New Objectivity in New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is hosting a major show of Neue Sachlichkeit ("New Objectivity") portraits, and the New York Times calls it "amazing":

Organized by Sabine Rewald, curator of 19th-century, modern and contemporary art at the Met, this exhibition creates an indelible, psychologically charged picture of Weimar Germany as it teetered between World Wars I and II. In a larger sense it is a humane hall of mirrors whose representation of individuals and types, of the quick and the deluded, the knowing and the devouring, has a sharpness that still cuts.

Presented in seven galleries devoid of fanfare or froufrou, “Glitter and Doom” contains just more than 100 paintings and drawings by 10 artists, prominent among them George Grosz, Christian Schad, Rudolf Schlichter and Karl Hubbuch, and most conspicuously the unrelentingly savage Otto Dix and his magnificent other, Max Beckmann. With Dix represented by 53 works and Beckmann holding his own at 17, the two preside over this exhibition like Picasso and Braque, except that they are equals.

A slideshow is found here which highlights the glistening, icily perverted work of Christian Schad (G), who’s not as well-known as his more traditionally "Expressionist-looking" colleagues:

The meticulous Schad, represented by works done in Berlin during the late 1920s, seems to have been more evenhanded. He imbued all his subjects, including himself, with an enervated yet dignified remoteness. The exception may be the portrait of a pair of sideshow performers, “Agosta the ‘Winged One’ and Rasha the ‘Black Dove.’ ” Here a slim man with an inverted rib cage and a watchful black woman summon a challenging energy and direct it right at us.

For those of you who, like me, can’t pop off to New York to see the show, I recommend the glorious Taschen book on this period, The New Objectivity (German version here). Dozens of large, full-color illustrations and sympathetic essays bring these odd, intense, cynical, vulnerable creators to life.

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