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Entries in Dada (14)


Marcel Janco: An Eclectic Style

Marcel Janco - Untitled (Mask, Portrait of Tzara) - 1919 - Private CollectionRomanian-Israeli artist Marcel Janco (1895-1984) had joined a group of artists at the Cafe Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 and was among the  principal founders of  the Dada Movement. Dada was a unique artistic movement which had a major impact on 20th century art. It was established in Cabaret Voltaire by a group of exiled poets, painters and philosophers who were opposed to war, aggression and the changing world culture.  

Dada soirées featured spontaneous poetry, avant-garde music, and mask wearing dancers in elaborate shows. The Dadaists teased and enraged the audience through their bold  defiance of Western culture and art, which they considered obsolete in view of the destruction and carnage of World War I. The Dadaists objected to the aesthetics of Western contemporary painting, sculpture, language, literature and music. The group published articles and periodicals, and mounted exhibitions. The seeds sown in Zurich spread throughout the world, resulting in  new Dada organizations in Paris, New York, Berlin, Hannover, and more. 

Janco designed masks and costumes for the famous Dada balls, and created abstract reliefs in cardboard and plaster. He had an eclectic style in which he brilliantly combined abstract and figurative elements, expressionistic in nature. His masks were to play a large role in the anarchic dances at the Cabaret Voltaire. They were created from scraps of cardboard, paint, glue, and sack-cloth, all crumpled and torn, with ragged edges and patchy paint.


Kurt Schwitters: Master of Collage

Kurt Schwitters - Merz 163, with Woman Sweating, 1920. Tempera, pencil, paper, and fabric collage mounted on paper, 6 1/8 x 4 7/8 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New YorkKurt Schwitters (1887-1948) is generally acknowledged as the twentieth century's greatest master of collage. Just as collage is essentially the medium of irony, so Schwitters' life is characterized by paradox and enigma. Born in Hanover, the only child of affluent parents, he was a loner in his youth, plagued by epileptic attacks, introverted and insecure. As a student at the Dresden Academy of Art he proved as apt as he was unimaginative. But his contact with Expressionist artists in Hannover in 1916 gave him more confidence to develop his own style, He found something of a following as part of the Dada movement.

Schwitters invented his own unique aesthetic style, which he dubbed Merz in 1919. Premised on the practice of assemblage—the union of sundry quotidian items with formal artistic elements—Merz exemplified Schwitters’s quest for “freedom from all fetters,” cultural, political, or social. The artist’s collages, of which he produced more than 2,000, and his large-scale reliefs known as Merzbilder are kaleidoscopic, sometimes whimsical accretions of humble found material—tram tickets, ration coupons, postage stamps, beer labels, candy wrappers, newspaper clippings, fabric swatches, rusty nails, and the like—that bespeak the flux of contemporary society. In his early collages, Schwitters subjected his bits of wreckage to an organizing principle resembling the vertical scaffolding of Analytic Cubism, thus transforming the diverse components into formal elements. Embedded in each collage, however, are hints of narrative.


Marcel Janco: Bridging Multiple Genres

Marcel Janco - Composition with Red Arrow - 1918 Plaster and casein on burlap, mounted on cardboard - 19 3/4 x 26 1/2 in. - The Art Institute of Chicago - Chicago, IL (click photo for larger image)Romanian-Israeli artist Marcel Janco (1895-1984) was born in Bucharest. In 1910–14 he exhibited at the salons in Bucharest and moved among modernist artists and poets. In 1916, while studying architecture, he was among the founders of Dada in Zurich. There he participated in the famous evenings at Café Voltaire where he was in charge of the stage and costume design. In the 1920s he was much involved in the Dada movement. He had ties with the Paris branch, participating there in an international exhibition of abstract art, and was one of the founders of the art and literature journal Contimporanul. He eventually drifted away from Dada and moved toward Constructivism, a style or movement in which assorted mechanical objects are combined into abstract mobile structural forms.

In 1940, following the rise of fascism in Romania, he immigrated with his family to Ereẓ Israel. In Israel, Janco participated in many important exhibitions including those of New Horizons and the Venice Biennale.Janco played a major role in the modernization of Israeli Art, importing the latest trends in Constructivism from Romania. Once established he joined local artists in developing a more abstract approach to depictions of the local landscape and also turned his attention to pertinent local themes. Janco's significance for avant-garde Israeli Art continues today, through the still-active artist's colony he established in Ein Hod.


Christian Schad: The Classical Collides with Symbolism

Christian Schad - Agosta, the Pigeon-Chested Man, and Rasha, the Black Dove - 1929 - Oil on canvas - 1200 x 800 mm - Tate Museum - London (click photo for larger image)

German artist Christian Schad (1894-1982) was associated with both the Dada and the New Objectivity movements. Considered as a group, Schad's portraits form an extraordinary record of life in Vienna and Berlin in the years following World War I. The work featured here is a large portrait-orientated oil painting of two funfair performers. It was created in 1929, in Berlin, where Schad lived from 1927 to 1943. It is executed on a plain-weave linen canvas with the paint applied consistently all over. Schad met the subjects in north Berlin, where they appeared together using the bird-related names referenced in the work’s title. As part of their performance, Agosta displayed his upside-down ribcage – a deformity with which he was born – while Rasha, who was from Madagascar, appeared with a large snake wrapped around her. In a 1977 text, Schad claimed that the models were “simple, obliging and, like all performers, dependable and punctual. They told me much about their lives that was much more interesting than what I would have been told at a five o’clock tea”. 


André Masson: Exquisite Forms

André Masson - Ibdès de Aragon - 1935 - Oil on canvas - 743 x 1660 x 54 mm - Tate Gallery, London (click photo for larger image)André Masson (1896-1987) was a French painter, sculptor, illustrator, designer and writer. He began the study of art at age eleven.

Masson initially experimented with Cubism but later became more heavily involved with Surrealism. He embraced the idea of automatic drawing, which was a form of spontaneous composition intended to express impulses and images arising directly from the unconscious.  Eventually, however, he found that practice too restrictive. “A natural draftsman, he used sinuous, expressive lines to delineate biomorphic forms that border on the totally abstract. 

Masson made a series of paintings of Spanish landscapes from 1934 to 1936, when he was living in Catalonia, including the one featured here, of Ibdes, a village in Aragon.