Staeck, a German graphic designer, was the preeminent practitioner of political montage in Europe in the 1960s and a seminal figure in the early agitprop movement that took hold in the former Communist bloc. His strikingly austere artwork includes postcards, stickers, and flyers addressing myriad civic themes, including peace, environmentalism, poverty, political hypocrisy, and freedom of speech. In Heidelberg, Staeck, along with partner Gerhard Steidl, established Edition Staeck, and together they mounted countless exhibitions of their work in rented commercial spaces, as mail art, and via other unconventional curatorial avenues.
Staeck's 1980 lithograph has one caption: "Und neues Leben Blüht aus den Ruinen" (And new life flowers from the ruins), a line from Friedrich von Schiller's poem "Das Lied von der Glocke." A knot of weaving autobahns in black and white exists in dreary contrast to the hopeful green tree that emerges from it. The red title at the bottom is emblematic of Staeck's minimal use of text. The angst and unrest of post–World War II Germany set the stage for Staeck's messages, though his optimism stood in stark counterpoint to the cynicism of most of his contemporaries. Through photomontage Staeck demonstrates that the Cold War German landscape could be fertile ground for new life and new growth.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 21.