El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky, a Russian  artist, designer, photographer, typographer and architect was important during the Russian Suprematism. He designed many works alongside his mentor, Kazimir Malevich (founded this arts movement). These works displayed propaganda and displays for exhibition. His works changed the way one experiments with materials and production techniques, which later influenced the Bauhaus  and carries on to 20th century graphic design. He innovated change in producing photomontage, book production, and typographic exhibitions. El Lissitzky believed that artwork and artists could be used to change surrounding environments. Being of Jewish origin, he created books in order to help spread and share his culture through Russia. During this time, Russia was going through many changes.

His artworks, like many during this time were focused on basic geometric forms in limited colors and abstraction. Centered and based around right angles and grids. Text were often also placed at an angle. This different from the classic art usually based on what we see (Prouns: establishment for New Art). El Lissitzky’s piece “Beat the White with the Red Wedge” was one his most popular posters. In the image, we see shapes of primarily white, black and some grey. These simple composition is broken by a large red triangle placed in the center of the frame. This was said to symbolize the environment in this time period- the bolsheviks fighting their opponents during Russian Civil War.

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This helping begin the Constructivist movement. His works similar to these helped spread that art is not only what you see, but also can spread an idea or phase through simple shapes and forms.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/El-Lissitzky

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Hannah Höch

 

bio_hoch_hannahHannah Höch (1889-1978) was a photomontage artist most distinguished for her role in the Berlin Dada movement and her innovative techniques with photomontage. Her politically charged satirical collages ridiculed the failings of the Weimar government, but also fed into the early feminist movement, opposing stereotypical gender roles, promoting women’s suffrage and empowering women to explore their own creativity in the applied arts. Hannah herself faced adversity and was marginalized as the only woman within the Dada movement, and was not treated as an equal contributor by her peers.

Born Anna Therése Johanne Höch in Gotha, Germany, Höch moved to Berlin and attended the School of Applied Arts in 1912. The school was closed at the onslaught of World War I, but in 1915 she was able to rejoin her education, and studied graphic arts at the School of the Royal Museum of Applied Arts. It was also here where she met Raoul Hausmann, fellow member of the Dada movement, and for a period of time, her lover. Höch and Hausmann both experimented and helped extend the technique of photomontage by appropriating popular press images into fine art. Höch’s pieces utilize metaphorical imagery to illustrate her message and satirical jabs at the hypocrisy of mainstream European society, whose bourgeois leadership and middle class led the country to disaster in WWI.

dada-obras-importantesHer most famous piece, Cut With the Kitchen Knife Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (1919-1920) was featured at the First International Dada Fair in 1920, and was favorably received. The piece is a dynamic collage of images cut out and pasted from newspapers and magazines, as well as some personal inclusions, such as the small image of Hausmann, and Lenin and Stalin, showing her inclinations toward communist parties at the time. The nonsensical fragmentation of images within the collage makes this piece quintessentially Dada, and the fragmentation itself acts as a microcosm for the breakdown of society and the government post-WWI. Cogs, wheels and various machinery eclipse around the image, symbolic of the government as “the machine,” as well as calling light to the industrialization and militarization that was transforming the European landscape.

The upper right corner is labeled “Die anti dada,” mocking prominent political figures that represent the corruption and bourgeois powers that sent Germany to war. The bottom right, labeled “DADA,” includes images from her inner circle of fellow Dadaists, including John Heartfield and Raoul Hausmann. Höch included a small picture of herself overlain on a map illustrating the advancement of women’s suffrage throughout Europe, expressing her commitment to the feminist movement. The left side of the image is dedicated to the absurd, with rhetorical “dada propaganda” encouraging you to “Join Dada!”

Hannah Höch’s process isolated the print images from their original context, allowing her to formulate her own cutting message. Höch’s innovative technique of using appropriated images from popular print publications and photographs has coined her and Hausmann as pioneers in the proliferation of photomontage in the arts. Photomontage was a radically new process, unique to the Berlin Dada movement, but has since inspired countless artists.

Works Cited:

Boucher, Madeleine. “Art or Craft?: Hannah Höch’s Collages Embraced the Conflict Between Art and Craft, Dada and Commercialism.” Artsy. Artsy, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
<https://www.artsy.net/article/madeleineb-art-or-craft-hannah-hochs-collages-embraced&gt;.

Smarthistoryvideos. “Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, 1919-20.” YouTube. YouTube, 02 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E1cA3j_xY8&gt;.

Souter, Anna. “Hannah Höch Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story. The Art Story Contributors, 2016. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.
<http://www.theartstory.org/artist-hoch-hannah.htm&gt;.

John Heartfield

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Self Portrait, 1919. Intended to shock viewers in post WWI Germany. The non-conventional portraiture read as “anti-art” at the time, intended for reproduction in an unrealized Dada anthology.

 

John Heartfield was a photomontage artist active during several eras and movements in Germany. He was active in the Dada community during WWI, created radical leftist media after the war, and churned out many anti-Nazi posters during the rise of Hitler. Originally named Helmut Herzfelde, the artist changed his name to the English sounding “John Heartfield” in protest to WWI German nationalism. A large majority of his work has political connotations aligned with the interests of the German Communist Party (KPD). Influenced by both Dada and the Geman object-poster trend Sachplakat, many of Heartfield’s creations were photomontages presented within a distraction-free composition, allowing him to communicate a clear message. His jarring juxtapositions were both eye catching, as well as thought provoking, making him an ideal designer for the KPD’s propaganda department.

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One of Heartfield’s most striking pieces, in my opinion, is pictured above, named “The Hand Has Five Fingers”. This poster was produced in 1928 while Heartfield was working in the agitation-propaganda department in the KPD. The purpose of the department was to gain supporters and illustrate the treachery of capitalism. The photo cut-out of a worker’s open hand displays both photomontage characteristics of Dada and the bold minimalism of Sachplakat. The hand, weathered by capitalist industry, appears to be reaching out at the viewer, demanding attention and urgently requesting support. A red number 5 is printed twice, once to symbolize the five fingers of the worker’s hand, and once to represent the five political candidates that the KPD endorsed. The poster suggests that workers have the power to rise up and overthrow the rich bourgeois industrialists, if only they band together and support this party’s candidates.

Heartfield’s impact on Germany, especially the Communist community, was powerful and impossible to escape. His KPD propaganda was seen everywhere, from posters and magazines, to leftist novels and children’s books. His “Five Fingers” poster sparked the creation of a mutual gesture of recognition among KPD supporters, in which they would greet each other with an open hand as seen in the photograph. In his work during the rise of the Nazi regime, he used photomontage to scrutinize photography, highlighting the misleading nature of photographs as documentary tools. Through the creation of obvious nonsensical pseudo-photos, he forced viewers to realize how photography had the potential to obscure as much as it revealed, questioning the reputation of Nazi propaganda.  Heartfield should be remembered for challenging both political and artistic convention, and for his persistent dedication to spreading a message he believed in. His political photomontages may have not ended the war, but they inspired free and critical thinking among a confused and troubled population.

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A. “Millions Stand Behind Me” transforms Hitler’s statement into a visual pun, criticizing his greed and indicting the German industrialists who are funding his regime.

 

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B. “Hurrah there’s no more Butter!” shows a family eating government subsidized military equipment instead of food, questioning the normality of Nazi military and propaganda being present in people’s private lives.

Resources

Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: A New History. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007. Print.  

Zervigon, Andres. “John Heartfield.” Avant-garde Art in Everyday Life. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011. Print.