marianne Kinkel, WSU Associate Professor, Fine Arts, 509-335-1363, mkinkel@wsu.edu
 
Media contact:
Robert Strenge, WSU News, 509-335-3583, rstrenge@wsu.edu