Saturday, December 02, 2006

Glitter and Doom at the NY Metropolitan

If there was ever an exhibition of historic artworks with more resonance in today’s world, I’m sure it couldn’t beat Glitter and Doom: German Portraits From the 1920’s at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rarely seen artworks by German Expressionist artists from the 20’s are on loan to the Met, and the works document German society stumbling along between World Wars I and II as it takes the long fall into the open pit of fascism. The show is nothing short of explosive, and viewers will no doubt be made uneasy by the echoes the artworks have in our own troubled times.

Glitter and Doom presents more than 100 paintings and drawings by ten artists, some of which are not at all well known outside of Germany. I’m eternally grateful that on my numerous sojourns to Germany over the years, I’ve become familiar with some of these lesser known but no less brilliant artists. Without hestitation I credit the German Expressionists as a major influence upon my own work, and it’s no exageration to say that without their bold and courageous examples - I wouldn’t be the artist I am today. Those exhibited in Glitter and Doom include: Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Rudolf Schlichter, Karl Hubbuch, Ludwig Meidner, Georg Scholz, Gert H. Wollheim, and Christian Schad. The exhibit is heavily weighted in favor of Beckman and Dix, but I’m sure no one will complain. Beckman is represented by 17 works, and the Met is touting that with more than 50 Dix works on display, Glitter and Doom will be "the first major presentation of the artist’s work in the United States." That alone should be reason enough for anyone to catch a flight to New York.

Lady with Mink and Veil by Otto Dix
[ Lady with Mink and Veil - Otto Dix. Oil on Linen. 1920. ]

One of my favorite paintings by Dix will be on view, Portrait of Anita Berber, however it’s an unknown but recently discovered painting by Dix that is sure to steal the show. Lady with Mink and Veil was found in 1993 in the estate of its German owner, and the painting has never been on public display or reproduced in books. Dix’s poor unfortunate subject is an old war widow who has turned to prostitution in order to survive. She wears a green hat and a shabby fur, her baggy slip revealing blotchy pale skin and breasts that sag. Her heavily made-up face and mouth full of broken teeth are masked by a blue veil. Her large deformed face is like a nightmare, a blurry distortion of reality that can’t be washed from memory. Remarkably, Dix dipped an actual veil in blue paint, gently pressing the lace onto the painting in order to leave its imprint.

As much as I love Otto Dix, I’m thrilled that an American audience will also be seeing the startling works of other important artists like those of Ludwig Meidner. Starting in 1912, a full two years before the outbreak of World War I, Meidner began a series of extraordinary paintings that were extreme departures from his usual style. Prophetic works, Meidner’s Apocalyptic Landscapes depicted the earth cracking open and the skies torn asunder, with cities crashing and burning as people fled in panic stricken terror. Two years before his death in 1966 at the age of 82, Meidner wrote On the Summer of the Apocalyptic Landscapes, a recollection of the fevered work sessions that resulted in the creation of his most famous canvases.

"That was a summer unlike any other, in a brooding, lowering metropolis of Berlin, high up on the sixth floor of a modest apartment house in Friedenau. That angry vicious, summer began in the spring of 1912; it was a strange and doom-laden time for me as none other ever was. I was very poor but not at all unhappy. I was charged with energy, full of mighty plans; I had faith in a magnificent future. I had made a home for myself under the blistering hot slate roof; in a cheap studio with an iron bedstead, a chair, a mirror, and a number of bones that served as tables and closets, and on one of which there wobbled a spirit burner with a pot of lentils, white beans, or potatoes simmered. Food was a minor matter, and I did not crave it, but sail cloth, bought cheap in the Wertheim department store, seemed the most valuable thing there was. I was in love with that canvas, which I stretched and grounded myself, and went so far as to kiss it with trembling lips before painting those ominous landscapes.

By the end of May the heat was getting hard to bear. But I was going to hold out. I was damned stubborn. What I lacked in skill I made up in boldness and insolence; I did not paint from life, but what my imagination told me to paint. Dripping with sweat, even when I throw off clothes, it was so hard - oh, how hard it seemed to me to get down on canvas what I wanted to say. Still, I sweated, stamped and slaved long afternoons away until evening fell, that kindly Friedenau evening that was not kindly at all up in my little cell, but a time to sweat and to groan and to refuse to shake off the burden of toil, even for a few hours. Bathed in sweat, I felt like a heavy-jowled hound careering along in a wild chase, mile after mile to find his master – represented in my case by a finished oil painting replete with apocalyptic doom. I feared those visions, although the finished products gave me a strange, warm feeling of satisfaction, a slightly satanic joy."

Portrait of Conrad Felixmüller by Ludwig Meidner.
[ Portrait of Conrad Felixmüller - Ludwig Meidner. Oil on Linen. 1918. ]

Military service in World War I made Ludwig Meidner a confirmed pacifist. In 1919 he wrote the broadside An alle Künstler, Dichter, Musiker (To all Artists, Poets, and Musicians), a tract that exhorted artists to become socialists and work for the common good. Like his fellow expressionists, he became a target for the Nazis and his works were banned in 1933. Being Jewish he fled the country that same year and did not return until 1953. Aside from painting his amazing Apocalyptic Landscapes series, Meidner also managed to paint numerous portraits of artists from Germany’s expressionist circle. One such painting was his wonderful likeness of Conrad Felixmüller (shown above), an artist barely known in the U.S., but a leading member of the expressionist movement and a painter I hold in the highest regard. The one drawback to the Glitter and Doom exhibit is that it does not include the works of the exemplarary Felixmüller.

Self-portrait with Wife Gertrud by Conrad Felixmüller
[ Self-portrait with Wife, Gertrud Müller - Conrad Felixmüller. Probably 1920’s. This oil on linen portrait reveals the artist’s strength as a figurative realist painter, but he was also an early main proponant of a radical new expressionism, with its exaggerated colors and sharp angular planes - hints of which can be seen in this sensitive double portrait.]

Conrad Felixmüller proved himself capable of creating the most sensitive figurative realist paintings, but he also became a main proponent of the most extreme expressionist vision. His skewed perspectives and distorted forms were set ablaze by a glowing palette of scorching primary colors. While focusing on the debauched and degraded state of affairs Germany found itself in, artists like Dix and Grosz often made portraits of people that mirrored that corruption. Repulsive and unsightly creatures littered their canvases, to the point that some have wrongly concluded such depictions were essentially anti-humanist in nature. "Ugly" had became an aesthetic device to expose the true nature of bourgeois society, and as an artistic response to the growing monstrosity of fascism, it was an angry and honest reply. Yet something about Felixmüller’s art set him apart from his contemporaries, he never lapsed into creating pictures that could be construed as misanthropic or anti-humanist. Even during the darkest days when all appeared lost, his portraits of working people were full of quite dignity. Felixmüller obviously had an unshakable belief in humanity.

Glitter and Doom runs at the Met until February 19th, 2007. For more information, view the Met’s website.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

John Heartfield at the Getty

That LA artists have not made a bigger deal over the exhibition of works by John Heartfield currently at the Getty Museum is a perfect example of the cool indifference and political disengagement plaguing the artistic community. Few artists from the past have as much resonance in these troubling times, and Heartfield’s brilliant images continue to speak with a clarity of mind possessed when first produced - which was during the rise of fascism in Germany. Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, is one of the most important exhibitions recently mounted in Los Angeles; it not only illuminates the past, it points a way to the future for artists who want to address real world issues through their art.

Photomontage by John Heartfield, 1932
[ War and Corpses: The Last Hope of the Rich. Photomontage by Heartfield, 1932. ]

Like many German artists of his time, Heartfield was a militant anti-fascist and a communist, but his artwork was also revolutionary when it came to technique and aesthetics. He was one of the very first to explore photomontage as a new means of artistic expression, and some of his sparing designs - stripped down to only a few iconic images combined with text - made him the predecessor of today’s minimalist and postmodernist artists. The likes of Barbara Kruger and Ed Ruscha owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Heartfield, along with aficionados and students of contemporary art - who would do well to study the life and works of the great German master. If you are not able to view the Getty exhibit, the next best thing would be to acquire the comprehensive book, John Heartfield: AIZ/VI 1930-38, a magnificent collection of the hundreds of works he created for the leftist magazine, Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (Workers Illustrated News), also known as AIZ.

Photomontage by John Heartfield, 1932
[ Whoever Reads Bourgeois Newspapers Becomes Blind and Deaf: Away with These Stultifying Bandages! Photomontage by Heartfield, 1932. ]

Leah Ollman wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times on the Heartfield exhibit that appeared in the paper’s Calendar section on March 6, 2006. Ollman’s generally positive review was titled Blinding sarcasm - but Heartfield’s work was anything but blinding, rather, he gifted the masses a lucid vision. Accompanying Ollman’s review was a reproduction of Heartfield’s trenchant Whoever Reads Bourgeois Newspapers Becomes Blind and Deaf - a word of warning never truer than today. How ironic that the LA Times placed Heartfield’s illustration next to the headline Ghostly Gowns, Dreamy Dresses, a heading about Paris Fashion Week - blind and deaf indeed.

I first discovered Heartfield’s work when I was only 16-years-old, and to say his art had a profound impact upon me would be an understatement. Save for the nihilistic works produced by Germany’s dadaists, I had never before seen anything like Heartfield’s photomontages. If dada was the shell shocked babbling of artists confronting the unmitigated horror of modern warfare and a world gone insane - Heartfield’s art was the counterbalance - a precision surgical tool that would identify and cut at the causes of war and fascism. To my young eyes, some of Heartfield’s images were quite easy to understand, but others held their meaning from me since they dealt with unfamiliar events and individuals. Being inquisitive, I eventually peeled back those layers of history, and marveled at how honestly and directly the artist delivered his message. One can only imagine the deep impact his images had upon the German people.

To understand just how radical a democratic stance the artist took, one must begin with his name. In 1916, to protest against the anti-foreigner and anti-British hysteria promulgated by German nationalists and right-wingers, the artist changed his name from Helmut Herzfeld to John Heartfield - which was an extremely "unpatriotic" thing to do at the time. A comparable gesture today would be for an American artist to adopt an Arab name. Needless to say, Heartfield’s courageous stance made him a high profile target, and his unrelenting lampooning of the madmen who seized control of his homeland caused them to seek his death. He escaped the clutches of the fascists by going into exile, but never ceased creating the artworks that so infuriated them. Heartfield eventually returned to his country in 1950, where he died in 1968.

Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage runs until June 25th, 2006. You can read more about the Heartfield exhibit at the Getty website, or click here for info on admission, hours, directions, and parking to the museum.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Bloody Carnival

With all the madness swirling around driving everybody insane, you’d think more artists would have something to say about our present situation. While I wait for them to catch up, I’ll be creating my own riotous responses on canvas. In the meantime, here’s a quote to whet your appetites; "The heaviest burden of all is the pressure of the war and the increasing superficialty. It gives me incessantly the impression of a bloody carnival. I feel as though the outcome is in the air and everything is topsy-turvy. Swollen, I stagger to work, but all my work is in vain and the mediocre is tearing everything down in it’s onslaught. I’m now like the whores I used to paint. Washed out, gone next time. All the same, I keep on trying to get some order in my thoughts and to create a picture of the age out of the confusion - which is after all my function." No, the words are not mine, though they could have been. They were written by German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in 1916.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Degenerate Art: Then and Now

The Tate Modern in London currently has on display an exhibit called Degenerate Art, a small showing of German Expressionist paintings that runs until October 30th, 2005. The name of the Tate show comes from the infamous Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibit mounted by the Nazis in 1937. Heralding the Nazi regime’s policy towards the arts, that exhibit was the most detestable campaign to have ever been launched against modern art. Jonathan Jones, writing for the U.K. Guardian, had this to say about the Tate show: "It would be great to see a full-scale exhibition. In fact, it would be worth reconstructing the entire Degenerate Art exhibition. The restaging would, I suspect, profoundly alter our view of modern art."

In 1991, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) came close to a full restaging of Entartete Kunst, and being an ardent fan of German Expressionism, I was the first in line to view LACMA’s Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. I was not disappointed by the comprehensive overview offered by the museum, which included a full scale model of the original Nazi exhibition, along with ephemera from the exhibit like tickets, catalogs, advertisements and other bits of memorabilia. The LACMA show also included rooms devoted to the Nazi view of literature, music and film - but the focus of the exhibit was of course the paintings and sculptures created by those artists the fascists considered "enemies of the German people." On display were artworks by Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and many other notables who so influenced my own course as an artist. Since the LACMA exhibit is history, and the Tate show is inaccessible to all save those living in London - you might want to visit my Art For A Change web site, where I’ve uploaded images and text concerning the works of Max Pechstein, Otto Dix, August Macke, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Conrad Felixmuller, Max Beckmann and many others.

Self Portrait with Death - Max Pechstein
[ "Self Portrait with Death" - Max Pechstein 1920.
Other Expressionist works available on Art For A Change ]

By 1937 the Nazis had removed more than 20,000 modernist artworks from museums and galleries, bringing them together for Entartete Kunst, a touring exhibit whose sole objective was the scorn and derision of modern art. Artworks were crowded into the Archäologisches Institut in Munich and given hand-scrawled mocking captions. Poorly hung and intentionally displayed with inadequate lighting, the artworks were surrounded by slogans like, Incompetents and Charlatans, An insult to the German heroes of the Great War and Nature as seen by sick minds. The exhibit became one the most successful displays of modern art in history - the first blockbuster art show, with around 3 million people viewing it before its thirteen-city German and Austrian tour was completed in 1941.

By the Water - Oil painting by Nazi artist, Ernst Liebermann
[ "By the Water" - Oil painting by
Nazi artist, Ernst Liebermann ]


The Degenerate Art show was actually held in contrast to the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German Art Exhibit), where Nazi-approved realist paintings and sculptures were displayed. Held annually in Munich from 1937 until 1944, historic, idyllic and mythological German subjects were treated in romantic, academic and classical realist styles. Artists like Ernst Liebermann, Sepp Hilz, Ivo Saliger and many others, presented scenes that extolled traditional family values, motherhood, health and work, athleticism, rustic peasant life, faith in leadership and glorification of the military. Such works could be deceptively benign, as is the case with Libermann’s By the Water. Many looking at this painting today would merely see an "apolitical" study of three nudes - yet, it’s an outstanding example of the Nazi celebration of beauty, sexuality and physical culture through classical aesthetics. Nudity in art was never censored by the Nazis, providing it helped to communicate fascist ideology. In part that entailed the idealization and objectification of femininity, while extolling masculine strength and physical superiority.

A Country Venus - Oil painting by Nazi artist, Sepp Hilz
[ "A Country Venus" - Oil painting by
Nazi artist, Sepp Hilz ]


Sepp Hilz was an academically trained realist painter who came to be known as, Bauernmaler (the painter of peasants). His classical style oil paintings of Bavarian farmers, beautiful village girls, and the rustic lives of simple country folk, were observations of rural life seemingly free of political statement. Hilz was a technically dazzling painter who never created an overtly political artwork, he was a portraitist who concerned himself only with matters of aesthetics when it came to making art. Which begs an interesting question relevant to our own time. If an artist produces nothing but "apolitical" works, is the artist then above politics? Ironically, as a successful proponent of "realism" in painting… realism did not permeate Hilz’s idealized view of the world. His charming and inoffensive paintings concealed the malignant cancer destroying his country. No doubt Hilz opposed modernist artists for depicting the screaming insanities that had become everyday life in Germany. It’s a certainty he loathed the tortured, garish and distorted artworks of the Expressionists, and he most likely applauded their censorship and banning as a "renewal" for art. From 1938 to 1944, Hilz presented no less than twenty-two paintings at the Great German Art Exhibit, with none other than Adolf Hitler purchasing two of them. Reichsminister Joseph Goebbels purchased Bäuerliche Venus (A Country Venus), the painting shown here - which became a wildly popular iconic painting for the German right-wing. Hilz was so favored by the Nazis that Hitler financed the construction of a special studio for the artist in 1939, and in 1943 the painter received the title of Professor from Goebbels.

Judgment of Paris - Oil painting by Nazi artist, Ivo Saliger
[ "Judgment of Paris" - Oil painting by
Nazi artist, Ivo Saliger ]


Another favored artist included in the Great German Art Exhibit was Ivo Saliger, whose Judgment of Paris (1939), depicted the Greek myth… but with a twist. Contemporary viewers see Saliger's canvas as nothing more than an academic painting, an exercise in classical figurative realism - yet the work is an ideological diatribe. Saliger portrayed Paris dressed in a Hitler Youth uniform as he decided upon the most beautiful example of Aryan womanhood. Again, a difficult question arises - that of identifying the ideology inherent in images placed before us. If I had not revealed to you the story behind Saliger’s painting, would you have identified the artwork as implicitly fascist?

Today arguments continue to rage over what defines a work of art, with conservatives attacking modern art with the same vigor, and rhetoric, often used against modernists in 1930’s Germany. Witness the Art Renewal Center (ARC) and their thoroughly reactionary Eurocentric stance, which regards the academic school of late 19th Century European painting as not only the pinnacle of all artistic achievement - but the only way forward for artists today. The ARC champions the academic painter, William Bouguereau, who was the president of the painting section of the Paris Salon in 1881 and an unwavering enemy of the Impressionists. Yes, the ARC is so backward-looking they even reject Impressionism for being too modern! It’s no wonder then that I read in their "letters" section, correspondence praising Ivo Saliger for being a painter "of classical subjects." I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow the ARC issued a salvo against Degenerate Art. I have more to say about the modern-day Victorians of the Art Renewal Center - but I’ll leave that rant for another day.

I’ve spent much time on this web log criticizing the follies and excesses of postmodern artists, but my critiques should never be confused with the undemocratic voices who clamor for the past. When letting my poison arrows fly against the talentless swindlers in today’s world of art, I’m always wary of being aligned with those who seek to dismiss, control or suppress artistic expression. Every aesthetic vanguard has historically been confronted by the narrow-minded who exclaim, "that isn’t art" or "I could do that." I'm well aware of the forces that have mounted major attacks against the arts - assaults that have resulted in censorship and the closing of exhibitions. I'm also well-versed in the sad chronicle of regimes who’ve suppressed all forms of independent vision in favor of an insipid and stilted realism. Gesundes Volksempfinden, or "healthy folk sentiment," became the official criteria for judging artworks under the Nazi regime, and when Hitler said that "anybody who paints and sees a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized"… he meant it. While the world has changed since the Nazis held their Entartete Kunst exhibition, polarizing social dynamics have not. Today a deadly new strain of censorship shadows creativity - and many artists are infected with a self-imposed variant. The only solution is to meet adversity with the same steadfastness displayed by the German Expressionists - whose works after all outlived those of their adversaries.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

George Grosz: Behold the Man

When I was a teenager in the late 1960’s, I found an art book in my local library titled, Ecco Homo ("Behold the Man"). As my first real introduction to German Expressionist art, it was an encounter that profoundly altered my life. Ecco Homo was a portfolio of prints created by artist, George Grosz, in 1923. That same year, German authorities confiscated the artist’s prints and fined him for "offending public morals". The state had already gone after Grosz in 1920 for his print portfolio, Gott mit Uns ("God is with Us"), which mocked and denigrated German soldiers and their officers. The unrepentant artist released another print portfolio in 1928 titled, Hintergrund ("Background"). In addition to insulting the militarists, the prints took aim at ultra-conservative clerics, directly linking the German church with militarism. Grosz was arrested and put on trial for blasphemy - and the court decided that one of the offending prints, Christ With a Gas Mask, would be destroyed. Of course, history vindicated George Grosz, who correctly identified and portrayed the forces that would plunge Germany into the nightmare years of fascism.

As a budding artist I was profoundly influenced by Grosz, and I remain in awe of him to this day. Being in Los Angeles, it’s unlikely I’ll be attending the exhibit of his works at the Heckscher Museum of Art in New York City, but perhaps my writing about the show will inspire people on the east coast to attend. George Grosz: Selections from the Permanent Collection, now on view at the museum until August 14th, 2005, includes Grosz's, Sonnenfinsternis ("Eclipse of the Sun"). Painted in 1926, the work is a denunciation of the forces of war. Headless bureaucrats sit at a table where a bloated Caesar-like general presides - his bloody sword placed on the table next to a crucifix painted in the German national colors. A rich industrialist with weapons of war tucked under his arm, leans forward to whisper into the commandant’s ear. Under the table we can see a prison cell, where a prisoner peers out at the spectacle. The sun is depicted in silhouette, hanging in the upper left corner of the painting and literally eclipsed by a dollar sign. Here's what Grosz said about his painting, "Since the politicians seem to have lost their heads, the army and capitalists are dictating what is to be done. The people, symbolized by the blinkered ass... simply eat what is put before them." I saw this very painting some years ago at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA). I was admiring the work with a group of strangers, when one of them said out loud to no one in particular, "My god… this could have been painted about today's world!"

What I learned from Grosz could best be summed up in his own words, "For me art is not a matter of aesthetics… no musical scribbling to be responded to or fathomed only be a sensitive educated few. Drawing once more must subordinate itself to a social purpose." Grosz taught me that great art had to encompass more than just technical prowess - it also had to embrace moral responsibility and political awareness. In 1913 he wrote to a friend, "There can be no doubt that my drawings were some of the strongest public statements against a certain German brutality. Today they are truer than ever - one day, in a more ‘humane’ period, one will exhibit them as one does now with Goya’s pictures." While we don’t yet live in the ‘humane’ period Grosz worked towards, we can still at least appreciate the artist’s extraordinary vision. The Heckscher Museum of Art is located at 2 Prime Avenue, Huntington NY, 11743-7702. Visit their website, at: www.heckscher.org

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Monday, June 27, 2005

WAR/HELL: Otto Dix & Max Beckmann

Dead Sentry in Trench - etching by Otto Dix, 1924
At sixteen I became aware of those artists who lived and worked throughout Germany’s dreadful years of war and fascism. German Expressionist artists like George Grosz, Conrad Felixmüller, Gert Wollheim, and Max Pechstein had enormous influence upon me - not so much for how they painted… but what they painted. They were unafraid to tell the truth about their society, and with paint, pencil and print, they excoriated the forces of greed and militarism that eventually plunged the world into chaos. Few had as much sway over me as Otto Dix, a man I consider one of the last century’s greatest painters. Falsely remembered simply as a radical expressionist who abandoned all rules of perspective and palette, Dix was actually a classical painter in the guise of a modernist. Some of his great realist canvases hearken back to German old masters like Lucas Cranach, Matthias Grunwald and Albrecht Dürer. I regard myself as fortunate to have viewed some of Dix’s paintings while traveling in Germany, and lucky to have caught a rare exhibit of his antiwar etchings, Der Krieg (The War), while in New York some years ago. I’m delighted to be able to inform readers of this web log that Dix’s astonishing antiwar etchings, and those of fellow Expressionist Max Beckmann, are now on exhibit in New York once again.

WAR/HELL: Master Prints by Otto Dix and Max Beckmann is a mesmerizing collection of etchings and lithographs now showing through September, 2005, at the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art in New York City. Dix and Beckman depicted war stripped of its bombastic false patriotism, heroism and glory, and instead presented an accurate, grueling and mind-numbing look at the barbarism of modern warfare. Der Krieg, Dix’s suite of 50 black and white etchings, are first hand recollections of having fought on the frontlines of World War 1 for four years. His uncompromisingly realistic and visceral depictions of war are the stuff of nightmares. The artist portrayed soldiers eating rations in muddy trenches filled with rotting corpses; moonlit minefields and bomb blasted landscapes; combatants horribly maimed or torn to shreds; army men driven insane and left shivering on the battlefield - splattered by the remains of those blown up next to them. Beckman’s Die Holle (The Hell), is a wartime suite of a dozen lithographs he created in 1919, showing Germany’s downward spiral. Like Dix, Beckman was also a serviceman in World War 1, but served as a medical orderly. His artworks are filled with shattered veterans without limbs or hope returning home to a country wracked by poverty; ultra-jingoistic reactionaries singing patriotic songs; the super wealthy flaunting the riches they gained through war profiteering; and right-wing thugs preparing to mold Germany into a new society of blood and iron.

If it all sounds terribly familiar, it should. Dix and Beckman not only succeeded in exposing the ugly realities of war in a way that hadn’t been done since Goya’s print series, The Disasters of War - they also effectively created artworks that stepped outside of their timeframe and place of national origin. The prints in WAR/HELL have uncanny resonance in today’s world, and they more accurately reflect what is going on in Iraq than do all of the sanitized and bloodless corporate "news" media reports put together. This is the first time the entire antiwar print editions from these two dynamic modernist artists have been shown together. The exhibit runs until Sept. 26th, 2005. The Neue Galerie New York is located at 1048 Fifth Avenue. New York, NY 10028 (on the corner of 86th street - adjacent to New York’s Central Park). Phone: 212-628-6200. Visit them on the web, at: www.neuegalerie.org/neuemain.html

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Monday, March 28, 2005

German Expressionist Posters at LACMA

For those in Southern California, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is currently showing 70 German Expressionist posters dating from the 1920's and 1930's. The exhibit, titled War, Revolution, Protest, presents a range of poster works extolling political action as well as promoting theaters, cabarets, and the newly-founded film industry. The exhibition comes from LACMA's Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, which possesses one of the greatest German Expressionist collections in the world. Obviously this is a must see show for any fan of the bold and confrontational art from that period, but students of history and design will also get a lot out of this important exhibit. If you can attend you may also want to view the concurrently running, Rauschenberg: Posters, a collection of over 100 mass printed works from American artist, Robert Rauschenberg. The prints on display date from the 1960's to the present, and some are surprisingly political in nature. His silk-screen, Signs, is a montage of iconographic images from the late 60's. Images of the slain John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy; Martin Luther King Jr. resting in his coffin; anti-Vietnam war protestors; scenes of the riots that burned US cities; rock singer Janis Joplin (who would die of a drug overdose), all mixing to become a potent sign of the times. Upon its release, Rauschenberg said the work was "conceived to remind us of the love, terror, violence of the last ten years. Danger lies in forgetting." While a great many seem to have indeed forgotten... War, Revolution, Protest and Rauschenberg: Posters gives us all an opportunity to remember. Now running, both exhibits close June 12, 2005. For more information: www.lacma.org

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