Over 100 works from major international collections by Dada artist Hannah Höch have been compiled for the first major exhibition of her work in Britain, on view at Whitechapel Gallery through March 23, 2014. Best known for helping originate 20th century photomontage, Höch first gained attention during the Berlin Dada movement of the 1920s in Weimar Germany, cutting out images from fashion magazines and placing them together to create comical social commentaries. Athough many of her colleagues have been given more attention in traditional written art history, Höch was recognized – albeit reluctantly – by better known artists such as George Grosz, Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, and Kurt Schwitters.
Born in 1889, Höch began working under glass designer Harold Bergen in 1912 at the School of Applied Arts in Berlin. She worked with the Red Cross from 1914 to 1915 at the start of World War I before returning to school, this time at the National Institute of the Museum of Arts and Crafts, where she met Raoul Hausmann and began her involvement with the Berlin Dada movement. She worked for a period of three years in the Netherlands, where she developed working relationships with other members of the Dada movement. However, as the only woman in the Berlin Dada group, she was faced with a considerable amount of sexism from her counterparts.
Höch considered herself part of the women’s movement, and her works often depict androgynous characters – mostly women with masculine traits. A consistent theme in her collages is the concept of the New Woman in Germany after WWI, and despite all of the resistance she faced from critics and contemporaries alike, her work retains a tone of humor, energy, and comedy. In the 60’s and 70’s, Höch focused more on statements empowering same sex couples and addressing racial discrimination. After the time of the Dada movement during the Third Reich, Höch spent most of her time in the outskirts of Berlin, keeping a low profile living a small garden house. She continued exhibiting her collages until her death in 1978.
Classic themes and poses are frequently juxtaposed throughout the works on view, as Höch seems to reshape the concepts of femininity and presentation of the body, particularly through the mixing of both fashion and historical magazines. In one work, she combines a sultry headshot with a body from an ancient statue, placing the two into an awkward dialogue that underlines the differences in depiction and focus on women throughout history.
Hannah Höch, Flucht (Flight) (1931)
The exhibition gives an overview of Höch’s entire career, from 1910 to the 1970s, and the more than 100 works will remain open for public viewing at Whitechapel Gallery through March 23rd.
Exhibition Page [Whitechapel Gallery]