New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933

Art, Painting
Max Beckman, Paris Society (Gesellschaft Paris), 1931.
Photograph: Courtesy the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Max Beckman, Paris Society (Gesellschaft Paris), 1931.

Germany found itself in a precarious position following World War I; on the one hand, the country was submerged in staggering unemployment and inflation, but on the other it fostered a democratic and industrial boom. The uneasy attitude that arose unifies most of the works in LACMA's examination of this 15-year period. The exhibition combines paintings, photographs and a small selection of films to represent a group of artists including Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz and August Sander who turned their backs on Expressionism and toward realism.

There's a subtle creepiness that pervades most of the works here, with gallery spaces dedicated to topics like prostitution and lustmord (sexual murder). Shadows and ghoulish faces lurk in the background of social revelry while the fallout of war (and hindsight knowledge of the impending Nazi takeover) turn pastoral scenes into unnerving nightmares. For all of the grotesque features, a lot of the scenes seem suprisingly contemporary; you'll find walls dedicated to cacti and succulents, still lifes of commodities, and gay and lesbian zines. 

Just as the artists in this exhibition viewed the Weimar Republic with heightened awareness and close scrutiny, so too does the viewer. It's an often overlooked period in art history—blockbuster movements like the Bauhaus and Dadaism aside—and the exhibition does a fantastic job of engaging visitors in otherwise alienating and uneasy artwork.

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