First off, I apologize for my absence these past months, but I plan to be back and on top of things as much as I can! While I have not been blogging I was able to make time to see the soon to be closed exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan of Pergamon and Hellenistic sculpture.
Second, this exhibition closes on July 17, 2016 and I recommend that you definitely take the time out of your busy summer schedule to observe, appreciate and maybe even sketch (as I did) the wonderful sculptures in this exhibit.
This entire exhibition is centered around the time period of Alexander the Great’s reign. The fluidity of knowledge, exchange of goods and ideas is apparent as soon as you walk into the exhibit. You are first greeted with a colossal larger than life sculpture. You will want to walk in circles around it more than once before you even think to look at the exhibition tag that states it was created in first century B.C.
The Hellenistic period in Art History is dripping with drama, dynamism, and capturing human emotion. This is when you see the classical Greek sculptures using diagonal compositions and sweeping drapery. One of the most iconic examples of this is the sculpture from The Great Altar at Pergamon (which is part of this exhibit at the MET). While the sculpture of each individual figure of high relief an captivate one’s eye alone, the interaction between all of the figures within the specific setting of a Greek altar speaks to the dramatic nature of this time period.
If you are far away from Manhattan I encourage you to visit the Met website and read up about the exhibit they always have a plethora of information and exhibition photographs available, you can view that all here!
Art of the Dada and Degenerate movement is an art filled with anarchy. Driven by the political and social upheaval that followed Europe after World War I the boundaries of art are pushed into a non-sensical critique of the time. World War I outraged the population of Europe and Dada artists found a way to express their discontent. Expression in this Dada manner evolves into what the Nazi’s name Degenerate art. The politically charged artwork of Hannah Höch, particularly Cut with the Kitchen Knife, continues into the work of other artists such as Picasso.
Although working in different countries and decades Hannah Höch’s Cut with a Kitchen Knife and Picasso’s Guernica have the same political implications and critique’s. Höch was part of the Berlin Dada movement and worked mostly in collage. As the only woman within the Berlin Dadist’s one of her main focuses was on gender roles and equality. The Weimer Republic that Höch is criticizing had many downfalls, but Author of Cut with the Kitchen Knife Maud Lavin points out the main hardship. “One of their principal complaints centered on the hypocrisy of the supposedly socialist government. Far from establishing socialism, the new Weimar government immediately entered into agreements with big business and with the vestiges of the imperial military” (Lavin, 16). As the 1920’s progressed into the 1930’s Dadaists lost their momentum as well as the Weimar Republic. The 1930’s come with a dictatorship that defines European history. Picasso living in Paris, but from Spain, is much aware of the Nazi occupation and in direct response to the bombing in a Spanish city named Guernica he creates his painting (Arnheim, 18-20).
Aesthetically non-sensical, fragmented words, and people of the Weimer Republic on out of scale bodies are just the beginning of Hannah Höch’s collage. There are many layers within the idea or concept of the piece. Höch includes machinery within the collage in a critique of the warfare and the industrialization of society. People were injured and killed in ways never seen before due to technological advances in World War I. This was seen as unacceptable and absurd to those of the Dada movement. These artists were driven to shock political power into the reality of their choices. In the upper right corner of Hock’s collage political figures such as, Whilhelm II, General Field Marshal Friendrich von Hindenburg and General von Pflazer-Baltin are all atop machinery and in ridiculous positions with parts of themselves replaced as dancers or actresses. This corner gradually and diagonally splits off the composition into people of the Dada movement and celebrates Dada.
Picasso is known primarily as a Cubist artist, but he creates more organic forms as he begins his visual political assessment in direct response to the bombing of the city Guernica in 1937 (Arnheim, 21). Just as Hannah Höch used gender distinction in her collages, Picasso makes the central figures of Guernica women to represent the helplessness of the bomb stricken city of Guernica. Twisting the reality of suffering, confusion, and anger into fragmented and expressive representation Guernica creates a modern public view of human devastation. This would be considered Degenerate Art by the Nazi party because of its modern take on a current subject and its irrational representation (Foster, 309).
Politics became increasingly important to the content of art in the decades after World War I and in anticipation of World War II. Artists Hannah Höch and Picasso develop a style that resists the current political values and decisions. Their art redefines the boundaries of painting, collage, and photomontage. Guernica and Cut with the Kitchen Knife are visual expressions of a world filled with war and an outraged society.
Arnheim, Rudolf . Picasso’s Guernica: The Genesis of a Painting. 1st. Berkeley & Los Angeles : University of California Press, 1962. 18-23. Print.
Foster, Hal. Art Since 1900. 2nd. 1. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2011. 305-309. Print.
Lavin, Maud. Cut with the Kitchen Knife the Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Höch. 1st. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1993. 13-37. Print.
“It is true, is it not – that even Ingres had to revise – yes, the surface of the painting is smooth, finished and incorruptible as a diamond, but under the accomplished surface are pentimenti – see there at the shoulder, how the line under the black dress was lowered qua fraction and the hand extended to give greater elegance…Are these not signs of the patient revision that even a genius has to make.
Recently, I had the opportunity to write for the online Art Criticism magazine On-Verge. I was able meet with the lovely and talented Nancy Morrow. She is a mixed-media artist as well as a Professor at Kansas State University.
You can view her artwork learn more about what she does here: http://www.nancy-morrow.com/
My article “Two Coats of Paint: Nancy Morrow” is about our meet and greet during the short residency that Nancy was able to partake, in Dumbo Brooklyn. You can learn more about the residency and how she is evolving as an artist by reading my article by clicking the title above!
For those of you who find yourself in the New York Metro (or greater) area and want to take a moment to learn about how museums are trying to find a way to separate their collections from this country’s (the United States) natural colonialist categorizing and collecting of art objects.
Interrogating the way institutions simultaneously conceal and reveal particular histories in the way they present artworks and artifacts, artists Duane Linklater and Christopher Stackhouse are joined by anthropologist Audra Simpson to discuss the colonialist implications of museum collecting. In his own works, Linklater addresses these legacies. For a recent project, he made 3-D printed copies of the Native American objects in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts’s permanent collection. The panel addresses how recontextualization changes the meaning of these objects.
Location: The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue