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Dada

3. Barcelona and developments in Zurich, 1916–20

Source: Oxford University Press

Avant-garde circles in Barcelona were aware of pre-war Parisian developments. In 1912 they had seen the first Cubist exhibition held outside France (Galería Dalmau), and after 1914 Futurism had found echoes in the work of various artists. Parisians escaping to Barcelona from the war combined these approaches in work subsequently associated with Dada. They included Marie Laurencin, Otto van Watjen, serge Charchoune and Hélène Grunhof; Albert Gleizes and the Delaunays also visited the city, and Cravan was there before moving to New York. Although he was also a boxer, Cravan’s bout against the World Champion, Jack Johnson, in Madrid (April 1916) was widely interpreted as a Dadaist gesture. The focus of activity was the gallery of Josep Dalmau (1867–1937), where notable shows of Charchoune, Grunhof and Gleizes were held in 1916. The group was galvanized by Picabia, who arrived in August. The gallery launched his periodical 391 in 1917, carrying contributions from others but dominated by Picabia’s drawings and obscure references. It recalled activities in New York, giving them wider currency in Europe, and it went with him when he re-crossed the Atlantic in March 1917. In October his poems Cinquante-deux miroirs were published, and the impact of these sudden activities was extended through such periodicals as Josep Junoy’s Troços (1916–18) and Salvat Papasseit’s Un enemic del poble (1917–19) and Arc-Voltaic (1918).

Picabia established contact with Tzara while in Lucerne during 1918. He exhibited works alongside those of Arp and Janco in January 1919 (Neue Leben; Zurich, Ksthaus) before visiting Zurich in February. There his nihilism and inventiveness won immediate acclaim; he and Tzara wrote an ‘automatic’ text for 391 (no. 8, February 1919), and they collaborated on Dada 4–5 (Anthologie Dada) (May 1919), which linked Zurich Dada to the New York and Barcelona groups, and orientated Tzara towards Paris. An eighth Dada Soirée (Saal zur Kaufleuten, April 1919), following Picabia’s departure, included Tzara’s simultanist poem for 20 voices (Le Fièvre du mâle) and Arp’s poem Wolkenpumpe. At the same time the imminent post-war dispersal was counterbalanced by the formation of the Groupe des Artistes Radicaux, including Arp, Baumann, Eggeling, Janco and Richter. Arp then left for Cologne, and Janco for Bucharest. Tzara shared the editorship of Der Zeltweg with Serner and Otto Flake in November, but his departure in January 1920 signalled the end of Zurich Dada. The short-lived Geneva Dada, launched in December 1919 by Serner and Schad, held a final Grand Dada Ball in March 1920.

A postscript to Zurich Dada was added in summer 1920. Tzara returned to Bucharest where he was reunited with the poet Ion Vinea and with Janco, who had established the periodical Contimporanul (1920–30) supporting non-objective art. In Italy, Tzara also visited the Mantuan Dadaists Gino Cantarelli (1899–1950) and Aldo Fiozzi, editors of Procellaria (1917 and 1919) and Bleu (1920). They introduced him to the writer and abstract painter Julius Evola (1898–1974), who immediately became Dada’s most provocative Italian agent. With encouragement from Schad, who had moved to Rome, and from Serner, Evola launched a Rome Dada season in April 1921, with an exhibition (including Cantarelli and Fiozzi) at the Galleria d’Arte Bragaglia and performances at the Grotte dell’Augusteo cabaret. His readings of his own writings and of Tzara’s Manifeste dada 1918, and his declaration of the death of Futurism, caused uproar. However, sustained Futurist hostility and his isolation following Schad’s move to realism provoked a personal crisis, and Evola suddenly abandoned Dada for philosophy.

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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