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Exhibition series exploring the history of artists who experienced life in exile now continues with 'Resonance of Exile'
Lisette Model, Laufende Beine 42. Straße, New York (Running Legs 42. Street, New York), 1940-1941 © Estate of Lisette Model, courtesy Albertina, Vienna.

SALZBURG.- Last year, the first presentation in the series shed light on the sharp discontinuities in the biographies and oeuvres of four women artists who were forced to leave their native countries. The new exhibition places the focus on how emigrants rebuilt their lives and careers after escaping Central Europe and how their experiences echo in their art, showcasing the oeuvres of six outstanding artists: Valeska Gert, Lisette Model, Madame d’Ora, Wolfgang Paalen, Lili Réthi, and Amos Vogel. The “resonance” in the title sums up the diverse ways in which the works they created in their places of refuge as well as after their return reflect what they went through. Model, Paalen, Réthi, and Vogel were pioneering artists who influenced the evolution of their respective métiers in their adopted countries; Gert and d’Ora, meanwhile, returned, haunted by recollections of life in exile that found expression in somber pictures and grim theatrical performances.

In the past several years, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg has taken the lead in reconstructing the life stories of émigrés and rediscovering artists who have languished in obscurity. “As part of my efforts to enhance the museum’s profile, one of my goals was to create a programming focus on chapters in art history—and especially the history of art in Salzburg and Austria—that have been forgotten or simply neglected. Our research for the major exhibition Anti:modern (2016), which charted historic events and phenomena in Salzburg and the region—the heart of a Europe torn between tradition and modernity—helped lay the foundations for this exhibition series, in which we highlight the disruptions in the lives and oeuvres of artists who were forced to go into exile,” Director Sabine Breitwieser emphasizes. Like the inaugural exhibition Up/Rooted (2017), the new show brings together a wide range of artistic genres and media. Periodicals are one format that plays a signal role throughout. “Magazines were a vital source of information and professional contacts for refugees who needed to rebuild their lives and find work. Our principal example is Aufbau, a magazine published in New York that, from the mid-1930s onward, became a must-read for Germanspeaking Jews. Singular visual documents and valuable objects on loan from other institutions also witness to the six artists’ lives,” Christiane Kuhlmann, the museum’s Curator Photography and Media Art, notes.

As the museum prepared the exhibition, it also issued a call for scholarly contributions in cooperation with the committee on “Women in Exile” of the German Society for Exile Studies. Selected research will be presented and discussed during a three-day symposium titled Mediators between Cultures that is scheduled for October 12 through 14, 2018.

On the artists in the exhibition
Valeska Gert (1892 Berlin, DE―1978 Kampen, DE), the daughter of a Jewish businessman, makes her debut as a dancer in 1916 and joins the company of the Kammerspiele theater in Munich. She rises to fame—and scandalous notoriety—with dance pantomimes in which she unpacks the behavioral patterns of pugilists, prostitutes, procuresses, and politicians. Having worked mostly in France and England after 1933, she leaves for New York in 1939, and from 1941 until 1945, she runs the Beggar Bar, a hybrid cabaret and nightclub. Returning to Europe in 1947, Gert opens a series of similar establishments, first in Zurich, then in Berlin and finally in Kampen on the North Sea island of Sylt: art spaces and multimedia conceptual venues that serve as platforms for Gert’s own performances as well as those of her “employees,” including Tennessee Williams and Klaus Kinski. The legendary cabaret and bar Ziegenstall in Kampen remains in operation until her death in 1978.

Lisette Model (born Elise Amelie Felicie Stern; 1901 Vienna, AT―1983 New York, NY, US) initially studies music with Edward Steuermann and Arnold Schoenberg. Her sister Olga, who apprentices with Lotte MeitnerGraf and other photographers in Vienna, introduced her to photography. After the death of their father, the family moves to France in 1926. In the summer of 1934, Lisette Model travels to Nice and captures members of the upper classes enjoying themselves on the Promenade des Anglais. The snapshots are taken from some distance—it is only in the darkroom that she selects the distinctly framed details that become the hallmark of her style. In 1938, she and her husband Evsa Model escape Europe for New York. The photo editor Ralph Steiner and Alexey Brodovitch, the art director at Harper’s Bazaar, support Model’s efforts to build a career as a photographer in the new country. She portrays the city and its people, often focusing on social outsiders she encounters in the streets, in bars and clubs. Model goes on to become one of the most influential photography teachers in New York. Her approach is emulated by an entire generation of photographers, including Diane Arbus, her student at the New School for Social Research, New York, since 1951.

Madame d’Ora (Dora Kallmus; 1881 Vienna, AT―1963 Frohnleiten, AT) is born into a prosperous Jewish family in Vienna. She takes classes at the capital’s Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt and, in 1907, receives practical training in Nicola Perscheid’s studio in Berlin. Immediately after returning to Vienna, she and Arthur Benda establish the Atelier d’Ora, which quickly becomes the fashionable portrait studio for Vienna’s artists and intellectuals; they also thrive as couture photographers. In 1927, she leaves the atelier to Arthur Benda and moves to Paris, where she has operated a second studio since 1925. Forced to leave Paris in 1942, she survives the war in a village south of Lyon. After the Allied victory, she returns to Austria several times and eventually succeeds in having her sister’s house, which had been seized as Jewish property, restituted to her. Although d’Ora resumes her work as a society photographer, the series she creates after the war, with pictures of refugee camps and abattoirs, mark a clear stylistic departure from her prewar work. The shadowy shots of a Salzburg puppet theater likewise seem suffused with memories of the hardships she has experienced.

Wolfgang Paalen (1905 Vienna, AT―1959 Taxco, MX) is born to a wealthy Jewish businessman and an actress. His art-loving father introduces him to Berlin Secession circles. In 1933, he joins the group Abstraction-Création; a few years later, he becomes a prominent member of the Surrealist movement around André Breton. He leaves for Mexico in 1939, and the following year, he teams up with Breton, who has remained in Paris, and the Peruvian poet César Moro to organize La Exposición Internacional del Surrealismo en México. The presentation at the Galeria de Arte Mexicano juxtaposes pre-Colombian and modernist works, a combination that is without precedent in Mexico and subsequently emulated by exhibitionmakers seeking to highlight the roots of contemporary Mexican art. Beginning in April 1942, he edits the magazine DYN, which is regarded as a key source of inspiration for the nascent Abstract Expressionist movement in the U.S. Paalen takes his life in Mexico at the age of 54.

Lili Réthi (1894 Vienna, AT―1969 New York, NY, US) grows up in Vienna and attends the local Women’s and Girls’ Art College and the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt. Fascinated with the world of modern labor, Réthi begins early on to do fieldwork in large industrial installations. A politically active artist and supporter of the Social Democratic Party, she creates illustrations for the Vienna Arbeiter-Zeitung until 1929, when she moves to Berlin. Excursions from the German capital take her to the major industrial cities of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The artist emigrates in 1938, moving first to England and later to the United States, where she builds a thriving career as a documentary graphic artist. She is hired to capture the construction work on port facilities, canals, and bridges and travels to large industrial centers throughout the U.S. and Canada. She also creates illustrations for periodicals including the New York Times Magazine and more than fifty nonfiction and children’s books.

Amos Vogel (1921 Vienna, AT―2012 New York, NY, US), the son of a lawyer and an educator, grows up in a liberal upper-middle-class household. The family manages to escape in the fall of 1938; he is held up in Cuba for six months before reaching the United States, where he enrolls at the New School of Social Research in New York. In the fall of 1947, he and his wife Marcia Diener found the film club Cinema 16, which quickly becomes the largest and most influential film society in American movie history, with almost 7,000 members in its heyday. In programming its screenings, Vogel defies all conventional boundaries, scheduling educational films together with experimental shorts and animated cartoons with Nazi propaganda flicks; the club becomes a vital platform for rising talents. He leads the film department at Lincoln Center and directs numerous spectacular retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art. Film as a Subversive Art (1974), his alternative history of the medium, is now a classic of the critical literature on film.

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