Last weekend we went to the Nelson. We stayed in the old building because it feels like every time we go there we go to the new building. Joey wanted to look at the Egyptian art, so we did.
Eventually we went to the exhibit, “WWI and the Rise of Modernism.” The exhibit is split into (roughly) thirds: before the war (featuring the rise of Cubism, art-photographers such as Stieglitz, and Italian Futurism), during the way (focusing on artists who served and/or died in the war), and after the war, when, according to the exhibit, modernism split into surrealism/Dadaism and Bauhaus, which focused on design and architecture.
Here's the first paragraph of what the pamphlet of the exhibit says about “after the war”:
Europe was a different place after the war. The German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires had collapsed. New countries were born, and national boundaries were redrawn. More than 15 million war deaths left whole countries grieving and impoverished. Germany faced punishing war reparations. In 1921, Adolf Hitler, a decorated veteran of World War I, assumed leadership of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and in1933 he became the chancellor of Germany. The stage was set for World War II.
|El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites With the Red Wedge, 1919, lithograph|
What's missing here, and in fact what was missing in the whole exhibit, was mention that this was a period of great political, social and yes, artistic revolution in Europe, particularly in Russia and Germany. Even granting that we're not up to Weimar yet, the Russian Revolution took place in 1917, the German Revolution in 1919, and the entire period through the early 1920s was a time of great artistic experimentation.
There particularly is no mention of expressly political art, of which there was a lot during this time. The only piece that references revolution is a drawing of a revolutionary shooting a rifle with the body of a capitalist draped over his foxhole. There was a lot of really interesting political print in the period, for example, which the exhibit didn't reference at all, but which is as much “modernism” as Dada is.
Of course, expressly political art is frowned upon in America, where abstraction is considered art and political art isn't. Not only are a whole era's political developments unmentioned, but the art that accompanied it is purged from art history. And Americans remain ignorant of history, and stunted in their politics.