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Humanities LibreTexts

12.6: Dada (1916 – 1930)

  • Page ID
    31982
  • Beginning in 1916 and quickly moving to New York City, the Dada period of art was a reaction to the horrors World War I. The movement began as anti-art movement protesting the middle-class nationalist and colonialist interests as the root cause of the war. Dada represented the opposite of everything for which art stood for, ignoring aesthetics and sensibilities. It was meant to offend; it was meant to be destructive, and it was meant to demoralize everything in its path.

    Dada art did not share common elements as all the previous art movements, and it meant to obliterate the deceptions of reason. Jean Arp (1886-1966) was a German-French artist who created the Shirt Front and Fork (12.43) made out of painted wood in 1924. It is merely a shirt front and a fork, leaving the viewer to decide if they see anything else. It has no real purpose, and it was created for no specific purpose. Constellation According to the Laws of Chance (12.44) seems to represent his reflections on the war; why do some of the soldiers survive, who loses a leg or suffers from being gassed, all things he thought was just the chance of life.

    12.43 Shirt Front and Fork
    12.43 Shirt Front and Fork
    Constellation According to the Laws of Chance
    12.44 Constellation According to the Laws of Chance

    Hannah Hoch (1889-1978) was another German Dada artist from the School of Applied Arts in Berlin. Hoch was known for her use of photomontages, which are appropriated, and rearranged images and text taken from newspapers, magazines, photos, and other mass media. Cut with a Kitchen Knife (12.45) reflects Hoch's viewpoint of the political and social issues in Germany after the war. It is a compilation of images she found and rearranged into an order that made sense to her during Germany's rebuilding. In the corner of the art, Hoch inserts a map with the countries allowing women to vote, pointing out the gender bias and social hypocrisies that continue to exist.

    Cut with a Kitchen Knife
    12.45 Cut with a Kitchen Knife

    Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943), a Swiss artist, was multi-talented as a sculptor, painter, designer of furniture and textiles as well as a dancer and considered one of the premier artists who worked with geometrics and their abstraction. Trained in the multiple disciplines, Taeuber-Arp became interested in the Dada movement occurring in Switzerland and incorporated the ideas in all of her artistic pursuits. Critics praised her for bringing joy to the abstractions of Dada as she played with blocks and shapes of color. Oval Composition with Abstract Motifs (12.46) demonstrates the interaction of red and yellow positioned throughout the oval shape while Composition with Diagonals and Cross (12.47) uses dark and light interchanging with sharp angles.

    Oval Composition with Abstract Motifs
    12.46 Oval Composition with Abstract Motifs
    Composition with Diagonals and Cross
    12.47 Composition with Diagonals and Cross