Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three Collage Artists

Da Dandy, Hannah Hoch, Collage, Photomontage, 1919

Hannah Hoch was the lone woman associated with the Berlin Dada artists who after World War I called for an art "which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of last week, which is forever trying to collect its limbs after yesterday's crash" (Dada Manifesto, Berlin 1918). These artists created social commentary by dissecting images from mass media and recombining them in photomontage.

Hoch addressed racial and gender issues with humor, in the image Da Dandy (above), she fills out a man's profile with images taken from popular women's magazines. Hoch's Dadaists colleagues gave lip service to gender equality but few lived up to it. One who did was the artist Kurt Schwitters.

Mz 26, 41 okola, Kurt Schwitters, Collage-paper on board, 1926

Kurt Schwitters, like Hoch, had a formal aesthetic that was sometimes at odds with the more political focus of some of the Dada artists of their time. Also at odds with the Dada movement was Schwitters romantic belief in transcendent nature. He incorporated bits of refuse that he found on the streets into his collages as a way of creating a fledgling new world out of the ruins of Post World War I Germany. Schwitters fled Germany during the rise of the Nazis and lived in London until his death in 1948. The artist Anne Ryan became, late in her career, a convert to the medium of collage after seeing a New York exhibition of Schwitters work following his death.

Collage #538, Anne Ryan, Collage - paper and fabric on paperboard, 1953

Of Schwitters work Ryan said, "What he could do in such a small space... How he transformed bits of paper and scraps of cloth!". She was 58 years old then and lived only six more years but produced over 400 collages before she died. In her earliest collages, like Schwitters, she incorporated pieces of printed mater and found materials but her later work reflected a softer more formal and intimate aesthetic. Ryan's work is showing through September 6th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Prismatic Eye: Collages by Anne Ryan, 1948-54.

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