We were recommended to look at the work of John Heartfield, Hannah Hoch, Herbert Bayer, El Lissitzky and Aleksandr Rodchenko.
I started with John Heartfeld who was born in Berlin in 1891 but anglesised his German name because he was so disgusted with the Nazis. He was a prolific artist and his montages were definitely political in nature. However as Sabine Kriebel says (1) his
goal is persuasion, not indoctrination
unlike the Nazi propaganda.
I especially liked Wendy Ann Parker’s remarks about the difference between Heartfeld’s work and that of the Nazi propagandists.
Heartfield‘s montages, almost without exception, are an iteration of ―here is the problem.”Those of the Nazis, under Göbbels, declare, ―here is the solution.”(2)
He joined the communist party and produced many designs and posters for them.
Most of his work was against Hitler.
In 1930 the magazine (AIZ) published twelve of his photomontages. This included one that showed Fritz Thyssen, the owner of United Steelworks, a company that controlled more that 75 per cent of Germany’s ore reserves and employed 200,000 people. In the photomontage, Thyssen is shown working Hitler as a puppet.(3)
He had, eventually, to flee to Prague as Hitler was about to have him arrested. But Hitler continued to be angered by his work and had the Czech government ban his work. He eventually moved to East Germany and continued to work there. He also designed theatre sets presumably to pay the bills.
I found his work captivating.
I was a little familiar with Hannah Hoch’s feminist work. I was unfamiliar with her earlier work as part of the Dada movement, . This movement which started in Zurich, Switzerland and moved to Berlin before crossing the Atlantic to the US, was concerned with political issues and left wing politics. Hoch, as a woman, was a fairly rare species in this movement as it was dominated by men. Her work was extraordinarily detailed and interesting. A perfect example of using collage to make a political point.
Höch also helped expand the notion of what could be considered art by incorporating found elements of popular culture into “higher” art. She was one of many Dadaists to take advantage of such means, but she was both among the first, and one of the most self-consciously explicit in describing the goals and effects of doing so. (4)
Putting Hannah Hoch into Pinterest brings up an interesting selection of her work (5). I find her dolls of the Dada period quite disturbing.
She had a relationship with another extremely talented Dadaist artist. Raoul Hausmann. His work analysed the pressures of the capitalist society. Before meeting Hoch he had concentrated on his painting and poetry but together they explored the idea of photomontage.
The self-portrait montage of Hausmann of 1924 is yet another well-known piece of art and is generally referred to as The ABCD.(6)
Hoch moved away from the Dada movement as she did not especially like the exhibitionist nature of the movement. She moved to the Hague during the Nazis occupation of Germany. She returned to Berlin in 1936 but kept a low profile. She died in 1980.
Herbert Bayer was born in 1900 and died in 1985. he studied under Johannes Itten and also studied painting with Kandinsky and became a teacher at the Bauhaus. He was multitalented working as an architect, painter, typogograper and designer. He emigrated to the US in 1938 where he organised the exhibition
“Bauhaus 1919-1928” at the New York Museum of Modern Art in the very same year(7)
His work appealed to me less that the other artists I have researched so far.
I wanted to find some artists working today in Photomontage and collage and a google search came up with Wangechi Mutu. I looked up her work and read a little around who she is and what she is doing. Her work is amazing. A report in the Guardian of her exhibition “A Fantastic Journey” states:
There is no singular question at the core of Mutu’s work. The collages themselves are complex, multi-layered, explosively hued pieces in which many themes are addressed simultaneously. This work is the ultimate existential mash-up. Mutu explores the complexities of this world by asking and answering a thousand questions at once.(8)
So many artists to discover. I loved the information that Mutu had painted a collage of Fela Kuti’s mother who was a feminist, a difficult role in an African country. Fela Kuti is one of my preferred African singers. I had the great pleasure of hearing him sing last summer.
1.Kriebel, S, 2014. Revolutionary Beauty The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield. 1st ed. California: University of California Press.
2.Wendy Ann Parker. 2011. Political photomontage: transformation, revelation, and “truth”. [ONLINE] Available at: http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2735&context=etd. [Accessed 13 December 2016].
3. Spartacus Educational. 2016. John Heartfield. [ONLINE] Available at: http://spartacus-educational.com/FWWheartfield.htm. [Accessed 13 December 2016].
4. The Art Story. 2016. Hannah Höch Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works | The Art Story. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-hoch-hannah.htm. [Accessed 13 December 2016].
5. Pinterest. 2016. Plus de 1000 idées à propos de Hannah hoch sur Pinterest | Photomontage, Collage et Stuttgart. [ONLINE] Available at: https://fr.pinterest.com/fashionresource/hannah-hoch/. [Accessed 13 December 2016].
6. Raoul Hausmann: The Dadaist Who Redefined the Idea of Protests. 2016. Raoul Hausmann: The Dadaist Who Redefined the Idea of Protests. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artnewsnviews.com/view-article.php?article=raoul-hausmann-the-dadaist-who-redefined-the-idea-of-protests&iid=33&articleid=980. [Accessed 13 December 2016].
7. Herbert Bayer Biography – Infos – Art Market. 2016. Herbert Bayer Biography – Infos – Art Market. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.herbert-bayer.com. [Accessed 13 December 2016].
8. The Guardian. 2016. The Afrofuturism of Wangechi Mutu | World news | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/13/wangechi-mutu-art-afrofuturism. [Accessed 13 December 2016].