One of the first ready-mades Most notorious/famous
A urinal selected from a hardware supplier (Mott Works) – the kind used by standing urinating men.
Submitted it to a Society for Independent Artists (a group of which he was one of the directors) exhibition – under a pseudonym – R. Mutt (play on words – name of company he brought it from/ French slang)
Immediate purpose was to provoke his colleagues and expose the hypocrisy of their supposed liberal attitudes .
The directors were shocked by the fact that a vulgar bathroom fixture was being submitted as a work of art.
Was rejected, even though there was supposedly no selection process (anyone who paid $6 was allowed to submit two works)) – thrown over the back of a wall. Went missing for whole duration of the exhibition.
Significance of Ready-mades – eliminated individual, handmade quality of art – undermined the assumption that skill and uniqueness were necessary qualities for a work of art.
1918 – began making collages from refuse such as bus tickets, cigarette wrappers and string.
1919 – invented Merz – name reached by chance: whilst he was fitting the word “Commerzbank” into collage, Schwitters cut off some letters and used what was left.
He called the collages Merzbilden (Trash/rubbish/litter pictures)
Combined odds and ends such as corks, wire, odd buttons, nails, waste paper, wood, fragments, anything – however his compositions were not random and senseless
(Passage from the Shock of the new)
(Passage from dada – art and anti art
Anti-Art – through use of relatively new art-form – assemblage – challenge to traditional artistic forms – also mocked a traditional concept of the art object as being somewhat ‘precious’ in that the works were made from waste (unconventional materials) redeemed as art – although considered himself PRO-art – not deliberately anti-art.
In January 1937 Schwitters fled to Norway, and in the same year, his Merz pictures were included in the Nazi exhibition of degenerate art (entartete Kunst) in Munich. Schwitters started a second Merzbau while in exile in Oslo , Norway in 1937 but abandoned it in 1940 when the Nazis invaded; this Merzbau was subsequently destroyed in a fire in 1951. His hut on the Norwegian island of Hjertoya, near Molde, is also frequently regarded as a Merzbau.
Schwitters fled to England, and was initially interned in Douglas Camp, Isle of Man. He spent time in London, then in 1945 moved to the Lake District, where, in 1947, he began work on the last Merzbau, which he called the Merzbarn . One wall of this last structure is now in the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle; the shell of the barn remains in Elterwater, near Ambleside.
He composed and performed an early example of sound poetry, Ursonate (1922-32; the transliteration of the title is Primordial Sonata ). Schwitters also authored the poem An Anna Blume .
Picabia ‘ 1879 – 1953) artist and writer/editor Identified by some as the originator of Dada He was a nihilist – anti-Life Produced the Dada periodical 391 – anti-art Although he waged a ‘truly desperate battle against art he never escaped it. Anti- art gestures – challenge to traditional art-forms – artworks which are unconventional – use of collage.
Up until 1908, he painted impressionist pictures in the manner of Sisley. In 1909 he came under the influence of the Cubists. In 1918, he took connection with the Zürich Dada group.
In 1921, together with Breton and others, he dissociated himself from "orthodox" dadaists and switched his allegiance to Surrealism. In his late works abstractions alternate with the grotesque.
He also left literary works poems and verses, art critics, articles on theory of art. Picabia's art is appreciated by those who like irony, plays on words and different styles and techniques.
Man Ray showed evidence of being artistically and mechanically inclined from childhood.
His education at Boys' High School from 1904 to 1908 provided him with a solid grounding in drafting and other basic art techniques. At the same time, he educated himself with frequent visits to the local art museums, where he studied the works of the Old Masters.
After graduating from high school, he was offered a scholarship to study
architecture but chose to pursue a career as an artist instead. However much this decision disappointed his parents' aspirations to upward mobility and assimilation, they nevertheless rearranged the family's modest living quarters so that Man Ray could use a room as his studio. He stayed for the next four years, working steadily toward his goal of becoming professional painter, while earning money as a commercial artist and technical illustrator at several Manhattan companies.
From the surviving examples of his work from this period, it appears he attempted mostly paintings and drawings in 19th century styles. He was already an avid admirer of vanguard art of the time, such as European modernists he saw at Alfred Stieglitz’s "291" gallery and works by Aschan School, but, with a few exceptions, was not yet able to translate these new trends into his own work. The art classes he sporadically attended were of little benefit to him, until he enrolled in the Ferrer School in the autumn of 1912, thus beginning a period of intense and rapid artistic development.
In 1915, Man Ray had his first one-man show of paintings and drawings. His first proto-Dada object, an assemblage titled "Self-Portrait", was exhibited the following year. He produced his first significant photographs in 1918.
While living in New York City, with his friend Marcel Duchamp, he formed the American branch of the Dada movement, which began in Europe as a radical rejection of traditional art.
After a few unsuccessful experiments, and notably after the publication of a unique issue of New York Dada in 1920, Man Ray stated, "Dada cannot live in New York".
In July 1921, he went to live and work in Paris, France, and soon settled in the Montparnasse quarter favored by many artists. Shortly after arriving in Paris, he met and fell in love with Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), an artists' model and celebrated character in Paris' bohemian circles. Kiki was Man Ray's companion for most of the 1920s. She became the subject of some of his most famous photographic images and starred in his experimental films.
Salvador Dalí with Man Ray in Paris, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten
For the next 20 years in Montparnasse, Man Ray made his mark on the art of photography. Great artists of the day such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Jean Cocteau posed for his camera.
With Jean Arp, Max Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, Man Ray was represented in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Gallerie Pierre in Paris in 1925.
In 1934 ,Surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim, known for her fur-covered tea cup, posed for Man Ray in what became a well-known series of photographs depicting Oppenheim nude, standing next to a printing press.
Together with Surrealist photographer Lee Miller—his lover and photography assistant at the time - Man Ray invented the photographic technique of
An “assisted ready-made” – everyday object – a mass produced flat iron, moved out of the ordinary world with the addition of a row of carpet tacks.
Re-contextualised and presented as ‘art’
Function is denied – becomes instrument of surprise as well as refusal – use of humour to thinly disguise something more threatening (quiet outrage?)
1918 – using spray gun and stencils rather than a brush to create “areographs” of abstract, ethereal shapes.
Turned to photography, accidentally rediscovered an older camera-less photographic image process by leaving objects in top of sensitised paper and exposing them to light. Named these photograms “Rayographs, spray paintings were all negations of conscious technique – effects could not be predicted.
Traditional concepts of art such as the preciousness of the art object, or the artist creator as individual genius are challenged by anti-art strategies of collective working on art objects or defacing “masterpieces”
The exploitation of chance events (accident) and the use of automatic states to create art were the key aspects of both Dada and Surrealism.
Dada artists packed their work with ideas that confused expectation of there being a meaning to be deduced from art and also pulled back from controlling the final outcome in the artistic process so that the artist could not be seen as holding the key to finite interpretation. This can be illustrated by Duchamp’s ready-mades, where selection takes place in a moment of ‘visual anaesthesia’.
The Surrealists were inspired by the belief that the concepts of chance and the unconscious were the only way of achieving a knowledge of reality. Conscious control over composition was suppressed in order to give free rein to unconscious imagery and associations. This is the principal of automatism of both the Dadaist and Surrealist. It is well illustrated by examples such as Arp dropping paper scraps on the floor; Francis Pacabia’s ink blots (Methodological automatism)
Automatism is a method of producing paintings or drawings in which the artists suppresses conscious control over the movements of the hand.
Automatism is a method of producing paintings or drawings in which the artists suppresses conscious control over the movements of the hand. The composition can then be seen to give free rein to unconscious imagery and associations and was seen as a way to restore to the work of art its primeval magic power and to find a way back to the immediacy it was seen to have lost through classical and academic style painting.
Examples of Automatism are:
Automatism achieved by mechanical means, eg, Max Ersnt’s frottage and grattage
Psychological automatism such as in the use of dream images or the creation of unreal dream space, eg, Salvador Dali.
Technical means to translate these aims included; collage, assemblage, ready-mades, photomontage, film, visual poetry and photography.
With Surrealists, once an interesting image or form or texture had been achieved by automatic or chance means, it was often exploited deliberately with fully conscious purpose.
William Rubin writes: ‘At the heart of surrealism lay the belief that “objective chance” – by which was meant inexplicable co-incidence – is central to reality, which is not an orderly system of events apprehensible by logical thought. Hence it was believed, knowledge of true reality can be gained only though a-logical insights of the unconscious mind and these insights can be gained only by certain (a-logical) automatic processes’
In the years leading to 1914 – a serious political crisis was developing in Europe – precipitated by the increasing industrial power and ambition of Germany. On a good-will tour of Sarajevo in June 1914, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serbian Anarchist. Austria – Hungary refused to accept calming diplomatic efforts and mobilization brought a reciprocal move from Russia, Serbia’s traditional protector; German mobilization followed, with France and Britain drawn in within days.
The First World War 1914-18 made a huge impact on Europeans and their environment. New technology was adapted for military purposes and there was large-scale destruction.
Many artists were to experience the war at first hand – experience great disillusionment and disgust at the waste of human life, some turned to Dada
Dada emerged – energetic and anarchic – in the middle of WW1 – amidst a climate of pessimism throughout Europe.
Dada members were opposed to the traditional social values that had helped bring about mass slaughter – they were a group who attacked traditional standards and traditional art. The Dadaists were seen by many people as revolutionary and subversive.
Towards the end of the war Berlin was a half-starved night-mare city – increasing social and political chaos, which was to last until 1933.
Berlin is in Central Europe – lack of sense of physical and psychological distance from war as in other more neutral centres eg. New York and Zurich.
‘ Club Dada’ was formed by Huelsenbeck, Heartfield, Grozs, Hoch and Hausmann.
Berlin Dada’s proximity to the war determined its dominant political concerns.
Huelsenbeck – “There is a difference between sitting quietly in Switzerland and bedding down on a volcano, as we did in Berlin”
Berlin Dada had sympathies with the newly formed German Communist party – left-wing. Heartfield and Grosz joined the German Communist party 1918 – they believed in the justice and internationalism of the class struggle. One their demands was “the immediate expropriation of property (socialisation) and the communal feeding of all”
Berlin Dada members favoured the medium of photomontage – they invented the term
Photomontage – method of collage which involved pasting superimposed photographs. This showed an awareness of Cubist assemblage while retaining a political and satirical edge. “this term translates our aversion at playing the artist and thinking of ourselves as engineers…we meant to construct, to assemble our works” hausmann (anti-art strategy)
ie against traditional idea of creation – use of idea of manipulation instead.
Photomontage could serve political/satirical purposes and broader social commentaries. The raw material of photographs was flexible and realistic – images were subverted to expose hypocrisies and idiocies of that existence by using the same advertisements or pictures of political leaders put out by the official press
Brought together disparate parts to create an unconventional new whole – immediacy of the end image resulted from the photographs direct relation to reality – documentary “truth” of photography – demanded the observers attention.
Dada used photomontage to critique National Socialism and propaganda.
Close connection between Dada photomontage and Dada poetry (of Arp, Schwitters) etc – involved the random use of sentences from newspapers, scraps of conversation and cliches out of context, words wrenched from their normal associations.
Dada aimed to be subversive, iconoclastic, revolutionary; they took over the Futurist technique of outrage and provocation in an unrealistic assault on the standards and conventions of “respectable” society, attacking by mockery and caricature culture that seemed to them to be ripe for suicide.
Born Helmut Herzfeld, near Berlin, trained in a crafts school in Munich, worked as a commercial artist.
Drafted in 1914, feigned a nervous breakdown and was released from the army to work as a letter carrier.
He would often dump his mail deliveries in order to encourage dissatisfaction with the war.
Anglicized his name to protest against the nationalistic war slogan “May God Punish England”
Joined Berlin Dada – but spent most of his time doing election posters and illustrations for Communist newspapers and magazines.
When the Nazi’s gained control of Germany in 1933, Hitler ordered Heartfield’s arrest. He literally jumped out his window to escape and move to England where he produced his powerful anti-Hitler photomontages.
His Photomontages evolved into a clear and simple approach to Photomontage, where the ‘realism’ of the photograph made his work credible. He used the medium of photomontage for highly aggressive political means.
His images attacking the brutality and lies of the Nazi regime in the 1930’s have become some of the best-known of the 20 th Century.
When photomontages were exhibited he insisted on having copies beside the original the emphasise his works were political propaganda aimed at a wide public, not private, unique works of art – majority of photomontages were published in newspapers and magazines.
‘ Have No Fear – He’s a vegetarian’ (1936) photomontage
Shows Hitler sharpening a knife behind a rooster, a symbol of France.
The warning being communicated is ironic, given that the whispering man is Pierre Laval, then pro-German premier of France. Hitler, then in the process of rising to power in Germany on a program of nationalism, militarism and hatred for Jews, would soon pose a threat to France, as indeed it did.