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Raoul Hausmann: Vision in Action

A Dadaist exhibit at the Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Big daddy of Dada Raoul Hausmann pioneered sound poetry and the fragmented art forms of collage and photomontage, introducing them to the 20th-century iconoclastic art movement which he helped lead in Berlin during the period of anarchy which immediately followed the end of World War I.

The Austrian-born avant-gardiste was also a photographer who produced more than 1,000 images of nature and female nudes, image with a softness and sense of calm that seemed light years removed from the acidly ironic work he produced during the early Dada years. These works form the focus of a new retrospective exhibition of Hausmann’s little-known photography that opened earlier this month at the Jeu de Paume in Paris (after debuting at the Point du Jour arts centre in Cherbourg), where it will continue through May 20.

“In contrast to the sarcastic and biting tone generally associated with his Dada period, his photographs are a means to pacification.”

Featuring 130 vintage images, Raoul Hausmann: Vision in Action marks the first time such an extensive exhibition of the artist’s work has been shown in France, the country to which he had exiled himself, dying there in 1971. Labelled a degenerate artist by the Nazis, the Dadasoph, as he was widely known, also worked in sculpture and experimental dance after leaving Germany in the 1930s to save himself and the two Jewish women with whom he was involved in a ménage-à-trois, wife Hedwig Manckiewitz and Vera Broido, later the mother of rock journalist, Nik Cohn.

Away from Berlin, Hausmann turned to photography, capturing the sights he encountered on his walks on the shore of the North Sea and the dunes of the Baltics. The imagery consisted of sea foam and sand, wheat fields and weeds, curvy bodies and equally curving landscapes. The effect is of an artist seeking respite from the pandemonium then closing in around him.

Says curator Cécile Bargues, “In contrast to the sarcastic and biting tone generally associated with his Dada period, his photographs are a means to pacification. They convey a sense of reconciliation, a serenity that did not prevail before.” And a view of Haussmann rarely seen before.

The exhibition runs from February 6 to May 20, 2018 at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume.


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