Beatrice Wood, Mama of Dada
“My life is full of mistakes. They’re like pebbles that make a good road.” ~ Beatrice Wood
“There are three things important in life:
Honesty, which means living free of the cunning mind.
Compassion, because if we have no concern for others, we are monsters.
Curiosity, for if the mind is not searching, it is dull and unresponsive.”
~ Beatrice Wood
Beatrice Wood, aka the “Mama of Dada” was born into a wealthy San Francisco family in 1893. Defying her family’s Victorian values, she moved to France to study theater and art. On the brink of WWI, her parents brought a reluctant Beatrice back to New York, where her mother did everything within her power to discourage her plans for a career on the New York stage. Despite this, Beatrice’s fluency in French led her to join the French National Repertory Theater, where she played over sixty ingénue roles under the stage name “Mademoiselle Patricia” to save her family’s name and reputation.
Wood’s involvement in the Avant-Garde began in these years with her introduction to Marcel Duchamp and later to his friend Henri-Pierre Roché, a diplomat, writer and art collector. Roché, a man fourteen years her senior, joined the duo, becoming creatively (and romantically) entangled. Together they wrote and edited The Blind Man (and the Rongwrong magazine), a magazine that poked the conservative art establishment and helped define the Dada art movement.
Marcel Duchamp brought Beatrice into the world of the New York Dada group, which existed by the patronage of art collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg. The Arensbergs’ home became the center of legendary soirees that included leading figures of the time including Francis Picabia, Mina Loy, Man Ray, Charles Demuth, Joseph Stella, Charles Sheeler and the composer Edgard Varèse.
Beatrice Wood’s career as an artist of note began when she created an abstraction to tease Duchamp that anyone could create modern art. Duchamp was impressed by the work, arranging to have it published in a magazine and inviting her to work in his studio. It was here that she developed her style of spontaneous sketching and painting that continued throughout her life.
Following the formation of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, Beatrice exhibited work in their Independents exhibition. [text extracted from Wikipedia entry and Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts]
La danseuse (Entr’acte, 1924)
Untitled collage, 1935
L’intérieur des ruines paraissait tellement déshabillé…, 1936
La cathédrale aux œufs
Hannah Höch collages
Hannah Höch was an artistic and cultural pioneer. A member of Berlin’s Dada movement in the 1920s, she was a driving force in the development of 20th century collage. Splicing together images taken from fashion magazines and illustrated journals, she created a humorous and moving commentary on society during a time of tremendous social change. Höch was admired by contemporaries such as George Grosz, Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters, yet was often overlooked by traditional art history. As the first major exhibition of her work in Britain, the show puts this inspiring figure in the spotlight.
The exhibition examines Höch’s extraordinary career from the 1910s to the 1970s. Starting with early works influenced by her time working in the fashion industry, it includes key photomontages such as High Finance (1923) which critiques the relationship between bankers and the army at the height of the economic crisis in Europe.
A determined believer in artistic freedom, Höch questioned conventional concepts of relationships, beauty and the making of art. Höch’s collages explore the concept of the ‘New Woman’ in Germany following World War I and capture the style of the 1920s avant-garde theatre. The important series ‘From an Ethnographic Museum’ combines images of female bodies with traditional masks and objects, questioning traditional gender and racial stereotypes.
Astute and funny, the exhibition reveals how Höch established collage as a key medium for satire whilst being a master of its poetic beauty. | quoted from Whitechapel Gallery
Watched by Hannah Höch
by Ray Johnson, 1960-1962
Unavowed Confessions, 1930
« Sous ce masque, un autre masque. Je n’en finirai pas de soulever tous ces visages » Claude Cahun
“Beneath this mask is another mask. I’ll never stop removing all those faces” Claude Cahun
To judge from her literary, poetic and photographic works, it is clear that Claude Cahun was an artist of the avant-garde in many respects. Her surreal and mysterious self-portraits have been an inexhaustible inspiration for many artists of today and her cross-dressing and troubled view of her own identity were and remain a favorite subject for “gender studies”.
A multi-disciplinary artist, in the 1920s Cahun aligned herself with the surrealists, first joining literary circles and then artistic ones.Truly precocious in this time, her insatiable search for herself began then. She shaved her head, constantly wore disguises and questioned her sexuality. Endlessly ambiguous, the artist transformed herself into a man, a Buddha or even a fairy-like creature. It was through cross-dressing that she embarked on her construction process. Les Aveux non Avenus (1930), a work created by four hands (with Suzanne Malherbe known as Moore, her life partner) is a blend of writing and photography somewhere between a search for self and an indecipherable camouflage, as its opening lines demonstrate: “The objective follows the eyes, the mouth, the wrinkles in the skin. The facial expression is violent, sometimes tragic. Finally calm – the conscious, deliberate calm of acrobats. A professional smile – and there it is! The hand-mirror, rouge and eye shadow are back again. For a moment. Full stop. New paragraph. I start again. What a ridiculous little game for those who have not seen – and I haven’t shown anything – the obstacles, the chasm, the steps I’ve climbed”.
This (…) is the first of the nine illustrations comprising the anthology of Aveux non Avenus. The surrealist photomontage is a true self-portrait. The artist’s eye and mouth are immediately identifiable. Then, in the mirror, we recognize the reflection of her famous double self-portrait Que me veux-tu? [What do you want of me?] created in 1929. The presence of so many arms could be a wink at that collaborative work but it also evokes Kali, the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction. Moreover, the omnipresence of the circle symbolises the finite and the infinite, and hence the perfection of the Creator, those four letters inscribed at the top of the picture, crossed by a two-headed bird, while the pomegranate is a metaphor for fertility. This set of twin symbols refers the viewer to the man-woman dichotomy so as better to deconstruct preconceived ideas about sex.
quoted from Lot Essay
(*) The only original artwork of the 10 made by Marcel Moore is this one above for the frontispiece of Aveux non Avenus and it is in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
« L’objectif suit les yeux, la bouche, les rides à fleur de peau… L’expression du visage est violente, parfois tragique. Enfin calme- du calme conscient, élaboré, des acrobates. Un sourire professionnel – et voilà ! Reparaissent la glace à main, Lerouge, et la poudre aux yeux. Un temps. Un point. Alinéa. Je recommence. Mais quel manège ridicule pour ceux qui n‘ont pas vu – et je n’ai rien montré – les obstacles, les abîmes, et les degrés franchis. »
quoted from Lot Essay