Hannah Höch (November 1, 1889 – May 31, 1978) was a German Dada artist. She is best known for her work of the Weimar period, when she was one of the originators of photomontage.
Her most exciting work during the 1920s must surely be the ambitious “From the Ethnographic Museum” series (Abduction above), 17 montages that constitute an epic foray into the notion of Lebensraum (colonial expansion), “primitive” cultures and “underdeveloped” (i.e. inferior) peoples, and female alienation. The series is remarkable for its thematic coherence, elegant visual impact, and technical virtuosity.
“From the Ethnographic Museum” was visually influenced by the newly-redone tribal art displays in the Ethnological Museum. A predominant number of snippets Höch used came from a single issue of Querschnittmagazine entirely devoted to the displays. Each delicately reconstituted object in the series is showcased on its own pedestal, thus reflecting the idealization (and trivialization) of “primitive” artifacts by “developed” nations.
Abduction represents the type of complexity at work in the seemingly-simple images of the series. The female face may be a stand in for Höch. In any case, one might read this image any number of ways—the nobility of “primitive” culture, civilization being carried away by tribal culture, the subjugation of the female identity.
The 1920s were a particularly fruitful decade for Höch, as she explored new emotional and thematic territory. Curiously, however, she exhibited virtually not at all publicly during this period. Nontheless, by the end of the 1920s, photomontage had become an accepted medium, and Höch was gaining public recognition for her work.
Hannah Hoch's work is included in the show "The Other Side of the Moon" at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf, click here to learn more about the artists who made major contributions to the aesthetic renewal of Europe during the 1920s and 1930s.