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Neo-Dada Artworks

Neo-Dada Collage

Started: 1952

Ended: 1970

Artworks and Artists of Neo-Dada

The below artworks are the most important in Neo-Dada - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in Neo-Dada. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

Theater Piece No. 1 (1952)

By: John Cage

Cage's Theater Piece No. 1, also known as simply "The Event," was a seminal performance for the evolution of Neo-Dada, paving the way for the movement's signature collaborations and multimedia basis. Conceived by Cage, the piece involved several simultaneous, unscripted performance components including a poetry reading, music, dance, photographic slide projections, film, and four panels of Robert Rauschenberg's White Paintings (1951) suspended from the ceiling in the shape of a cross. While Cage set certain guidelines for which medium each performer used, he let each individual artist determine the specifics of their role within the performance, emphasizing the function of chance in determining the course of the event. The aspects were all integral to the development of the Neo-Dada aesthetic as well as later performance art, and were encapsulated within this one work in which many of the key artists within the Neo-Dada movement played integral roles.

Flag (1954-55)

Flag (1954-55)

By: Jasper Johns

Johns' use of newspaper and other media dipped in encaustic made each mark distinct and visually linked his work with the Abstract Expressionists, despite the very different processes that were involved. Rather than creating an abstract work like the action painters before him, Johns relied upon the images and signs common to American culture. He shifted the focus from the artist's mark to the interplay of emblems, language, and the media through his use of found objects embedded within the hardened wax "brushstrokes" that constitute the larger image of the American flag.

Furthermore, Johns emphasized his interest in semiotics through his use of this familiar symbol and relied upon the viewer's familiarity with the flag to imbue the work with meaning. Johns, who has referred to his paintings as "facts," does not provide an interpretation or critique of the media, language, or signs he paints - he instead relies upon the viewers to derive their own analyses. Through his revolutionary use of mass media and his focus on familiar signs, Johns moved the course of modern art away from formalist abstraction and towards Pop's attention to mass-produced objects, Conceptual art's focus on language, and, ultimately, to postmodernism's deconstruction of language.

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Suite for Five (1956-58)

By: Merce Cunningham

In Suite for Five, Cunningham emphasized the movements of dancers in groups, specifically a duet, a trio, and a quintet. The program for the original performance introduced the work by stating, "The events and sounds of this ballet revolve around a quiet center, which though silent and unmoving, is the source from which they happen." The evolving contrasts between sound and silence, movement and stillness created a dynamic tension that guided the course of the performance. John Cage's Music for Piano was the score for the piece, and relied upon the composer's use of a prepared piano with felt, screws, and woodblocks fitted in and around the strings. Robert Rauschenberg created the costume designs, which consisted of earth-toned leotards. Both Cunningham and Cage relied heavily upon chance in the creation of this work, citing that both the score and the choreography were determined by random operations like counting the imperfections in a piece of paper. Cunningham's emphasis on choreography as an art form in its own right was highlighted through his development of the dance elements outside of the score, costumes, and stage set. This focus also underscored the importance of the individual movement of the artist/dancer, which initiated the evolution of performance art that directed the viewer's attention to the body of the performer rather than the narative or the theatricality of the dance.

Bed (1959)

Bed (1959)

By: Robert Rauschenberg

In this particular work, Rauschenberg took a worn pillow, sheet, and quilt, scribbled on them with pencil, applied layer upon layer of oil paint, toothpaste, and fingernail polish, quoting Jackson Pollock's drip technique in the application of each, and finally framed all of these elements within wood supports. Although this work is neither specifically a "readymade" nor necessarily an action painting, Rauschenberg references both Dada and Abstract Expressionism in his usage of found objects as well as the application of the paint to those objects. Rauschenberg effectively broke down the separations between painting and sculpture, and asked the viewer to look at modern art in a wholly new way. Through his revolutionary combination of disparate elements into a new medium that drew its subject from the surrounding world, Rauschenberg helped solidify the Neo-Dada aesthetic.

The State Hospital (1964-1966)

By: Edward Kienholz

With the whole sculptural environment encapsulated within a shipping crate, Kienholz created a self-contained tableau that incorporated diverse materials such as fish tanks, plaster casts, fiberglass, hospital beds, bindings, a bedpan, and neon tubing for this particular installation. With these found materials, Kienholz presents the viewer with two emaciated figures bound to their beds, sharply recreating a scene he witnessed as an orderly in a psychiatric ward. Unlike the New York Neo-Dada artists, Kienholz did imbue his works with a pre-determined meaning, which always related to his critiques of contemporary society and culture. However, through his use of found materials and his emphasis on the viewer's experience of, and dialogue with, the artwork, his connection to the Neo-Dada aesthetic and its emphasis on the surrounding world is clear.

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18 Happenings in Six Parts (1959)

By: Allan Kaprow

In this piece, Kaprow divided the gallery into three connected spaces. Over the course of ninety minutes, Kaprow and the other performers enacted simple movements like bending over, bouncing a ball, and playing records while lights and slides flicked on and off in pre-determined sequences. The audience was instructed to move from room to room at intervals throughout the work - no longer separated from the performers - they experienced the same sights and sounds as those performing. The first official happening performed within a gallery, 18 Happenings bears the diverse set of influences typical of Neo-Dada. Through the emphasis on the artist's movement as a performance, the happenings referenced the action painting of artists like Jackson Pollock, but, in this case, the movement itself became the work of art. And by allowing the happening to occur in a largely unscripted manner, Kaprow embraced Cage's notion of allowing chance to dictate the composition of an artwork.

Related Movements and Major Works

Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany (1919)

Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany (1919)

Movement: Dada (Read Movement Overview, History, and Artworks pages)

Artist: Hannah Höch (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Hannah Höch is known for her collages and photomontages composed from newspaper and magazine clippings as well as sewing and craft designs often pulled from publications she contributed to at the Ullstein Press. As part of Club Dada in Berlin, Hoch unabashedly critiqued German culture by literally slicing apart its imagery and reassembling it into vivid, disjointed, emotional depictions of modern life. The title of this work, refers to the decadence, corruption, and sexism of pre-war German culture. Larger and more political than her typical montages, this fragmentary anti-art work highlights the polarities of Weimer politics by juxtaposing images of establishment people with intellectuals, radicals, entertainers, and artists. Recognizable faces include Marx and Lenin, Pola Negri, and Kathe Kollwitz. The map of Europe that identifies the countries in which women had already achieved the right to vote suggests that the newly enfranchised women of Germany would soon "cut" through the male "beer-belly" culture. Her inclusion of commercially produced designs in her montages broke down distinctions between modern art and crafts, and between the public sphere and domesticity.

Yard (1961)

Movement: Happenings (Read Movement Overview, History, and Artworks pages)

Artist: Allan Kaprow (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Yard by Kaprow involved the random scattering and piling of tires over the floor and an invitation to visitors to climb over them. This piece was supposedly in response to Jackson Pollock's "drip" paintings: the incorporation of chance as a mainstay of the work, but with a certain amount of control left to the artist. Just as Pollock had a certain amount of power over his drip paintings, aesthetics were still very much subject to chance. Here Kaprow used the tires as Pollock used his paint. The result- a haphazard pile of tires nevertheless circumscribed into a semblance of compositional order- is a three-dimensional translation of Pollock's practice. Kaprow's pieces often involved materials from everyday life, including people; Kaprow stated, "Life is much more interesting than art." Yard, like many Happenings, has been recreated several times since Kaprow's initial installation, and each time a unique artwork is produced.

Pastry Case, I (1961-62)

Movement: Pop Art (Read Movement Overview, History, and Artworks pages)

Artist: Claes Oldenburg (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Oldenburg is known as one of the few American Pop art sculptors, notorious for his playfully absurd creations of food and inanimate objects. The collection of works in Pastry Case, I were originally displayed in the artist's famous 1961 installation titled The Store, located on New York's Lower East Side. For the project, Oldenburg created plaster sculptural objects including a strawberry shortcake and a candied apple. In addition to replicating consumer items, Oldenburg organized his installation like a typical variety shop and sold his items at low prices, commenting on the interrelation between art objects and commodities. Although sold as if they were mass-produced, the sculptures in The Store were carefully hand-built and the lavish, expressive brushstrokes that cover the items in Pastry Case, I seem to mock the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism, a common theme in Pop art. Oldenburg combines the evocative expressionist gesture with the commodity item in a highly ironic environment.

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