An ongoing exhibition thru 14 May at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., presents an excellent, at the same time overloaded, introduction to the dadaist movement of the early 20th century. It took me an hour to go thru it and by the time I had come to the Cologne room (the exhibition was arranged by the major metropolitan centers of dadaism), I was already overwhelmed by all I was trying to absorb and started skipping the artworks and yet there was still New York and Paris to visit.
Dada originated in Zurich in 1916 as an artistic reaction against World War I. It quickly spread to other European cities, as well as to New York. Dadaists' general disdain for traditional arts and "masterpieces" was best exemplified in the dadaist Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q.
What little I knew about Dada before I went to this exhibition had somewhat prejudiced my expectations in a negative direction. So it was a nice surprise to see many pleasing pieces that actually looked familiar. It was obvious that despite the short lifespan of Dada (it was over by about the early 1920s), it has since been a source of inspiration (and imitation) for many artists.
Forest by Hans Arp, 1916. Picture from here.
"Dada questioned and affected what art can look like, as well as what art can do, and set the stage for many avant-garde movements—including surrealism, pop art, and performance art. Dada also irrevocably changed the landscape of popular culture, influencing graphic design, advertising, and film, and breaking down barriers between high and low art."
From the exhibition guide.