Monday, April 26, 2010


Hannah Hoch was a member of the anarchic and anti-war art Dada Art Movement. Aside from being one of the first women in graphic design, she is also known for being one of the originators of photomontage. Hoch attended the Berlin College or Arts and Crafts and studied glass design and graphic arts. Further, between 1916 and 1926, Höch held down a part-time job in the editorial department of the handiwork division at Ullstein, one of the largest publishing houses in Germany. There she designed fashions, sewing and embroidery patterns, and occasionally penned an article on “domestic arts” topics. She considered this work to be on a par with her fine arts pursuits.

As a member of the Berlin Dada group she was the lone woman and struggled to find acceptance amounts them. Her observations of their hypocritical issues with Gender became rich fodder for her work. She referenced the hypocrisy of the Berlin Dada group and of German Society as a whole in her photomontage, Da-Dandy.

Her most famous piece of art is titled Cut with the Dad Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, pictured below. This piece combines images from newspapers of the time re-created to make a new statement about life and art in the Dada movement. It demonstrates her extraordinary ability to balance many elements in a natural composition, besides being a very early example of a female artist expressing her belief in the power of women. The piece also shows her very Dada biting sarcas that decries ridiculous political personages and controversial policies of the Weimar Republic.

A bisexual, Hoch eroticizes women in many montages but she also poked fun at the way women conformed to men's sexual expectations and to fashion. She gently skewered men, too, by feminizing them: first her fellow Dadaists, in works like ''Da Dandy,'' with its silhouette of a man's head made of pictures clipped from the popular women's illustrated weeklies; then the Nazis, whose pugnacious hero, the boxer Max Schmeling, she deftly parodied in ''The Strong Men,'' its half-male, half-female face plastered across Schmeling's chest.

Like her male colleagues, Höch used the medium of photomontage to comment on the fragmented world of post-WWI Germany. Hers was a less bombastic voice (generally she avoided the addition of type-set slogans) laced with a subtler humor.
Her montages break down what we see and know, and put the fragments back together in a way that makes us question the concepts of identity, culture, and subjectivity.

She flung scale, gravity, continuity, and illusionism around at will. Even her most labor-intensive works manage to look spontaneous and somehow carefree. Even the simplest of her images are built from a complex array of pictorial fragments. Höch loved wild disjunctions of scale, and the juxtaposition of unlikely elements, particularly animals and machines with humans.
And yet, for all their mapcap surface energy, her compositions are for the most part highly unified, their elements anchored by good compositional structure. For the most part, this quality is missing in the male Dadaist montages.

Her montages break down what we see and know, and put the fragments back together in a way that makes us question the concepts of identity, culture, and subjectivity.

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