6. Cologne Dada, 1919–22

Source: Oxford University Press

Cologne Dada secured an autonomous and pivotal position between activities in Zurich, Berlin and Paris. Max Ernst and Johannes Theodor Baargeld responded to the artificial calm maintained by the British occupying forces in a series of anti-authoritarian publications, beginning with Der Ventilator (1918), which attracted more politically motivated artists, including Franz Seiwert (1894–1933), Anton Räderscheidt, Marta Hegemann (1894–1970), Heinrich Hoerle (1895–1935) and Angelika Hoerle (1884–1923). Rejecting Rhineland Expressionism, they were influenced by Klee’s graphic style and de Chirico’s sense of alienation. Ernst, Baargeld and Otto Freundlich were invited to participate in the Gesellschaft der Künst at the Kunstverein in November 1919, but the insubstantial collages and prints in their exhibition, accompanied by Bulletin D, provoked controversy. Arp arrived shortly after the exhibition, and with Ernst and Baargeld formed the Dada Weststupidia 3 or W/3 (named after their address), making Fatagaga (from ‘Fabrication de tableaux garantis gazométriques’), collaborative collages whose images and titles mocked rational expectations (e.g. Ernst and Arp’s photomontage Switzerland, Birth-place of Dada or Physiomythological Flood-Picture, 1920; Hannover, Sprengel Mus.). The Hoerles and Seiwert withdrew at the last moment, claiming that Dada was ‘bourgeois art marketing’, and moved towards forming the Stupid group.

In April 1920 their periodical Die Schammade featured Arp, Huelsenbeck, Breton and Louis Aragon from Paris and was followed by the audacious exhibition Dada Vorfrühling (April); expelled from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bildender Künstler, Baargeld and Ernst rented space in the Winter brewery, access to which passed through its lavatories! An astonishing collection of exhibits, including a sculpture by Ernst that the public were invited to destroy (axe provided), brought uproar and police closure, as well as invitations to exhibit at the Berlin Dada Fair. However, Arp’s departure for Berlin and Paris and the proletarian orientation of the Stupid group drained Cologne Dada of further group activity. Ernst continued to experiment with photomontages and with painting over engravings (e.g. Perturbation, My Sister, 1921; Berne, Kstmus.), the transformatory power of which proved astonishing when exhibited by the Paris Dadaists in May 1921. In the autumn his holiday with Arp and Tzara in the Tyrol produced the joint publication Dada Intirol, Augrandair. There he met Breton and subsequently began a close collaboration with Paul Eluard, supplying collages for the poet’s Répétitions and collaborating on Les Malheurs des immortels (both Paris, 1922). Before moving to Paris in late 1922, Ernst also began converting his imagery of unexpected juxtapositions into oil paintings (e.g. the Elephant Celebes, c. 1921), which would be identified by Breton as one of the first Surrealist paintings.

Dawn Ades

From Grove Art Online

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