Collages Hannah Höch (1889-1978)



From October 8 to November 13, 2005, at the Maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges, in Montreal, two exhibitions were staged side by side. The first, Collages Hannah Höch (1889-1978), was a project conducted by Louise Bédard Danse, in parallel to the performances of Ce qu’il en reste, presented at Usine C, from October 25 to 30, 2005. The second exhibition, titled Savants, monstres et voyageurs… Collages et amalgames contemporains — Scholars, monsters and travellers… Collages and contemporary amalgams. — was initiated by Luce Botella, the cultural agent at the Maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges, and by curator Lucie Bureau.

Collages Hanna Höch 1889-1978

The 31 collages gathered for this exhibition were placed into circulation by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA), based in Stuttgart. This collection is a mere sample of a much larger ensemble of collages created by the artist during a period stretched over four decades. Hannah Höch made drawings, painted and crafted objects, but collage above all is what spanned through her body of work. Witness to a period of great turbulence, Hannah Höch considered that her role as an artist was to record events and to convey them pictorially. In her very own way, she created true visual catalogues depicting the social and political confusion that preceded and followed both world wars in Europe. The historical topicality of her works is explicit since the documents she used can be traced back to the newspapers and magazines of that time. The manner in which she arranged the visual cutouts sets the composition tone, either pointing towards social and political commentary or towards formal experimentation. Behind an apparent disorganization, the images composed with clippings from magazines, flyers, original photographs and coloured paper offer a sharp and useful gaze on that moment in time. Although art historians have focused mostly on the dada period of her work, the fact remains that her artistic activity, especially the collages, runs up to the 1970s. Her body of work should thus be approached with openness, to grasp the full underlying coherence that spans across this impressive number of collages.

Who is Hannah Höch ?

Hannah Höch (1889-1978) was born in Gotha, Germany. She left the family home in 1912 to study at the Berlin School of Applied Arts. She shows a particular interest for graphic design, calligraphy and drawing. The First World War, which breaks out two years later, changes her view of the world. From then on, her life is filled with a growing political consciousness, leading her for some time to become involved in humanitarian organizations, notably the International Red Cross. Then, in 1916, she is hired at The Ullstein Press as a designer and illustrator. She designs embroideries, lace and clothing patterns intended to illustrate the columns of women’s magazines. In 1918, she joins a group of artists interested in the freshly introduced Dada ideas in Berlin. She participates in the Dada events by exhibiting collages and Dada dolls along with the works of Grosz, d’Hausmann, Heartfield, Baader and Mehring. During the 1920s, she withdraws from the Dada group to associate with other artists: Schwitters, Mondrian, van Doesburg, Arp, Ernst and Dix. Although she kept a distance from this avant-garde movement, she was considered one of the main figures of the Berlin Dadaists. Paradoxically, it was because of this affiliation that art historians brought her work to attention.

Savants, monstres et voyageurs… Collages et amalgames contemporains
You can add caption to pictures.

What do Hannah Höch, Paul Lussier, Paul Lowry, Michele Peress, Suzanne Blouin, Guy Mercier and Louise Bédard have in common? They collect images, piece together, juxtapose, manipulate, glue, construct, they deconstruct reality. They cut out, break up, single out, they dissect images. To express the world, these artists have traveled one of the paths offered by collage and photomontage. Even if the techniques have freely evolved beyond the benchmarks set forth by the Cubists the Futurists, the Dadaists and the Constructivists, it remains a medium that integrates material and fragments of photos, paper, newspaper clips, magazine cutouts, found objects, in order to create a composite image or a coherent and organic plastic form.

With the development of technology and of image editing software, photomontage is more than ever a form of expression exploited by artists. In the exhibition Savants, monstres et voyageurs…, the manipulation of materials remain as visible as the creative gesture. We do not want to wallow in nostalgia, nor hold on to tradition; still, it seemed interesting to simply group these works, near those of Hannah Höch.

View some of Louise Bédard’s collage

Banner > Collages by Hannah Höch
Slider 1 a, b, c, d, e, f, g > Collages by Hannah Höch
Slider 2 a > Collage-module by Suzanne Blouin
Slider 2 b > Collage by Paul Lussier
Slider 2 c > Collage by Paul Lowry
Slider 2 d > Collage by Michèle Peress
Slider 2 e > Collage by Guy Mercier
Slider 2 f > Collages by Louise Bédard

All photos on this page were taken by George Krump at the exhibition between October 8 and November 13, 2005, at the Maison de la culture Côte-des-Neiges.