This is part two of my “history” series. It has been a little while since I last post to my blog. The snow and winter weather has been a distraction. Even though a lot of time has been spent inside, I have decided to work on some art instead of writing. Plus I have been doing some sledding and made a snowman.Well, now I am back…with a sore tailbone from sledding. Ouch, I am getting old.
So part two will be on Dada and it’s sub-movements and how they influenced visual communications/graphic design.
Dada started as a literary movement when Hugo Ball opened the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland around 1917. A huge member of this group, in addition to Hugo Ball, was Tristan Tzara, a poet. He published poetry and edited a publication called DADA.
These literary figures were interested in sound, nonsense, and chance poetry. This did spill out into the visual art field in the form of automatic drawing and the allowance of chance and the absurd to infiltrate too.
The Dada movement claimed to be “anti-art” and had a strong destructive and negative element. It was a rejection of tradition and the seeking of complete freedom from past traditions. This was familiar territory of the Futurists and I am sure they did have some influence.
Also, like the Cubists, they had an interest in letter forms as concrete visual shapes. Letters were not just phonetic symbols.
The art of photo-montage was said to originate from this same movement. The most famous artist to use this was Hannah Hoch. She took found elements from printed sources and patched them together in rather random and/or absurd ways.
Kurt Schwitters…not technically part of the Dada Movement.
They rejected him.
However, he did have great influence on 20th century typography. However, in the art world he is most known for his collage compositions created from printed ephemera , rubbish and other found materials. In all of his work, he combined Dada’s nonsense and chance with strong use design elements and principles. I suppose he was too structured for the Dadaists then. I suppose this is why they rejected him.
From 1923-32 he published a periodical called Merz. Typography and design were major subjects of the publication. In addition, he worked with El Lissitzky, a Russian Constructivist, and he worked with Theo Van Doesburg, a Dutch De Stijl artist who was also famous for his architectural and design/typographic work.
Schwittters also ran a graphic design studio and the city of Hanover, Germany employed him as a typography consultant for years.
A sub-movement of Dada were the Berlin Dadaists. Two of their most famous members were John Heartfield and George Grosz. They sought to raise public consciousness and promote social change through visual communications.
Both were highly critical of Germany’s politics and society. Heartfield used the art of photo-montage as a propaganda weapon and innovated the way work was prepared for offset printing. He hated Hitler and Nazi Germany…so much he changed his name from Helmut Herzfelde as a protest against German militarism.
George Grosz, mainly known as a visual artist who is known for his paintings and drawings. He attacked a “decadent and degenerate” society through satire and characature. He did work for several publications such as, Der Blutige Ernst.
Eventually, Dada dissolved into rival factions in 1921-22. One faction led by Andre Breton lead to the founding of Surrealism.
Surrealism will be next. I also checked out a book about woman designers so you will probably see some stuff on that soon. As a woman, I am interested in what woman have contributed to design since it seems like, historically, that men have dominated the field.