Degenerate Art Exhibition Revisited

This show runs from October 2012-February 24, 2013

The Nazis’ Entartete Kunst Show Revisited

The title of this current exhibition at The Cantor Museum is rather disconcerting: a war on modern art1

A better title for the show would have been, “A War on Modern Art: The Notorious Hitler/Nazi Purge of 1937,” or quite simply, “The Entartete Kunst Show.”

The infamous Nazi art exhibition of 1937, Entartete Kunst, sought to stamp out certain art forms, including abstraction. It had the opposite effect. By drawing attention to modern art, the Nazis helped to make it unforgettable.

Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian painter and theorist, has been credited with creating the first purely abstract Western artworks. He taught at the Bauhaus until the Nazis closed it in 1933. His use of colors, shapes and lines so offended their sense of beauty that in the Entartete Kunst exhibition, they declared his art to be “crazy at any price.” Included in the current Cantor exhibition are several Kandinsky pieces that are representative of the ones featured in the 1937 show.

Germany 1929-1938

In 1929, The Great Depression hit Germany hard. Over five-million Germans and Austrians were out of work. The “unacceptable” were blamed for infecting the society. Anything and anyone violating the Nazis’ sense of classical German beauty (Aryan) were deemed degenerate and therefore, to be destroyed. In defense of this destruction, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, is heard declaring on archival film, “Der Fuhrer liebt die Kunst, weil er selbst ist ein Kunstler” (The Feurer loves art. He himself is an artist).* Unfortunately, this love extended neither to abstract/modern art nor its creators.

Book Burnings

Book burnings began in Berlin in 1933: German and Austrian books were burned alongside books by “corrupting foreign influences.” This included books by Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells and the German playwright, Heinriche Heine. Heine, in his 1821 play, Almansor had written the following line:

“Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.” (“That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.”)

Dubious Distinction

The 1937 Degenerate Art show featured many of Kandinsky’s works, including an edition of the book, Klange (Sounds), and the portfolio of twelve prints entitled, “Kleine Welten” (Small Worlds). None of the works in The Cantor’s exhibition were actually in the Nazi sponsored art exhibition but both shows feature(d) a copy of Klange and several prints from Kleine Welten.

wassily k photo book
Klange (Sounds), 1913 –illustrated book of poems and woodcuts by Wassily Kandinsky
wassily k photo
Kleine Welten, III (Small Worlds, III), 1922 — lithograph from a portfolio of twelve prints, by Wassily Kandinsky

Also on view at The Cantor is a reproduction of the 1937 Nazi exhibition catalog (in both German and English). This too, was disturbing and did what it was meant to: It shocks the visitor by its immediacy and also by its accessibility to the English-speaker.

Over one-hundred artists and six-hundred pieces of art (including illustrated books like Kandinsky’s) encompassed the Nazis’ 1937 art exhibition. When the Degenerate Art Law was passed a year later in 1938, the Nazis had confiscated more than 16,000 objects of art.

Julien Bryan’s Archival Films

Chilling and voyeuristic are apt descriptions of Julien Bryan’s 1937 short films. The documentary of the museum goers viewing the show is numbing, disturbing, evocative and sad. You wonder which attendees will become murderers  and who will be murdered. What are visitors thinking as they view the show? Is each visitor thinking for himself or has he allowed his thinking to be sanctioned by the State? Who, at that show, will help those in need and who will turn on “the other?” You wish you didn’t know how it ultimately ends.

Three links to various Bryan documentaries are embedded below. These are silent, black and white films. Because they are soundless, they are all the more harrowing. They have a certain magnetic pull, drawing the viewer in in a way that modern films do not. In their silence they force you to pay attention, to listen with your eyes.

About Julien

Who was Julien Bryan? He was an American photographer, filmmaker and documentarian who traveled throughout Europe in the 1930s. He tried to warn America of the dangers of Nazism and Fascism based on what he saw in his travels abroad, in Russia, Poland, Germany and Austria. His documentary films of the era are now part of the public domain. Access them here:

  • Munich Exhibition of Degenerate Art — Filmed by Bryan when he visited the 1937 Nazi exhibition.

http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/highlights/bryan/video/detail.php?content=germany_art

  • Pupils at Goldschmidt Jewish Private School in Nazi Germany — Bryan filmed the Goldschmidt Jewish private school shortly after Jews were no longer allowed to enroll in public schools in Germany. Again, you wish you didn’t know how this all turns out.

http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/highlights/bryan/video/detail.php?content=germany_pupils

  • Hitler Youth Girls –Here Bryan documents the indoctrination of German/Aryan school children, even during playtime.

http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/highlights/bryan/video/detail.php?content=germany_youth

———–

*”PBS Film Chronicles Nazi Art Suppression”, The Daily Gazette, (Tuesday, April 6, 1993) <http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1957&dat=19930406&id=XWlGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=LukMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1166,1427669>

Ye Olde Arab Fling

Crawling out of the same old womb

they headed their separate ways

he, a seeker of fortunes,

she an itinerant with no place of her own

unlikeliest of pairs.

Magpie and dusky footed rolled into one,

he lined his world with trinkets, baubles,

blood red garnets, platinum, aluminum, bauxite,

until several of his houses, filled to the hilt,

exploded into a dizzying array of colors.

Blues of the bluest blues

floated along on the wind

radiating skyward, outwards.

She, his other half,

hungered for some safe place

folding inward

on gossamer wings

shining, iridescent

reminiscent of youthful treasures

like the barrette she’d been given

to contain her hair

on the cusp of dawn.

A slight wisp of a silver clip,

special even after it had lost its luster,

the glistening paper-like synthetic slowly peeling off

to reveal the transience of her gift,

adhesive and plastic,

glued onto a shiny metal base,

the cheapest of alloys,

tin really,

sparkling randomly,

releasing prisms into the air

raining diamonds

alongside shadows

upon the land.

Elusive, no two the same

never again seen

yet continuous in places

long discounted:

South America, the Caribbean,

Asia, Eastern Europe,

and now, today

this Arabic spring.

*****                    *****                    *****

One of the Four Rs & Into Cow Pastures We SailedYesterday I came across the old video in the link below. Although it presents some  of my ideas of what travel and tourism ought to be about – grassroots, local and community-based – it caused me to re-examine the idea, taken so lightly in the video: “Once these wheels were turned by slaves.”

Enjoy the people and the place as you watch the video. Make a toast to great rum everywhere. Most importantly, pay homage to the genesis and evolution of rum in Jamaica and the rest of the “New World.” My doing so resulted in the poem, Ye Olde Arab Fling.

http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/jamaica/17wz1p937?cpkey=67be0d62-10c0-4650-b540-910a25bb467e%257c%257c%257c%257

 

Women and Their Losses

me about to kiss you -3.5.2011

He Has Forgotten

He puts his head to her stomach

her fifty-four year old stomach

and thinks,

“She carried three children here.”

While en route to hospital

she miscarried.

The fourth,

a girl,

he has forgotten.

*****                                               *****                                               *****

For Julie

I look for you

in the forests

the lakes

all along the shore

My spirit aches

for just one glimpse

on my easel now

but you are no longer here

My Very Trippy List

photo 1 (2)
Young elephant seal, photo by Coastside State Parks Assn., 2012

I will be out working with the seals all this weekend so I’m getting this week’s post in early. Sorry to throw you off with my early schedule.

So, back in May I stumbled across those crazy lost and found emails, remember? Thanks to them, I started thinking about my creative side and how that part of my life was being lost or shelved. In those emails I found I had done all this writing and photography and paintings – I created much more than I realized! What’s more, if I could do all that while having fun, how much more could I do if I set goals and got serious about my writing and my art?

So, here then, is the list of goals I set to help me focus on my creative side/work. If you are wondering about the inclusion of trips to national and state parks, don’t! Some (okay, maybe all) of my earlier posts relate in one way or another to nature and the outdoors. They feed my creative side and make me happy too. No wonder I’m so creative here in the Bay Area. It turns out that I have a new old muse. Hello Nature girl.

Creative writing

*Write a short play (done)

Submit said play to x competition (done and done)

*Work on poetry (done)

Submit poems to program xx (done)

Submit poems to program y (still working on it!)

Await outcome (I won’t have the results until April; am crossing my fingers and my toes!)

*Start a blog (done)

Maintain said blog and complete one post each week (done and done!)

Visual Arts: paint, paint paint!

*Painting/drawing/collages

Take a painting class or workshop (done!)

Create at least three pieces I am totally happy with (done!)

spectre
my best and favorite painting for the year

*Photography

Buy a good digital camera (done)

Learn to use and master said camera (still working on it!)

Blend writing and visual arts into creative pieces (done and done!)

Visit and overnight at one state or national park (done and done)

*Yosemite (done)

*Sequoia (done and done)

AND in 2013:

*Enter at least one art piece (a painting) into a local and a national competition

*Try to stop destroying writing and artwork that I’m not totally satisfied with (this is a work in progress)

*Enroll in a workshop at the Crucible or take a drawing class (hope I have enough money for this!)

*Visit and overnight at a state or national park outside of California (Yellowstone or Grand Canyon) and/or visit Picasso’s, Guernica, in Madrid museum (hope I have enough money for this too!)

Thank you for hanging with me. Next week I’ll give you my Jamaican Christmas cake recipe. I’ve been busy these past few nights making cakes for family, friends and co-workers. Let the festivities begin!

France’s Last King was a Pear

A show focused entirely on political satire – in the form of caricatures – is currently on view at Stanford University’s Cantor Museum. Looking at the lithographs, I couldn’t help but think of the current troubles caused by various representations of the Prophet Mohammed.  At issue, then, as now, is the notion of freedom of speech.

The Stanford show, “When Artists Attack the King: Honoré Daumier and La Caricature, 1830–1835,” is political satire at its best. Its equivalent today would be the television shows, The Simpsons, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Colbert Report.

Louis Philippe I was the last king to rule France. (Emperor Napoleon III was the country’s last monarch.) Louis’ reign began nearly forty years after the French Revolution and coincided with the end of the July Revolution of 1830. At first Louis Philippe seemed to be on the side of the people but later he became fat with power, siding with the wealthy. He was lampooned by various artists in the weekly Paris journal, La Caricature. Foremost of these artists was Honoré Daumier, who Artble.com calls “the Michelangelo of caricature.” Some of the exhibition’s funniest prints are those in which the king is depicted as a corpulent, bulbous la poire (pear).

Why la poire?

the body of the king

Not at all happy with the press’ wicked sense of humor, the monarchy passed a law banning all depictions of the king’s image. Under French law the king’s body became sacred. Not to be deterred, Daumier savagely caricatured the king’s appearance. Through his art, Daumier laughed at the king and his government and in so doing, urged the public who read his journal, to do the same. Daumier’s art, the power of his images and the journal, La Caricature, were quite influential. He and fellow caricaturist, Charles Philipon, both landed in jail on at least two occasions for their satirical lithographs of the king and his government.

The Stanford exhibition is divided into four sections:

  • an introduction to the July Monarchy and its politicians,
  • examples of La Caricature’s response to censorship,
  • samples of Daumier’s caricatures of Louis-Philippe (the prints on view are part of Stanford’s art collection), and
  • images depicting the king as La Poire.
The Pear King

Some personal information about the king (unrelated to the exhibition) is that he was in exile before becoming king and so, traveled quite a bit. During his travels, he lived in Germany (in the 1790s) where  he taught at a school. There he got the cook pregnant and their child was put into an orphanage. The pregnancy ended his academic career. A year or two later, at age 22, while living in Scandinavia, the housekeeper at the rectory where he was living bore his child, a son name Erik. Later on in his travels, before he became king, he spent four years in the United States. Here he stayed first with his brothers, who were in exile in Philadelphia, and then in New York and Boston. In the latter city he lived above what is now the Union Oyster House, Boston’s oldest restaurant.

An Aside

This [Daumier] lithograph from the exhibition is reminiscent of the workers that Diego Rivera later depicted in his murals.

The following excerpt is from Purdue University:

For more information on the exhibition, visit http://museum.stanford.edu/news_room/daumier.html

Yosemite

At Yosemite (mixed media on canvas, 2011)

We went to Yosemite and enjoyed the waterfalls, brilliantly powerful from last year’s rains and snowfall. The Merced was a rushing, roaring monster of a river. It was breathtaking. In a little grove inside the park I agonized over a plaque, a commemoration of the First Peoples. It told the story of the original inhabitants who were burned out of their home in the very spot where I stood. I took some photographs of the plaque so I could go home and do some research/further reading on the peoples and the subject. Ironically, they are part of the cache of deleted images that remains deleted from my computer files. Though in no way incriminating, these photographs stayed where I sent them, first in and then out of the Trash Can. Not so the other photographs that you find interspersed in my “Red Book Stories” posts.

I created an oil and acrylic painting of the very first stop that DSan and I made in Yosemite. It is our first view of the river [the Merced?] from a very high perch atop granite rocks. If you look carefully, you will see his profile along with a head in the clouds and also an emerging (or disappearing) face in the water below. Both head and face are substitutes for two women, his Europe woman and his California woman.

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I’m Late! I’m Late!

Mini Ghirl, up at Russian Ridge

Day Hikes

Mini Ghirl doesn’t handle right: She needs new tires. We’ve done twenty-one thousand miles in twenty months, mostly up and down the Northern California mountains and coastal areas.

From East Bay to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, i.e.), to Santa Cruz (and places in between), to Yosemite (Aah, Yosemite, I’m coming back to you soon), to Mount Diablo in Clayton and Mount Tam in Marin (Don’t get jealous of Yosemite, Mount Tam! I’m going to check out one of your pancake breakfasts next spring and your play in the woods next summer), to Point Reyes Seashore, to San Rafael. It’s no wonder my poor little birdie has worn out her threads!

Then there were trips up and down Alpine and Page Mill Road, Skyline Boulevard and Highway 17, into lots and lots of lovely Open Spaces (mostly the MROSD’s). That’s a whole lot of miles and plenty more to go!

Skyline Ridge (looking towards La Honda)

Thanks to my friends over at Petrol Blog, I’ve learned about the Michelin Super Saver+ tyre. But why can’t I find it here in the United States? Michelin is an American company, isn’t it? And we here in the Bay Area try to be environmentally (i) friendly, (ii) conservative, and (iii) aware. All the better, when you save money by reducing gas (petrol) consumption.

So Michelin! Why the lower level/standard energy savers in America??? I want my American resident Mini Ghirl to have what her European cousins have: super saver, energy saver tires. Do something about it, Micheline Man!!! I’m late! I’m late! My Mini wants only the same things you offer to Europe — the best energy saver tires/tyres that Michelin makes. And just so you know, mountains and coasts up Mendicino way and beyond, and as far afield as Oregon and Washington states are calling meeeee! (There is the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon Coast, for example, just waiting, waiting for me and Mini Ghirl!!)

Oh, the places I have been

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