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Istanbul's Kuad Gallery celebrates a century of Dada art in a new exhibition

2015 marks the centenary of two major historical events, both of them tragic. But a third and more cheerful event is also worthy of remembrance: The birth of the Dada movement took place in the U.S. in 1915 - the New York Dada movement continued until 1923 - and in Europe in 1916. Following a deep sense of despair about World War I, a group of artists, including Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings and Marcel Janco, organized performances in Zurich and published manifestoes about the need for a new way of making art. Many of them Jewish, these Switzerland-based artists waged a war against the bourgeois artistic and social ideals of their time. "Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife," a new exhibition at Istanbul's Kuad Gallery in Akaretler, celebrates the movement by offering a selection of Dada art work by contemporary artists from Turkey. Curated by Beral Madra, the exhibition features work by artists Esra Carus, Ahmet Vehbi Dogramaci, Firat Engin, Özge Enginöz, Erol Eskici, Eda Gecikmez, Murat Gök, Sakir Gökçebag, Hakan Gürsoytrak, Naci Günes Güven, Yahya M. Madra, Meltem Sirtikara, Esin Turan, Eric Andersen and Canan Beykal. A playful and surprising celebration of a century of Dada art, "Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife," continues until May 2.

When I asked her about why she had picked that title for the show, curator Beral Madra explained that it is a reference to Hannah Höch's 1919 collage, "Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany." "The collage reflected Höch's reaction to the very critical socio-political and cultural developments in Germany after World War I," Madra said. "In today's global art scene, artists are similarly taking political positions through their dissident art work. Turkey's current agenda provokes artists into dealing with political, social and cultural problems. The title of this exhibition attempts to show the hundred-year-long continuity of artistic statements that have contributed to the visual thinking that supports democracy." One of the most provocative images of Kuad's Dada show is Ahmet Vehbi Dogramaci's "This is a G3," a digital collage depicting a rifle known by almost all conscripts in Turkey. An homage to Rene Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe), Dogramac's image cunningly undermines Turkish militarism and de-familiarizes the viewer of a well-known image. Erol Eskici's painting of a group of angry looking men wearing fezzes and announcing their shared political stance, "I neither support nor oppose, and I don't make any statements because I hate common sense," has even more shock value, thanks to the painting's size and strategic placement in the gallery.

When I asked her to describe Dada's influence on Turkey's modern art, Madra said: "Like many other 20th century art movements, Dada was amazingly sustainable and is being recycled to this day. No doubt, this is due to the local and international agenda as well as updated concepts, technologies and aesthetics."

Madra added: "Dada and surrealism were never experienced in Turkey in the first half of the 20th century. After the 1970s, however, the young generation became conscious of the effects of both Dada and surrealism. They started to refer to these movements in their work. Here, in the Kuad exhibition, we are presenting a historical work, Canan Beykal's collages from 1979 have been exhibited only once in 1979. In fact, they are museum pieces." Other highlights of the exhibition include Eda Gecikmez's "By a Nose," which depicts an energetic horse galloping into a bourgeois dining room from a mirror hung on the wall. One expects the horse to crush all the expensive stuff placed there by the dining room's bourgeois owners. Meltem Sirtikara's "The Clash of Cools" shows three hip looking figures in the pose of the three monkeys, not seeing, hearing or talking to each other, they are cool and a bit silly.

I asked Madra about the selection process. How had she picked Dada-inspired work by artists in Turkey? Had she been following Dada-affiliated artists with an exhibition in mind? "The Kuad Gallery is working with a large group of artists in a flexible manner," Madra explained.

"We invite them to group shows in order to evaluate their old and new art work within the international context of art history. The artists in this show are not directly Dada affiliated, but they know about contemporary art's historical background and they intend to deal with that legacy through their works." In her article for the exhibition program, Madra emphasizes the interdisciplinary and interactive aspects of the movement. "We actually need to underline the fact that Dada was an anti-war movement," Madra writes, adding, "The Dada movement provides the basics of contemporary art concepts and aesthetics of our day."

In a Wall Street Journal article about the hundred legacies of World War I at its centenary, Jovi Juan described the effects of Dada. After the birth of Dada, Juan wrote: "Art no longer needed to please, it could offend. It could convey absurdity instead of meaning, and be made of everyday junk rather than refined materials. These original Dadaists responded to the nation-states' collective violence with a sustained chorus of taunts, jeers and aesthetic insults emanating from art capitals across Europe and beyond. Their number would swell to include some of the most celebrated artists of their time, among them Max Ernst and Andre Breton, whose later artistic innovations gave birth to Surrealism."

Madra agrees about the importance of the movement: "Dada appeared in the middle of the war, in 1916, and was seen as a comprehensive manifestation of the European spirit. Without providing certain answers it was somehow satisfying for the people who were at the edge of modernism with all the pre-war questions concerning the value of human beings, both as individuals and social. Afterward, the war left emptiness, even wiping away all of those satisfactions. Dada aspired to also erase the leftover utopias as if wanting to convulse all the social, ethical and aesthetic values. The most important example of these was to convert art from being a national culture component into a metropolis phenomenon based on industrial society's experimentalism." In 2013 Kuad Gallery organized an exhibition to celebrate the centenary of the birth of modernist composer John Cage. Another exhibition, "Unhappy Ready-Made," celebrated the centenary of Marcel Duchamp's conceptualization of the "Ready-Made." With "Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife," Kuad Gallery seems to have achieved, again, its aim of celebrating the defining art movements and artists of the previous century through a "glocal" perspective, universalizing and particularizing its subject at the same time.

Kaya Genç in Daily Sabah - Arts - March 28, 2015

Al Hansen

Alfred Earl "Al" Hansen (5 October 1927 -– 22 June 1995) was an American artist. He was a member of Fluxus, a movement that originated on an artists' collective around George Maciunas.

Hansen studied with composer John Cage at the now famous 1958 Composition Class at the New School for Social Research in New York City along with fellow students, Dick Higgins, George Brecht, and Allan Kaprow amongst others. Hansen was a frequent visitor to The Factory, Andy Warhol's studio in New York. Hansen was perhaps best known for his performance pieces, his participation in Happenings, and for his collages in which he often used cigarette butts and candy bar wrappers as the raw materials, among them numerous variations of a sculpture referring to the Venus of Willendorf.

From Wikipedia

Galerie 1900-2000
8 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris
March 18 - April 25, 2015
Telephone: 01 43 25 84 20

Kiki's Paris

The David Barnett Gallery presents Kiki's Paris, an exhibition inspired by the book about the famous Parisian model who worked and lived in Paris from 1900-1930 when Paris was the center of the art world. An opening reception will be held on Gallery Night & Day, Friday, April 17, 2015 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm and Saturday, April 18, 2015 from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Kiki's Paris re-creates the experience of being part of what Marcel Duchamp called "the first really international colony of artists we ever had." The quarter-mile area on the Left Bank around the intersection of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail offered none of the traditional tourist attractions of Paris; what brought a generation of artists, writers and pleasure-seekers to the terraces of the Montparnasse cafes was the promise of personal freedom and self-fulfillment.

Artists include: Man Ray, Miro, Matisse, Max Ernst, Mucha, Bonnard, Manet, Tanguy, Pissarro, Calder, Villon, Picasso, Gauguin, Hermine David, Kees Van Dongen, Derain, Marcel Duchamp, Delacroix, Renoir, Masson and Chagall. The exhibit will run through July 18, 2015.

David Barnett Gallery
1024 East State Street at Prospect Avenue,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53202

Dada at the Isaacs Gallery

December 20, 1961 - January 9, 1962
Isaacs Gallery
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Read on if you are interested in what was happening in Canada over fifty years ago. Some of the people involved were Michel Sanouillet, Greg Curnoe, Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland.