What would you interpretate by Expressionism? Express your inner thoughts by not following the appropriate nor academical nor moral rules? Use the medium unconsciously and not appropriately?
Today I saw the exhibition "German Expressionism" at The Museum Of Modern Art and couldn't go to bed without writing about it, as it is one of my big debilities (as you can see throughout my blog and my art).
To start with I would like to tell you a bit about this radical and most important movement; I mean this because it let us be more instant, unique and free (by transforming every thought and emotion into art). It also let the society express their feelings no matter wether they had or not formal education.
The Expressionism as we know it as a movement in art, took place basically in Germany and Austria during the first two decades of last century. Against the traditional academic art, it's other objective was to overturn the social moral of how to live your life; of sexuality; of relationships between men and women. These artists worked exclusively in paper; mostly printmaking and also drawing. Printmaking because of the flattering of forms and the accessible prices to the people; printing massively and promoting or critiquing politics, etc.
What's interesting about how well this show is curated is the transformation (not to say progress) from the first room which is full of colorful and rough pieces from the Brucke Group showing semi-abstract erotical figures to the last room where you can get the pessimism and decadent postwar years with portraits with much more details and reality.
Two works from the Brucke Group (Brucke means "bridge"; bridge between old and new art):
"Dancer" by Emil Nolde (1913) Litograph
Look for the celebration of instictual, unfettered emotion, erotic energy and spiritual freedom. High influence of African art.
"Franzi reclining" by Erick Heckel (1910) Litograph
Franzi was one of the Brucke group's favorite non-professional models. They couldn't afford the pro ones, anyway they preferred natural poses. See the abstract and simplified shapes of the body.
Two works from the "New Objectivity" (group formed after war; art was the most secure investment by then, mostly print-makings that were cheaper and easier to distribute):
"Nocturnal apparition" by Otto Dix (1923) Litograph.
After war there were many widows left and women with no job so prostitution was the most common profession of those times. This one in particular shows the fears of diseases such that they were causing, and an envelop of the rubbage state of the german society of that time. (Watch Otto Dix's profile at her left!)
"Self-portrait with a cigarette" by Max Beckham (1923) Oil on canvas.
He often represented him as a clown and to refer to the society saying something like "everything's a mask, everything's a joke, don't take anything a face value".
So we start being shown the idealize bohemian world of these young artists who had came in scene to change the academical and elitist art whereas we end up getting that the Expressionists gave up, after all, to their initial objective of "changing the society" and had to accept instead what i've alway believed in; art can't change the world yet is influenced by it. If there's a war or an economical crisis, artists get it.
The Expressionists got it. They were hoping that this war would change the society's materialism, so enlisted in it with enthusiasm, ending or killed or with pshycological breakdowns.
These are two etchings of the sereis that artist Otto Dix drew during his full service years as a machine gunner.
On one room dedicated to the post-war years, there's a portfolio of prints called "Hell" by Max Beckham. He portrayed the social and political situation in Berlin in 1919. There's one particular print that caught my atention; the one called "Martyndom" which shows the execution of my blog-heroine Rosa Luxemburgo. The word "martyr" refers to somebody who suffers persecution and death refusing to renounce a belief or cause, usually religious. In Judaism it means "sacrification of God's name" through public dedication to Jewish practice.
This is the piece:
Another highlight of this exhibition was the room dedicated to Austrian Expressionism with Schiele and Kokoshka (subject which I'm a fan of).
Kokoschka disliked Schiele who was younger than him, so was a threaten to his career as they both had similar interests: transgression of the moral with naked bodies as a way of penetrating the human psycho (don't forget that they were contemporaries of Sigmud Freud).
"Bride of the wind" by Oskar Kokoschka (1913) Oil on canvas.
"Girl with black hair" by Egon Schiele (1911) Watercolor on canvas.
Schiele couldn't afford models so brought young girls in town, mainly prostitutes, to his studio and painted them lying on a coach while standing on latter so that he could look down at them from above and that's why he's watercolors give a sense of floating figures.
I will end up telling you how important it is not forget about the external world. About the things happening around us. One may think that by devoting to art you can live in a fantasy world isolated from the outside. But it's the outside society and era that we live in the one that dictates our behaviour. And that is unchangeable.
It's not about pursuing happiness but understanding and adapting into this world. Trying to figure out which is the best way to aport something new to it, but not change it. Changes are exclusively from nature. Let life follow it's own way with no rush.
Expression is to capture the outside, digest it inside, and plasm it as a piece of art. It's to represent the reality our way.
by me, Naomi Preizler