Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Hannah Höch - Dadaist Artist


 'I wish to blur the firm boundaries which we self-certain 
 people tend to delineate around all we can achieve.' H. H
Hannah Höch (1889-1979) was a German Dadaist, revolutionary artist, who she has been largely ignored by Art history, because of her gender. In early 20th century women artists have begun to emerge from the shadows of their male partners: Gabriele Munter girlfriend of Wassily Kandinsky, Sophie Tauber wife of Jean Arp, Lyubov Popova collaborator of the Russian artist Alexander Rodchenko and, not least, Frieda Kahlo, who is   more famous than her Mexican muralist husband Diego Rivera.
Höch was born into an upper middle class, in Germany. In 1912 she began classes at the School of Applied Arts in Berlin, where like many female art students before and since she found herself steered away from painting and sculpture — serious men’s business — towards subjects supposedly more ‘suitable for a woman’, in her case glass design and graphic arts. But Hoch had ‘always had an experimental turn of mind’  , and in 1915 she embarked ‘almost recklessly’ on a relationship with the married Raoul Hausmann.
 She chose the curriculum glass design and graphic arts, at the start of World War I, she left the school and returned home to Gotha to work with the Red Cross. In 1915 she returned to school, entering the graphics class of Emil Orlik at the National Institute of the Museum of Arts and Crafts. In 1915, Höch began an influential friendship with Raoul Hausmann, a member of the Berlin Dada movement. Höch's involvement with the Berlin Dadaists began in earnest in 1917.  From 1926 to 1929 she lived and worked in the Netherlands. Höch made many influential friendships over the years, with Kurt Schwitters and Piet Mondrian among others.
(Photo;  Hannah Hoch and Raoul Hausmann in front of her photomontage at the 1920 International Dada Art Fair in Berlin.
P. s  Hoch isn’t even mentioned in the history of Dada in Berlin, written by its notional founder Richard Hulsenbeck. Numerous major exhibitions and studies of Dada have failed to include any of her works.  The one Dadaist who did include Hoch in his memoirs was Hans Richter.)

She was a bisexual “degenerate artist,” who turned art upside down with other dadaists. Hoch spent the years of the Third Reich living in the outskirts of Berlin, in a tiny suburban cottage, where she stayed for the rest of her life. She was a bold, anarchic, politically engaged woman, a contributor to 1920’s First International Dada Fair but it didn’t take long before she got written out of the movement’s history and labelled a “bob-haired muse of the men’s club” in one of obituaries.
 (Photo; Hannah Höch and Man-Ray, 1958, France)
Her artistic practice also incorporated graphic design and embroidery. During a time of radical social change, Hoch’s work provided a funny and moving commentary on society. Themes in Hoch’s work include relationships and perceptions of beauty, with the artist often questioning such concepts through her pieces. Other concepts that are explored include that of the New Woman which originated in Germany after the First World War.During the WW1 Dada had begun in Zurich in 1917, a protest anti war artistic movement of disaffected dadaist artists using provocative slogans and absurdist gestures to attack the culture, and the art, which they claimed, had caused the catastrophic war.
In 1936, Hoch and her fellow former-Dadaists were blacklisted and watched by the Gestapo. In 1938 she moved from the centre of Berlin to a cottage on the city’s rural outskirts, where she sat out the war and its aftermath, feeling as though she had ‘managed to disappear, as completely as if I had gone underground.            
                             Cut  & Paste

  (When Fragrances Bloom, 1962, by Hannah Hoch
   photomontage on cardboard )
Höch is one of the major figures in the history of collage Art. She was a pioneer of photomontage, whose images of women presaged the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir and Second Wave Feminism half a century later, Hoch was a pivotal figure in Dada, the anti-art movement that outraged conventional opinion in the final years of World War One, working alongside iconic male artists such as George Grosz, Kurt Schwitters and Piet Mondrian,  Raoul Hausmann and John Heartfield.

(Artwork; When Fragrances Bloom, 1962, by Hannah Hoch, photomontage on cardboard ) A synthesis of various media, concepts, and styles, the movement’s visual art and poetry deconstructed the elements of sound, language, form, color, and movement and stitched them back together in new ways to create objects and texts that followed the laws of child’s play—that is, laws by which any meaning is possible and none is required.
Portrait of DADA, by Hannah Hoch
('Dada talks with you, it is everything, it includes everything, it belongs to all religions, can be neither victory nor defeat, it lives in space and not in time.' Francis Picabia)
This rejection of adult-world conformity in favor of youthful nonsense offered a means of circumventing the strict and serious rules that govern thought, language, and meaning. “I wish to blur the firm boundaries which we self-certain people tend to delineate around all we can achieve,” declared Hannah Höch, the Berlin movement’s only woman artist and an originator of photomontage. Tristan Tzara’s  “How to Make a Dadaist Poem” (1920)—which includes the directives “Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem. Cut out the article. Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag. Shake gently.”—resembles the instructions of a child’s rainy-day activity.
As a firm believer in a person’s right to artistic freedom, Hoch liked to experiment with different mediums to look at the various ways in which art could be produced.  

(Burst Unity, 1955, by Hannah Hoch )
( Max Ernst, the author of a collage graphic novel, Une Semaine de Bonté (1934), once said: “Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.”)

Hannah Hoch lived on until 1978, in time to see recognition of her contribution to 20th century art in major exhibitions in Paris and Berlin in 1976. Yet she received this belated acclaim with the same equanimity with which she had regarded her earlier neglect and the patronising, even hostile attitudes of her male colleagues. Thirty years ago it wasn’t easy for a woman to impose herself as a modern artist in Germany. She died in Berlin on May 31, 1978.

Hannah Höch (left) with Hans Richter, Juliet Man-Ray, Frida Richter, and Man Ray, 1958.


The First International Dada Fair, Berlin, 1920. L-R: Hannah Höch, Otto Schmalhausen, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield (holding his son Tom), Dr. Otto Burchard, Margarete Herzfelde, George Grosz (pictured on wall), Wieland Herzfelde, Rudolf Schlichter, Mies van der Rohe, unknown, Johannes Baader.

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