LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
presents New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 19191933, the first comprehensive show in the United States to explore the themes that characterize the dominant artistic trends of the Weimar Republic. Organized in association with the Museo Correr in Venice, Italy, this exhibition features nearly 200 paintings, photographs, drawings, and prints by more than 50 artists, many of whom are little known in the United States. Key figuresOtto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, August Sander, and Max Beckmann whose heterogeneous careers are essential to understanding 20th century German modernism, are presented together with lesser known artists, including Herbert Ploberger, Hans Finsler, Georg Schrimpf, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Carl Grossberg, and Aenne Biermann, among others. Special attention is devoted to the juxtaposition of painting and photography, offering the rare opportunity to examine both the similarities and differences between the movements diverse media.
During the 14 years of the Weimar Republic (19191933), artists in Germany grappled with the devastating aftermath of World War I: the social, cultural, and economic effects of rapid modernization and urbanization; staggering unemployment and despair; shifting gender identities; and developments in technology and industry. Situated between the end of World War I and the Nazi assumption of power, Germanys first democracy thrived as a laboratory for widespread cultural achievement, witnessing the end of Expressionism, the exuberant antiart activities of the Dadaists, the establishment of the Bauhaus design school, and the emergence of a new realism.
This new turn to realism, best recognized by a 1925 exhibition in Mannheim, Neue Sachlichkeit (of which New Objectivity is the English translation), has at times been called Post-Expressionism, neo-naturalism, Verism, and Magic Realism. The diverse group of artists associated with this new realism was not unified by manifesto, political tendency, or geography, they shared a skepticism regarding the direction Germany society was taking in the years following World War I and an awareness of the human isolation these changes brought about.
Germanys financial, sociopolitical, and emotional defeat in WWI took a profound toll on the nation. In contrast to their Expressionist predecessorswho had enthusiastically embraced the war before confronting its harrowing realities on the battlefieldpractitioners of the New Objectivity movement were disillusioned with the complex realities of the new Germany. Digressing from Expressionisms penchant for bold, abstract subjectivity, the Weimar Republics burgeoning group of artists favored realism, precision, objective sobriety, and the appropriation of Old Master painting techniques, including a nostalgic return to portraiture and heightened attention to the appearance of surface.
New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 19191933 is organized into five thematic sections: Life in Democracy and the Aftermath of the War examines both the polar conditions dividing Germanys rising bourgeoisie and those who suffered most from the wars aftereffects, including maimed war veterans, the unemployed, prostitutes, and victims of political corruption and violence; The City and the Nature of Landscape addresses the growing disparity between an increasingly industrialized urbanity and nostalgic longing for the pastoral; Still Life and Commodities highlights a new form of the traditional still life in which quotidian objectsoften indicative of mass productionare staged to create object-portraits; Man and Machine looks to artists attempts to reconcile the transformative yet dehumanizing effects of rapid industrialization; and lastly, New Identities: Type and Portraiture showcases a new trend in portraiture in which subjects are rendered as social typecasts rather than individual subjects.
Stephanie Barron, Exhibition Curator and Senior Curator of Modern Art at LACMA, said, Close examinations of this period still yield new insights into a complicated chapter in modern German art. With very different backgrounds, these artistssome among the most well-known artists of the century, while others are virtually unknown outside Germany eschewed emotion, gesture, and ecstasy, and sought instead to record and unmask the world around them with a close, impersonal, restrained gaze. Together, they created a collective portrait of a society in uneasy transition, in images that are as striking today as they were in their own time.
Contemporary art and popular culture alike are preoccupied with documenting the real, and it is worth taking a fresh look at how artists in the 1920s dealt with the uses of realism in a time of postwar uncertainty, said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. We hope that New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919 1933 will shed new light on this important intersection of art, politics, and modernization that marks one of the most crucial periods of the 20th century.