January 18, 2013

Hannah Höch's Linocuts

        Hannah Höch (1889-1978) was a member of the Dada movement in Berlin, where she was one of the originators of the photomontage art form.  She also worked as a graphic designer of textile and embroidery patterns.  But of course we're not here for photomontage or textile design, which is why I have a few examples of her linoleum block prints to share.
        I don't think that much of her work was wholly abstract, but this piece, "Circulation," seems to be.  I like its balance and movement, although I think I get more of an "explosion" vibe than "circulation."  It looks carefully carved and bright in mood.

        By contrast, this "Street in Berlin" looks rather stormy and ominous.  I admire the way Höch has sketched it with such few, simple cuts, because that's so different from the way I carve my blocks.  The sky looks like she practically attacked it.  Also, I can't help but see the shadow of a swastika in the lines on the street, even though this piece was made in 1912.  It just goes to show that viewers bring their own emotions to art, regardless of what the artist intends.
       Having worked for women's magazines and as the only woman in the Berlin Dada group, Höch was all-too aware of the sexism of her era.  She saw herself as a part of the women's movement, criticizing the treatment of women as lesser people without full control over their lives.  These ideas showed up frequently in her work.  There is no overt political statement in the piece "Two Girls" (or "Two Young Women"), but I think one could easily read something into it.  The young women look fierce, and stubborn, and dissatisfied.  I think the piece has an interesting mix of line and pattern that looks like doodling or experimenting, and I love the way the faces have been formed from light and shadow, especially the one on the right.

[Pictures: Zirkulation, linocut by Hannah Höch, 1916;
Street in Berlin, linocut by Höch, 1912;
Zwei Mädchen, linocut by Höch, 1970 (All images from Spaightwood Galleries).]

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