The fun exhibit of the year can be found at the Museum of Modern Art (June 18-September 11, 2006). It is a huge retrospective celebrating the Dada avant-garde movement that rocked and amused the art world in the early part of the last century. You can stroll through and chuckle at some of the nose-thumbing works that surfaced in response to World War I and to the more conventional art of the time. There are more than 400 examples exhibited and the show is a multi-media one, even including 10 silent films by Dada artists.
Some of what you see may impress you as hardly qualifying as art. But there is a big difference between those examples and contemporary pieces in other exhibits that you may want to reject as art. The contemporary stuff the public likes to scoff at generally pretends to be art. But the Dada work consisted mainly of tongue in cheek creations aimed at pretense. Not all of it, of course. This MoMA exhibition contains some serious, meaningful blasts at war by such superb artists as George Grosz and Otto Dix.
But the overall thrust of the current show is the liberal helping of imagination reflected in many ways. There is Marcel Duchamp’s 1919 outrage of putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. There are works by Man Ray, including a replica his 1923 original, a metronome with an eye titled “Indestructible Object (or Object to be Destroyed). There are works by Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, Francis Picabia, Hans Richter, Kurt Schwitters, Sophie Taeuber and Tristan Tzara.
The movement spanned many cities, and the show includes examples from Berlin, Cologne, Hannover, New York, Paris and Zurich. A revolutionary spirit took hold and spread, whether taking expression in objects, drawings, paintings, film—a compendium of work by artists who were making statements against the status quo and a violent world. MoMA is providing a chance for fresh evaluation and amusement.
At The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. Phone: 212-708-9400.