Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Mad Square

Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37
National Gallery of Victoria

“Experimental, provocative and utterly compelling...”

Two of my earliest memories of graphic inspirations were László Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky and since then Constructivism and later Modernity have been of huge inspiration throughout my career. On discovering NGV latest exhibition entitled “The Mad Square” (Der Tolle Platz), it was a pre-requisite for me to attend. The exhibition name derives from Felix Nussbaum's 1932 painting of Berlin's famous Pariser Platz. 'Tolle' translates to mean both 'mad' and 'fantastic.' which is certainly a common thread, running through the exhibition. The 'square' is approached as a physical space, with representations of the city, as well as a state of turbulence and unrest, which characterises the era.

Felix Nussbaum, Der Tolle Platz, 1932

Aptly the exhibition begins with a screen excerpt of “Das Cabinet Der Dr. Caligari,” which is the story of deadly sonambulist, Cesare, approaching mental illness in a way which forces the viewer to be sucked in and an example of early German Expressionist cinema.

My recently completed university dissertation follows themes of unrest in Weimar Germany, in relation to artists such as Hannah Höch and Marianne Brandt, both of whom feature in the exhibition. A time of turmoil within Germany inspired incredible 'avant-garde' art movements; Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism, Bauhaus and New Objectivity. It was really inspiring to me to see so many points of cultural and contextual reference grouped together in one exhibition, and especially considering their relevance and importance to my own creative development. For me the exhibition combined both artistic, graphic, physical and filmic examples of a whole spectrum of inspiration and as I followed the prominent jagged red arrow around the space I was never disappointed by what was around the next corner.

El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, 1919

László Moholy-Nagy

Aritists featured in the exhibition include: Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, Hannha Hoch, August Sander, Laslo Moholy Nagy, El Lissitsky

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