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It's the Summer of Change at the Art Gallery of Ontario with Two New Exhibitions
Franz W. Seiwert (German, 1894-1933), City and Country, 1932, oil on wood, 70.6 x 80.7 cm. Museum Ludwig Cologne.

TORONTO.- It’s the summer of change at the Art Gallery of Ontario as two new exhibitions complement the current Surreal Things in an exploration of art as a catalyst for social and political change.

Opening this weekend and continuing through August 30, Angelika Hoerle: The Comet of Cologne Dada is a powerful commentary on the intersection of art and politics in post–World War l Germany. In the midst of the cultural movement known as Dada, where traditional tenets of artistic expression were rejected in favour of “anti-art,” Hoerle created an outstanding body of work from 1919 until her untimely death in 1923 from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-three.

Guest curator Angie Littlefield, grandniece of the artist, reveals an intensely personal side of Hoerle, showing how her artistic drive and political conscience could not be thwarted by her family or by social conventions, personal tragedies and fatal illness.

The Gallery’s Fick-Eggert Collection of Cologne Dada material includes most of Angelika Hoerle’s known works, numbering fewer than 40. With loans from the Yale University Art Gallery and Museum Ludwig Cologne, Hoerle’s entire body of work is now on public display at the AGO. Her works from the Fick-Eggert Collection will subsequently travel to Museum Ludwig.

The AGO exhibition showcases Hoerle’s work in the context of other artists with whom she associated in the so-called Stupid Group in Cologne — including Max Ernst, Willy Fick, Franz W. Seiwert and Heinrich Hoerle (Angelika’s husband and another key figure of the Dada movement in Cologne).

“Angelika Hoerle had a desire to change the world through political engagement,” says Michael Parke-Taylor, the AGO’s acting curator of European art. “She was deeply committed to left-wing politics and, in fact, her first prints were of Socialist political martyrs. She also explored the place of female artists in the male-dominated art scene in Cologne.” A catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes essays by Littlefield as well as Sabine Kriebel and Dorothy Rowe, who position Hoerle within the artistic and gender politics of post-war Germany.

Also opening this weekend and continuing through August 30 is Painting as a Weapon: Progressive Cologne 1920–33 / Seiwert – Hoerle – Arntz. This exhibition, organized by Museum Ludwig, examines the work of three core members of the Cologne Progressives — Franz W. Seiwert, Heinrich Hoerle and Gerd Arntz. Curator Lynette Roth documents the activities of these artists until the rise of Hitler in 1933, when their work was condemned as “degenerate” by the Nazi regime.

The Cologne Progressives offered a new definition of the relationship between art and politics in paintings that often reduced form to geometric abstraction yet still conveyed a social commentary. With an eye to the leftist political aims of the group, this provocative exhibition examines how the Progressives deployed painting as a weapon during some of the most turbulent years in German history. Featured are sixty-three paintings and works on paper, a small selection of poetry and other documents relating to both exhibition history and the journal a bis z (the mouthpiece of the Progressives from 1929 to 1933).

“The rallying cry for Surrealism was ‘we must change life,’” says Parke-Taylor. “A desire to change themselves and the world drove the Surrealists to explore mysteries of the self and to value the irrational over the orderly. Angelika Hoerle’s works are harbingers of surrealism, while the Cologne Progressives seized painting as a tool for change in the midst of post-war economic and social crisis.”

Art Gallery of Ontario | Angelika Hoerle | Franz W. Seiwert | Cologne | Dada | Fick-Eggert Collection | Max Ernst | Willy Fick |

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