Exhibit Information

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CHAOS & CLASSICISM: Art in France, Italy, & Germany, 1918–1936

Opening: 1 October 2010 - Closing: 9 January 2011

When Your Arts-Reporter went to teach in Europe after World War II, he was surprised to discover how much of the Art & Architecture of Classic-Greece & Rome had been adapted by Adolf Hitler’s own Artists & Architects, notably Arno Breker, Paul Ludwig Trost, & Albert Speer.

With the tremendous Stimulus-Packages the Nazis created to put of the Bankrupt-Weimar-Republic’s Jobless-Citizens back to work, building the Autobahn-System & many State-Buildings—including Art-Galleries such as Munich’s Haus der Kunst—Germany’s Ruined-Economy began to recover.

This was thanks to Deficit-Financing—the Money was not in the Reichsbank: it was created by Fiat—which put the German-Nation Back-to-Work!

[Although the GOP detests Deficits, such Stimuli would also work in the US, but not to construct more Neo-Grecian Bank-of-America Neo-Temples…]

This Debit-Spending not only helped build the Nazi-War-Machine, but it also scattered across the National-Landscape numerous Noble Neo-Classic Buildings: simplified Imperial-Roman-Architecture, stripped of elaborate decoration.

It struck me immediately—as an avid Art-Deco fan—that Speer & Trost’s Marble-Fantasia were actually what one might call: Fascist Art-Deco…

The same thing happened in Benito Mussolini’s Italy, recalling the Classic-Glories of two-thousand-years-ago & Mare-Nostrum.

Now the Guggenheim-Museum has mounted a show that explores this & more.

Unfortunately, Your Arts-Reporter—who seems to have fallen-off the Guggenheim-Mailing-List—was not invited, so I will have to share with Readers edited-segments of their Press-Release…



Full Rotunda-Show includes Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Architecture, Film, Fashion, & Decorative-Arts, featuring many works never shown before in the United-States.

Rising from the Ruins & Horror of World War I [Also known as The Great War!], European Art & Culture returned to the Classical-Past, seeking Tranquility, Order, & Enduring-Values.

Artists turned away from Prewar-Experimentalism & embraced the Heroic-Human-Figure & Rational-Organization.

Chaos & Classicism: Art in France, Italy, & Germany, 1918–1936 is the first exhibition in the United-States to focus on the vast transformation in European-Culture between the Two-World-Wars.

With approximately 150 works by more than 80 artists, this Thematically-Organized exhibition examines the Return-to-Order in its Key-Manifestations: the Poetic-Dream of Antiquity in the Parisian Avant-Garde; the Politicized-Revival of the Roman-Empire under Benito Mussolini; the Functionalist-Utopianism of International-Style architecture that originated at the Bauhaus; as well as—ultimately—the Chilling-Aesthetic of Nascent-Nazi-Society.

The Exhibition presents works by Established-Masters of the Period, including: Georges Braque, Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Otto Dix, Fernand Léger, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Pablo Picasso, Gio [Giovanni] Ponti, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, & August Sander.

As well as works by artists lesser-known outside of their home-countries, such as: Julius Bissier, Felice Casorati, Achille Funi, Marcel Gromaire, Auguste Herbin, Anton Hiller, Heinrich Hoerle, Ubaldo Oppi, & Milly Steger.

Obviously, Albert Speer & Arno Breker didn’t Make-the-Cut, although some of their work certainly falls within the parameters of this show. Or they are not listed here, so as not to Offend?

Loosely from the Press-Release:

The years after World War I were marked by a striking Modernist-Avowal of Traditional-Aesthetics: a retour à l’ordre [return to order] in France, a ritorno al mestiere [return to craft] in Italy, & Neue-Sachlichkeit [New-Objectivity] in Germany.

Pablo Picasso was a leader of this New-Historicism & proved to be particularly influential in promulgating a Classical-Aesthetic from 1918 to 1936.

Picasso—although Spanish—was based in France from 1904 onward. His great Classical-Figure-Paintings of the early 1920s demonstrate how decisively the Parisian Avant-Garde adopted the new Post–World-War-I-Aesthetic.

Chaos & Classicism presents several of his works, as well as other examples of this style, such as Fernand Léger’s canvases of Mechanized-Figures & Commedia-dell’Arte paintings by André Derain & Paris-based Gino Severini.

The notion of a Latinate-Civilization comes to the fore in the emerging influence of Jean Cocteau. The exhibition features excerpts from his 1930 film The Blood of a Poet [Le sang d’un poète].

Le Corbusier’s architecture & design—as well as the Purist-Paintings he created alongside Amédée Ozenfant—forge a Visual-Link with Abstraction & Synthetic-Cubism.

Madeleine Vionnet’s Neo-Greek Fashion-Designs & Art-Deco-Objects by Ruhlmann translate the more Abstruse-Aspects of Classicizing-Art-&-Theory into Functional-Items. [Rough Trans: You could put your sox in Jacques’ drawers!]

Pristine Un-Edited Press-Text:

In Italy, de Chirico’s paintings, along with those of Carrà, bridge the transition to the New Sobriety of Italian art immediately after the war. De Chirico’s essay "Il ritorno al mestiere” ("The Return to Craft”), published in 1919 in the influential journal Valori Plastici, was especially vital for this classicizing moment as it renewed interest in the Italian Renaissance painters Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca. Chaos and Classicism also includes paintings by artists such as Massimo Campigli and Giorgio Morandi. Architectural models and design objects, including a version of Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio in Como, Italy, and porcelain by Ponti, demonstrate the power of the neoclassical paradigm for postwar Italian modernists. Sculpture, the quintessential classical medium, was especially strong in interwar Italy and is represented throughout the exhibition.

In Germany, Mies van der Rohe’s synthesis of classical form and modern technology was central to the ethos that challenged Expressionism in interwar Germany: iconic elements of his Barcelona Pavilion (1929), including Georg Kolbe’s Morning (Der Morgen, 1925), the life-size nude sculpture so well known from original photos of Mies’s seminal structure, are featured in the exhibition. Renowned Bauhaus teacher Oskar Schlemmer’s modernist figurative paintings testify to the German translation of the Italian revival (Schlemmer was deeply influenced by the art of Piero della Francesca, among others). Moreover, after the perceived excesses of Expressionist art, the Neue Sachlichkeit movement represented the search for aesthetic Klarheit ("clarity”) in Weimar Germany. Works by Dix, Georg Scholz, Georg Schrimpf, and Wilhelm Schnarrenberger reveal this rationalist approach along with August Sander’s radically pared-down photographic portraits. However, modern German aesthetics also leads viewers toward the exhibition’s dramatic conclusion. As the Weimar Republic collapsed and Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, the new classicism—Parisian myths, Italian role-playing, and the German search for objectivity—was monstrously transformed into a quasi-scientific doctrine of human perfection under the Nazis.

Also On-View on Annex Level 7: The Dark Side of Classicism: The 1936 Olympic-Games in Berlin were a classicizing-spectacle, recorded & refashioned by the greatest Nazi-Propagandist, Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, in her Olympia [1936–38], excerpts of which are in this final section.

Well, at last! But still no Speer… He sat in Spandau-Prison along with Rudolph Hess for many years.

As for Leni, I got to know her slightly in the 1960s—as I also did Winifred Wagner, the woman who gave Hitler the pen-&-paper to write Mein Kampf.

I still have Leni’s Schoenheit im Olympischen-Spiel, a large Presentation-Book with impressive Riefenstahl-Photos. She autographed it as a gift to a Hollywood-Producer—before WW-II, of course!—for she hoped she’d be invited to make a film in America…

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