Posts Tagged ‘Hannah Höch

14
Dec
11

Review: ‘The mad square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37’ at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th November 2011 – 4th March 2012

 

Irene Bayer. 'No title (Man on stage)' c. 1927

 

Irene Bayer (American, 1898-1991)
No title (Man on stage)
c. 1927
Gelatin silver photograph
Printed image 10.6 h x 7.6 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

This is one of the best exhibitions this year in Melbourne bar none. Edgy and eclectic the work resonates with the viewer in these days of uncertainty: THIS should have been the Winter Masterpieces exhibition!

The title of the exhibition, The mad square (Der tolle Platz) is taken from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting of the same name where “the ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period.” The exhibition showcases how artists responded to modern life in Germany in the interwar years, years that were full of murder and mayhem, putsch, revolution, rampant inflation, starvation, the Great Depression and the rise of National Socialism. Portrayed is the dystopian, dark side of modernity (where people are the victims of a morally bankrupt society) as opposed to the utopian avant-garde (the prosperous, the wealthy), where new alliances emerge between art and politics, technology and the mass media. Featuring furniture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, collage and photography in the sections World War 1 and the Revolution, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic, Metropolis, New Objectivity and Power and Degenerate Art, it is the collages and photographs that are the strongest elements of the exhibition, particularly the photographs. What a joy they are to see.

There is a small 2″ x 3″ contact print portrait of Hanna Höch by Richard Kauffmann, Penetrate yourself or: I embrace myself (1922) that is an absolute knockout. Höch is portrayed as the ‘new women’ with short bobbed hair and loose modern dress, her self-image emphasised through a double exposure that fragments her face and multiplies her hands, set against a contextless background. The ‘new women’ fragmented and broken apart (still unsure of herself?). The photograph is so small and intense it takes your breath away. Similarly, there is the small, intimate photograph No title (Man on Stage) (c. 1927) by Irene Bayer (see above) that captures performance as ‘total art’, a combination of visual arts, dance, music, architecture and costume design. In contrast is a large 16 x 20″ photograph of the Bauhaus balconies (1926) by László Moholy-Nagy (see below) where the whites are so creamy, the perspective so magnificent.

No title (Metalltanz) (c. 1928-29) by T. Lux Feinenger, a photographer that I do not know well, is an exceptional photograph and print. Again small, this time dark and intense, the image features man as dancer performing gymnastics in front of reflective, metal sculptures. The metal becomes an active participant in the Metalltanz or ‘Dance in metal’ because of its reflective qualities. The print, from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is luminous. In fact all the prints from the Getty in this exhibition are of the most outstanding quality, a highlight of the exhibition for me. Another print from the Getty that features metal and performance is Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet) by T Grill c. 1926 – 27 (see below) where the spiral costume becomes an extension of the body, highlighting its form. Also highlighting form, objectivity and detachment is a wonderful 3 x 5″ photograph of the New Bauhaus Building, Dessau (1926) by Lucia Moholy from the Getty collection, the first I have ever seen in the flesh by this artist. Outstanding.

Following, we have 4 photograms by Lucia’s husband, László Moholy-Nagy which display formalist experimentation “inspired by machine aesthetic, exploring a utopian belief that Constructivism and abstract art could play a role in the process of social reform.” Complimenting these photograms is a row of six, yes six! Moholy-Nagy including Dolls (Puppen) 1926-7 (Getty), The law of the series 1925 (Getty), Lucia at the breakfast table 1926 (Getty), Spring, Berlin 1928 (George Eastman House), Berlin Radio Tower 1928 (Art Institute of Chicago) and Light space modulator 1930 (Getty). All six photographs explore the fascinating relationship between avant-garde art and photography, between they eye and perspective, all the while declaiming what Moholy-Nagy called the “new vision”; angles, shadows and geometric patterns that defy traditional perspective “removing the space from associations with the real world creating a surreal, disjointed image.” This topographic mapping flattens perspective in the case of the Berlin radio tower allowing the viewer to see the world in a new way.

Finally two groups of photographs that are simply magnificent.

First 8 photographs in a row that focus on the order and progressive nature of the modern world, the inherent beauty of technology captured in formalist studies of geometric forms. The prints range from soft pictorialist renditions to sharp clarity. The quality of the prints is amazing. Artists include the wonderful E. O. Hoppé, Albert Renger-Patzsch (an outstandingly beautiful photograph, Harbour with cranes 1927 that is my favourite photograph in the exhibition, see below), Two Towers 1937-38 by Werner Mantz and some early Wolfgang Sievers before he left Germany for Australia in 1938 (Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany 1933, see below). These early Sievers are particularly interesting, especially when we think of his later works produced in Australia. Lucky were many artists who survived in Germany or fled from Nazi persecution at the last moment, including John Heartfield who relocated to Czechoslovakia in 1933 and then fled to London in 1938 and August Sander whose life and work were severely curtailed under the Nazi regime and whose son died in prison in 1944 near the end of his ten year sentence (Wikipedia).

August Sander. Now there is a name to conjure with. The second magnificent group are 7 photographs that are taken from Sander’s seminal work People of the 20th Century. All the photographs have soft, muted tones of greys with no strong highlights and, usually, contextless backgrounds. The emphasis is on archetypes, views of people who exist on the margins of society – circus performers, bohemians, artists, the unemployed and blind people. In all the photographs there is a certain frontality (not necessarily physical) to the portraits, a self consciousness in the sitter, a wariness of the camera and of life. This self consciousness can be seen in the two photographs that are the strongest in the group – Secretary at West German radio in Cologne, 1931 and Match seller 1927 (see below).

There is magic here. Her face wears a somewhat quizzical air – questioning, unsure, vulnerable – despite the trappings of affluence and fashionability (the smoking of the cigarette, the bobbed hair). He is wary of the camera, his face and hands isolated by Sander while the rest of his body falls into shadow. His right hand is curled under, almost deformed, his shadow falling on the stone at right, the only true brightness in this beautiful image the four boxes of matches he clutches in his left hand: as Sander titles him ironically, The Businessman.

Working as I do these days with lots of found images from the 1940s – 60s that I digitally restore to life, I wonder what happened to these people during the dark days of World War 2. Did they survive the cataclysm, the drop into the abyss? I want to know, I want to reach out to these people to send them good energy. I hope that they did but their wariness in front of the camera, so intimately ‘taken’ by Sander, makes me feel the portent of things to come. How differently we see images armed with the hindsight of history!

In conclusion, this is a fantastic exhibition that will undoubtedly be in my top ten of the year for Melbourne in 2011.

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Many thankx to Michael Thorneycroft for his help and The National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the accredited photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower)' 1928/29

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Berlin Radio Tower
1928
Gelatin silver print
36 × 25.5cm
Julien Levy Collection, Special Photography Acquisition Fund
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

Over the winter and spring of 1927–28, Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy took a series of perhaps nine views looking down from the Berlin Radio Tower, one of the most exciting new constructions in the German capital. Moholy had already photographed the Eiffel Tower in Paris from below, looking up through the tower’s soaring girders. In Berlin, however, Moholy turned his camera around and pointed it straight down at the ground. This plunging perspective showed off the spectacular narrowness of the Radio Tower, finished in 1926, which rose vertiginously to a height of 450 feet from a base seven times smaller than that of its Parisian predecessor (which opened in 1889). Moholy attached exceptional importance to this, his boldest image: he hung it just above his name in a room devoted to his work at the Berlin showing of Film und Foto, a mammoth traveling exhibition that he had helped to prepare. Moholy also chose this view and one other to offer Julien Levy, the pioneering art dealer, when Levy visited him in Berlin in 1930. The following year the pictures went on view at the Levy Gallery in New York, in Moholy’s first solo exhibition of photographs.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Prop)' 1930

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Das Lichtrequisit (The light prop)
1930
Gelatin silver print
24 × 18.1 cm (9 7/16 × 7 1/8 in.)
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2014 Estate of László Moholy-Nagy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The Light-Space Modulator is the most spectacular and complete realization of László Moholy-Nagy’s artistic philosophy. Machine parts and mechanical structures began to appear in his paintings after his emigration from Hungary, and they are also seen in the illustrations he selected for the 1922 Buch neuer Künstler (Book of new artists), which includes pictures of motorcars and bridges as well as painting and sculpture. Many contemporary artists incorporated references to machines and technology in their work, and some, like the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin, even designed plans for fantastic structures, such as the ambitious Monument to the Third International, a proposed architectural spiral of glass and steel with moving tiers and audiovisual broadcasts. (See Tatlin’s Tower.)

In the Light-Space Modulator, Moholy-Nagy was able to create an actual working mechanism. Although he censured capitalism’s inhumane use of technology, he believed it could be harnessed to benefit mankind and that the artist had an important role in accomplishing this. Moholy had made preliminary sketches for kinetic sculptures as early as 1922 and referred to the idea for a light machine in his writings, but it was not until production was financed by an electric company in Berlin in 1930 that this device was built, with the assistance of an engineer and a metalsmith. It was featured at the Werkbund exhibition in Paris the same year, along with the short film Light Display Black-White-Gray, made by Moholy-Nagy to demonstrate and celebrate his new machine.

The Light-Space Modulator is a Moholy-Nagy painting come to life: mobile perforated disks, a rotating glass spiral, and a sliding ball create the effect of photograms in motion. With its gleaming glass and metal surfaces, this piece (now in the collection of the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University) is not only a machine for creating light displays but also a sculptural object of beauty, photographed admiringly by its creator.

Katherine Ware, László Moholy-Nagy, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 80 © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946) 'Harbour with crane' c. 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Harbour with crane
c. 1927
Gelatin silver photograph
Printed image 22.7 h x 16.8 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Wolfgang Sievers. 'Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany' 1933

 

Wolfgang Sievers (Germany 1913 – Australia 2007)
Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany
1933
gelatin silver photograph
27.5 h x 23.0 w cm
Purchased 1988
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

The Ruhr region was at the centre of the German acceleration of industry in pre-war Germany, with rapid economic growth creating a heavy demand for coal and steel. In keeping with Modernist trends in photography, Sievers shot this blast furnace – the mechanism that transforms ore into metal – from an unusual, dynamic angle. It dominates the frame, appearing menacing and strange. Despite being imprisoned and beaten by the Gestapo, Sievers studied and taught at a progressive private art school until graduation in 1938. In that year he escaped Germany after being called up for military service, ending up in Australia.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

August Sander. 'Match seller' 1927

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Match seller
1927
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, IV Classes and Professions, 17 The Businessman

 

Robert Wiene, Director (German 1873-1938) Still from the 'Cabinet of Dr Caligari' 1919

 

Robert Wiene, Director (German 1873-1938)
Still from from the Cabinet of Dr Caligari
1919
5 min excerpt, 35mm transferred to DVD, Black and White, silent, German subtitles
Courtesy Transit Film GmbH
Production still courtesy of the British Film Institute and Transit Film GmbH

 

Felix H Man. 'Luna Park' 1929

 

Felix H Man (German 1893-1985)
Luna Park
1929
Gelatin silver photograph
18.1 x 24cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1987
© Felix H Man Estate

 

Hannah Höch. 'Love' 1931

 

Hannah Höch (German 1889-1978)
Love
1931
From the series Love
Photomontage
21.8 x 21.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1983

 

 

Hannah Höch made some of the most interesting Dada collages and photomontages, including Love, an image of two strange composite female. Höch’s technique of pasting images together from magazine clippings and advertisements was a response to the modern era of mass media, and a way of criticising the bourgeois taste for ‘high art’. In many of her works, Höch explores the identity and changing roles of women in modern society.

 

 

The Mad Square takes its name from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting which depicts Berlin’s famous Pariser Platz as a mad and fantastic place. The ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period. The ‘square’ can also be a modernist construct that saw artists moving away from figurative representations towards increasingly abstract forms.

The exhibition features works by Max Beckman, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, Kurt Schwitters and August Sander. This group represents Germany’s leading generation of interwar artists. Major works by lesser known artists including Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter and Hannah Höch are also presented in the exhibition in addition to works by international artists who contributed to German modernism.

The Mad Square brings together a diverse and extensive range of art, created during one of the most important and turbulent periods in European history, offering new insights into the understanding of key German avant‐garde movements including – Expressionism, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism, and New Objectivity were linked by radical experimentation and innovation, made possible by an unprecedented freedom of expression.

 

World War 1 and the Revolution

The outbreak of war in 1914 was met with enthusiasm by many German artists and intellectuals who volunteered for service optimistically hoping that it would bring cultural renewal and rapid victory for Germany. The works in this section are by the generation of artists who experienced war first hand. Depictions of fear, anxiety and violence show the devastating effects of war – the disturbing subjects provide insight into tough economic conditions and social dysfunction experienced by many during the tumultuous early years of the Weimar Republic following the abdication of the Kaiser

 

Dada

The philosophical and political despair experienced by poets and artists during World War 1 fuelled the Dada movement, a protest against the bourgeois conception of art. Violent, infantile and chaotic, Dada took its name from the French word for a child’s hobbyhorse or possibly from the sound of a baby’s babble. Its activities included poetry readings and avant‐garde performances, as well as creating new forms of abstract art that subverted all existing conditions in western art. Though short‐lived, in Germany the Dada movement has profoundly influenced subsequent developments in avant-garde art and culture. The impact of the Dada movement was felt throughout Europe – and most powerfully in Germany from 1917-21.

 

Bauhaus

The Bauhaus (1919‐33) is widely considered as the most important school of art and design of the 20th century, very quickly establishing a reputation as the leading and most progressive centre of the international avant‐garde. German architect Walter Gropius founded the school to do away with traditional distinctions between the fine arts and craft, and to forge an entirely new kind of creative designer skilled in both the conceptual aesthetics of art and the technical skills of handicrafts. The Bauhaus was considered to be both politically and artistically radical from its inception and was closed down by the National Socialists in 1933

 

Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic

Having emerged in Russia after World War I, Constructivism developed in Germany as a set of ideas and practices that experimented with abstract or non-representational forms and in opposition to Expressionism and Dada. Constructivists developed works and theories that fused art and with technology. They shared a utopian belief in social reform, and saw abstract art as playing a central role in this process.

 

Metropolis

By the 1920s Berlin has become the cultural and entertainment capital of the world and mass culture played an important role in distracting a society traumatised by World War 1, the sophisticated metropolis provided a rich source of imagery for artists, it also come to represent unprecedented sexual and personal freedom. In photography modernity was emphasised by unusual views of the metropolis or through the representation of city types. The diverse group of works in this section portray the uninhibited sense of freedom and innovation experienced by artists throughout Germany during the 1920s

 

New Objectivity

By the mid 1920s, a new style emerged that came to be known as Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity. After experiencing the atrocities of World War 1 and the harsh conditions of life in postwar Germany, many artists felt the need to return to the traditional modes of representation with portraiture becoming a major vehicle of this expression, with its emphasis on the realistic representation of the human figure

 

Power and Degenerate Art

After the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933 modern artists were forbidden from working and exhibiting in Germany, with their works confiscated from leading museums and then destroyed or sold on the international art market. Many avant‐garde artists were either forced to leave Germany or retreat into a state of ‘inner immigration’.

The Degenerate art exhibition, held in Munich in 1937, represented the culmination of the National Socialists’ assault on modernism. Hundreds of works were selected for the show which aimed to illustrate the mental deficiency and moral decay that had supposedly infiltrated modern German art. The haphazard and derogatory design of the exhibition sought to ridicule and further discredit modern art. Over two million people visited the exhibition while in contrast far fewer attended the Great German art exhibition which sought to promote what the Nazis considered as ‘healthy’ art.

 

Karl Grill. 'Untitled [Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet]' c. 1926-27

 

Karl Grill (German, active Donaueschingen, Germany 1920s)
Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet)
c. 1926 – 27
Gelatin silver print
22.5 x 16.2cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

In 1922, Oskar Schlemmer premiered his “Triadic Ballet” in Germany. He named the piece “Triadic” because it was literally composed of multiples of three: three acts, colours, dancers, and shapes. Concentrating on its form and movement, Schlemmer explored the body’s spatial relationship to its architectural surroundings. Although an abstract design, the spiral costume derived from the tutus of classical ballet.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles website

 

August Sander. 'Secretary at West German radio in Cologne' 1931, printed by August Sander in the 1950s

 

August Sander (German 1876-1964)
Secretary at West German radio in Cologne
1931, printed by August Sander in the 1950s
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, III The woman, 17 The woman in intellectual and practical occupation
Gelatin silver photograph
29.0 x 22.0cm
Die Photographische Sammlung /SK Stiftung Kultur, August Sander Archiv, Cologne (DGPH1016)
© Die Photographische Sammlung /SK  Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

 

Timeline

1910

  • Berlin’s population doubles to two million people

1911

  • Expressionists move from Dresden to Berlin

1912

  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) the largest party in the Reichstag

1913

  • Expressionists attain great success with their city scenes

1914

  • World War I begins
  • George Grosz, Oskar Schlemmer, Otto Dix, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann and Franz Marc enlist in the army

1915

  • Grosz declared unfit for service, Beckmann suffers a breakdown and Schlemmer wounded

1916

  • Marc dies in combat
  • Dada begins at Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich

1917

  • Lenin and Trotsky form the Soviet Republic after the Tzar is overthrown

1918

  • Richard Huelsenbeck writes a Dada manifesto in Berlin
  • Kurt Schwitters creates Merz assemblages in Hanover
  • Revolutionary uprisings in Berlin and Munich
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees to Holland
  • Social Democratic Party proclaims the Weimar Republic
  • World War I ends

1919

  • Freikorps assassinates the Spartacist leaders, Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
  • Bauhaus established in Weimer by Walter Gropius
  • Cologne Dada group formed
  • Treaty of Versailles signed

1920

  • Berlin is the world’s third largest city after New York and London
  • Inflation begins in Germany
  • National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) founded
  • Kapp Putsch fails after right‐wing forces try to gain control over government
  • First International Dada fair opens in Berlin

1921

  • Hitler made chairman of the NSDAP

1922

  • Schlemmer’s Triadic ballet premiers in Stuttgart
  • Hyperinflation continues

1923

  • Hitler sentenced to five years imprisonment for leading the Beer Hall Putsch
  • Inflation decreases and a period of financial stability begins

1924

  • Hitler writes Mein Kampf while in prison
  • Reduction of reparations under the Dawes Plan

1925

  • New Objectivity exhibition opens at the Mannheim Kunsthalle
  • The Bauhaus relocates to Dessau

1926

  • Germany joins the League of Nations

1927

  • Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis released
  • Unemployment crisis worsens
  • Nazis hold their first Nuremburg party rally

1928

  • Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The threepenny opera premieres in Berlin
  • Hannes Meyer becomes the second director of the Bauhaus

1929

  • Street confrontations between the Nazis and communists in Berlin
  • Young Plan accepted, drastically reducing reparations
  • Stock market crashes on Wall Street, New York
  • Thomas Mann awarded the Nobel Prize for literature

1930

  • Resignation of Chancellor Hermann Müller’s cabinet ending parliamentary rule
  • Minority government formed by Heinrich Brüning, leader of the Centre Party
  • Nazis win 18% of the vote and gain 95 seats in the National elections
  • Ludwig Miles van der Rohe becomes the third director of the Bauhaus
  • John Heartfield creates photomontages for the Arbeiter‐Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ)

1931

  • Unemployment reaches five million and a state of emergency is declared in Germany

1932

  • Nazis increase their representation in the Reichstag to 230 seats but are unable to form a majority coalition
  • Miles van der Rohe moves the Bauhaus to Berlin
  • Grosz relocates to New York in as an exile

1933

  • Hindenberg names Hitler as Chancellor
  • Hitler creates a dictatorship under the Nazi regime
  • The first Degenerate art exhibition denouncing modern art is held in Dresden
  • Miles van der Rohe announces the closure of the Bauhaus
  • Nazis organise book burnings in Berlin
  • Many artists including Gropius, Kandinski and Klee flee Germany
  • Beckmann, Dix and Schlemmer lose their teaching positions

1934

  • Fifteen concentration camps exist in Germany

1935

  • The swastika becomes the flag of the Reich

1936

  • Spanish civil war begins
  • Germany violates the Treaty of Versailles
  • Olympic Games held in Garmisch‐Partenkirchen and Berlin
  • Thomas Mann deprived of his citizenship and emigrates to the United States

1937

  • German bombing raids over Guernica in Spain in support of Franco
  • The Nazi’s Degenerate art exhibition opens in Munich and attracts two million visitors
  • Beckmann, Kirchner and Schwitters leave Germany
  • Purging of ‘degenerate art’ from German museums continues 1

 

1. Timeline credit: Chronology compiled by Jacqueline Strecker and Victoria Tokarowski from the following sources:

  • Catherine Heroy ‘Chronology’ in Sabine Rewald, Glitter and Doom: German portraits from the 1920s, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, exh cat, 2006, pp. 39‐46.
  • Anton Kaes, Martin Jay and Edward Dimendberg, eds, ‘Political chronology’, The Weimar Republic sourcebook, Berkely 1994, pp. 765‐71.
  • Jonathan Petropoulos and Dagmar Lott‐Reschke ‘Chronology’ in Stephanie Barron, ‘Degenerate Art’: the fate of the avant‐garde in Nazi Germany, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, exh cat, 1991, pp. 391‐401.

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy. ‘Bauhaus Balconies’ 1926

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Bauhaus Balconies
1926
Silver gelatin photograph

 

John Heartfield. 'Adolf, the superman: swallows gold and spouts rubbish' from the 'Workers Illustrated Paper', vol 11, no 29, 17 July 1932, p. 675

 

John Heartfield (German 1891-1968)
Adolf, the superman: swallows gold and spouts rubbish
1932
From the Workers Illustrated Paper, vol 11, no 29, 17 July 1932, p. 675
Photolithograph
38.0 x 27.0 cm
John Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste zu Berlin
Photo: Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Heartfield 2261/ Roman März
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

 

John Heartfield’s photomontages expose hidden agendas in German politics and economics of the 1920s and 30s. This image was published six months before the National Socialist Party came to power, and shows Hitler with a spine made of coins and his stomach filled with gold. The caption says that he ‘swallows gold’, alluding to generous funding by right-wing industrialists, and ‘spouts rubbish’.

 

Max Beckmann. 'The trapeze' 1923

 

Max Beckmann (German 1884-1950)
The trapeze
1923
Oil on canvas
196.5 x 84.0 cm
Toledo Museum of Art
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
Photo: Photography Incorporated, Toledo

 

 

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18
Mar
11

Exhibition: ‘Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 7th May, 2010 – 4th April 2011

 

Ooooh, how I wish I could have been in New York to see this exhibition!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954) 'Untitled #92' 1981

 

Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954)
Untitled #92
1981
Chromogenic colour print
24 x 47 15/16″ (61 x 121.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Fellows of Photography Fund
© 2010 Cindy Sherman

 

Nan Goldin (American, born 1953) 'Nan One Month After Being Battered' 1984

 

Nan Goldin (American, born 1953)
Nan One Month After Being Battered
1984
Silver dye bleach print (printed 2008)
15 1/2 x 23 1/8″ (39.4 x 58.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2010 Nan Goldin

 

Ilse Bing (American, born Germany. 1899-1998) 'Self-Portrait in Mirrors' 1931


 

Ilse Bing (American, born Germany. 1899-1998)
Self-Portrait in Mirrors
1931
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 12″ (26.8 x 30.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Joseph G. Mayer Fund
© 2010 The Ilse Bing Estate / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art draws from its rich collection of photography to present the history of the medium from the dawn of the modern period to the present with the exhibition Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, from May 7 to August 30, 2010. Filling the entire third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries with photographs made exclusively by women artists, this installation comprises more than 200 works by approximately 120 artists, including a selection of exceptional recent acquisitions and works on view for the first time by such artists as Anna Atkins, Claude Cahun, Rineke Dijkstra, VALIE EXPORT, Nan Goldin, Helen Levitt, and Judith Joy Ross. The exhibition also includes masterworks by such luminaries as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Gertrude Käsebier, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Cindy Sherman, and Carrie Mae Weems, as well as pictures, collages, video, and photography-based installations drawn from other curatorial departments by artists such as Hannah Höch, Barbara Kruger, Annette Messager, Yoko Ono, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, and Hannah Wilke. The exhibition is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Curator; Sarah Meister, Curator; and Eva Respini, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries comprise a circuit of six rooms devoted to a rotating selection of photographs from the Museum’s collection. The galleries featuring works from 1850 to the 1980s open on May 7, 2010, and remain on view through March 21, 2011. The most contemporary works in the exhibition are currently on view in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery, and they remain on view through August 30, 2010.

For much of photography’s 170-year history, women have contributed to its development as both an art form and a means of communication, expanding its parameters by experimenting with every aspect of the medium. Self-portraits and representations of women by a variety of women practitioners are a recurring motif, as seen in works by artists ranging from Julia Margaret Cameron to Lucia Moholy, and from Germaine Krull to Katy Grannan. Significant groups of works by individual photographers are highlighted within this chronological survey, including in-depth presentations of the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston, Käsebier, Modotti, Lange, Levitt, Arbus, Goldin, and Ross.

Marking the entrance to The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries is a large-scale photographic wallpaper, Fluxus Wallpaper, realised by Yoko Ono and George Maciunas in the early 1970s. This work depicts the serial repetition of a set of buttocks, an image originating from a provocative Fluxus film made by Ono in 1966.

Pictures by Women opens with a gallery of nineteenth and early twentieth-century work, representing the variety of photography’s applications. The earliest photograph in the installation was made in the 1850s by British photographer Anna Atkins, who used the cyanotype process to record her many plant specimens. Presented side by side are in-depth groupings of work by American photographers Frances Benjamin Johnston and Gertrude Käsebier. In 1899 the Hampton Institute commissioned Johnston to take photographs at the school that were featured in an exhibition about contemporary African American life at the Paris Exposition of 1900. On view is a selection of pictures taken from a larger album of 156, which exemplify Johnston’s talent for balancing pictorial delicacy and classical composition with the demands of working on assignment. Käsebier – another woman who produced photographic works of art while operating a successful commercial studio – is best known for her portraits and symbolic, soft-focus pictures of the mother-and-child theme.

The rise of photographic modernism in the 1920s and 1930s is traced in the second gallery primarily with the work of European women artists. A wall of portraits of women showing the range of artistic expression and experimentation during this period includes Claude Cahun’s radical gender-bending self-portrait in drag (1921); Lucia Moholy’s striking portrait of fellow Bauhaus student Florence Henri (1927); and Hannah Höch’s Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum (1930), a collage evoking the modern woman. Included here is also a photocollage by the little known Japanese artist Toshiko Okanoue, titled In Love (1953). Cannibalising images from U.S. magazines such as Life and Vogue, this surreal collage represents a young Japanese woman’s perception of the Western way of life. A group of pictures taken in Mexico in the late 1920s by Italian photographer Tina Modotti possess an aesthetic clarity and beauty that reflect her increasing political involvement within her adopted country. Also included is Ilse Bing’s Self-Portrait in Mirrors (1931), a picture staging a complex mise-en-scène between two reflections – one in the mirror and the other in the camera’s eye – as well as similarly powerful works by Imogen Cunningham, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, and Lee Miller, who experimented with mobile perspectives of the handheld camera and graphic compositions.

The third gallery features photographers who devoted themselves to the complex challenge of exploring the social world in the interwar and postwar periods. Largely comprising work by American women, this gallery includes comprehensive presentations of two of America’s leading photographers, Dorothea Lange and Helen Levitt. The breadth of Lange’s accomplishments is represented through a selection of approximately 20 photographs, all of women, including her iconic Depression-era picture Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936); the memorable One Nation, Indivisible, San Francisco (1942); and pictures capturing the bustle of postwar life in America, such as Mother and Child, San Francisco (1952). Opposite these works is a wall of colour photographs taken by Levitt in the 1970s on the streets of New York City. These lively, spontaneous pictures are full of humour and drama, and continue the rich tradition of the American documentary genre that Levitt helped establish in the 1940s with her black-and-white photographs. The rest of the gallery includes a variety of work made during the period, including Berenice Abbott’s documents of the changing architecture and character of New York City in the 1930s, and Barbara Morgan’s elegant 1940 photograph of dancer Martha Graham performing her dramatic piece “Letter to the World,” based on the love life of American poet Emily Dickinson.

Photography’s documentary tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, most notably with a selection of Diane Arbus’s portraits of women, such as A Widow in Her Bedroom, New York City (1963); Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1966); and Girl in Her Circus Costume, Maryland (1967). This gallery also includes work by artists of the 1960s and 1970s who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool for appropriating and manipulating existing photographs. Examples include Martha Rosler’s collage Cleaning the Drapes (1969-72), which juxtaposes images of domestic bliss taken from women’s magazines with news pictures of the war in Vietnam. The gallery also introduces several notable examples of acts performed for the camera, including Adrian Piper’s self-portrait series Food for the Spirit (1971), a meditation on transcendental being through an analysis of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason; and VALIE EXPORT’s provocative Action Pants: Genital Panic (1969). Presented as a set of posters, this work memorialised a performance in which the Austrian artist marched into an experimental art-film house in Munich wearing crotchless trousers, challenging mostly male viewers to “look at the real thing” instead of passively enjoying images of women on the screen.

The emergence of colour photography as a major force in the 1970s is seen in the fifth gallery, with large photographs, including Tina Barney’s Sunday New York Times (1982) and a picture from Cindy Sherman’s celebrated Centerfolds (1981) series. This gallery also includes the work of postmodern artists associated with The Pictures Generation, such as Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and Laurie Simmons, who played with photography’s potential to comment on the increasingly image-saturated world of the late twentieth century. Representing the other end of the photographic spectrum is the diaristic aesthetic of Nan Goldin. A group of Goldin photographs dating from 1978 to 1985 capture the shared experience of an artistic downtown New York community – a generation ravaged by drug abuse and AIDS. These pictures of the artist’s friends, lovers, and Goldin herself explore the highs and the lows of amorous relationships. These are presented opposite work by Gay Block, Sally Mann, and Sheron Rupp, who use the probing vision of straightforward photography to explore the world around us.

Concluding the installation in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery are major groups of works that suggest the diversity of artistic strategies and forms in contemporary photography. A group of Judith Joy Ross portraits of very different women – a graduation guest (1993), a soldier (1990), a congresswoman (1987), and a visitor to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1984) – invite us to reflect upon the relationship between social roles and the unique identities of the individuals who fulfil them. Presented on the same wall is Rineke Dijkstra’s ongoing series Almerisa, comprising 11 photographs made over a period of 14 years. Dijkstra first photographed Almerisa – a six-year-old Bosnian girl whose family had relocated from their war-torn native country to Amsterdam – as part of a project documenting children of refugees. Dijkstra continued to photograph her at one- or two-year intervals, chronicling not only her development from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood but also her cultural assimilation from Eastern to Western Europe. A selection from Carrie Mae Weems’s series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995) superimpose sand-blasted text over found photographs to dissect photography’s historical role in imposing stereotypes upon African Americans. Rounding out this gallery is a wall dedicated to portraits of women, including work by Valérie Belin, Tanyth Berkeley, Katy Grannan, and Cindy Sherman, suggesting the plasticity of photography and, indeed, of female identity itself.

Press release from the MOMA website

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978) 'Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum' 1930

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978)
Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum (Indische Tänzerin: Aus einem ethnographischen Museum)
1930
Cut-and-pasted printed paper and metallic foil on paper
10 1/8 x 8 7/8″ (25.7 x 22.4 cm)
Frances Keech Fund
© 2019 Hannah Höch / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany

 

 

Through the cut-and-pasted elements of Indian Dancer, Höch assembled references to film, Central African sculpture, and the domestic sphere. Her collaged model is the actress Renée (Maria) Falconetti (also known simply as “Falconetti”), appearing in a publicity still for Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Half of Falconetti’s face is replaced with the ear, eye, and mouth of a wooden dance mask from Cameroon. Atop her head rests a crown of cutlery: cutout shapes of spoons and knives, set against glinting metallic foil.

This work belongs to a series of photomontages called From an Ethnographic Museum (1924-34), in which Höch juxtaposed images of women with reproductions of tribal art cut from magazines. The artist cited a visit to the ethnographic museum in Leiden, in the Netherlands, as an influence in the conception of this series; however, she used material from other cultures mostly as a point of departure for commentary on the status of women in contemporary German society. Invoking an androgynous fifteenth-century French martyr as embodied by a glamorous movie star, capping her with the finery of a domestic goddess, and aligning her with a cultural Other, this composite representation examines the complex facets of modern femininity.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

 

Toshiko Okanoue (Japan, b. 1928) 'In Love' 1953

 

Toshiko Okanoue (Japan, b. 1928)
In Love
1953
Cut-and-pasted printed papers on printed paper
14 x 9 5/8″ (35.6 x 24.4 cm)
Committee on Photography Fund and Committee on Drawings Funds
© 2019 Toshiko Okanoue

 

Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943) 'Cleaning the Drapes' from the series 'House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home' c. 1967-72

 

Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943)
Cleaning the Drapes from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home
c. 1967-72
Pigmented inkjet print (photomontage), printed 2011
17 5/16 x 23 3/4″ (44 x 60.3 cm)
Committee on Photography and The Modern Women’s Fund
© Martha Rosler

 

 

Rosler conceived Bringing the War Home during a time of increased intervention in Vietnam by the United States military. Splicing together pictures of Vietnamese citizens maimed in the war, published in Life magazine, with images of the homes of affluent Americans culled from the pages of House Beautiful, Rosler made literal the description of the conflict as the “living-room war,” so called in the USA because the news of ongoing carnage in Southeast Asia filtered into tranquil American homes through television reports. By urging viewers to reconsider the “here” and “there” of the world picture, these activist photomontages reveal the extent to which a collective experience of war is shaped by media images.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012 – April 29, 2013

 

Tina Modotti. 'Campesinos (Workers' Parade)' 1926

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Workers Parade
1926
Gelatin silver print
8 7/16 x 7 5/16″ (21.5 x 18.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Manger' 1899

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Manger
1899
Platinum print
12 13/16 x 9 5/8″ (32.5 x 24.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. Hermine M. Turner

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879) 'Untitled' c. 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Untitled
c. 1867
Albumen silver print
13 3/16 x 11″ (33.5 x 27.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shirley C. Burden

 

Lucia Moholy (British, 1894-1989) 'Untitled (Florence Henri)' 1927

 

Lucia Moholy (British, 1894-1989)
Untitled (Florence Henri)
1927
Gelatin silver print
14 5/8 x 11″ (37.1 x 28 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2010 Lucia Moholy Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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