During World War I an art movement emerged in reaction to the chaotic state of the Western society.
The Dada movement consisted of artists, writers and performers who rejected the logic, reason and aesthetics of a society that would allow the carnage and horror of war to take place. They instead led an anti-bourgeois protest with irrationality and nonsense in their artwork as a way to counter the values that they saw as leading to the conflict.
Notable members of the Dada movement included May Ray, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Jean Arp. Influenced by other avant-garde movements of the time—Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism and Expressionism, Dada billed itself as the anti-art movement, tearing down the past. Its reverberations influenced many cultural trends from Surrealism and Pop Art to the Situationist International and Punk Rock.
Just a little over 100 years later, many feel that Dadaist’s rage and confusion all over again. Revolutionary Dada artists have become an inspiration for local artists who answered the call for modern day Dada, in an exhibition at Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg, titled “Who’s Your Dada.”
The gallery is an homage to well-known Dada masters, as well as personal interpretations of the Dada spirit. Works are diverse in medium ranging from photography and sculpture to painting and collage, yet all embrace the motivation of the original Dada.
Rob Bomboy’s “Man of Many Wiles” is a metallic silver figure with simplified cubist form. The walking “man” is reminiscent of a retro-futurist version of a science-fiction robot, created with the current technology of 3-D printing.
Ryan Spahr’s “For and Against Interpretation” employs a variety of raw materials including scraps, inks, tape to create dual portrait, surrounded by text and symbols. The bold lines, graphics and color choices are suggestive of early Soviet art.
The paintings of Dada are paid tribute by Joanne Landis in “Red Deer.” The layers of color, textures and symbols all make up the portrait, in a seemingly simple yet complex construction, much in the same way Ernst created.
The concept of the “readymade” came to prominence during Dada; the idea of using ordinary manufactured objects as art in famous pieces, such as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” and “Bicycle Wheel.” The readymade in “In Advance of the Urinal, A Contemporary Porte-Bruteilles (bottle rack)” by Nago is an everyday cardboard box containing empty bottles. Though painted white and branded by Nago, it serves as a reminder of how the commonplace also had a place in art, particularly with the Dadaists.
“Duchamp Reimagined” by Pamela Wellington pays tribute to Duchamp in a miniature recreation of his final work, “Étant Donnés.” The Duchamp original, is a room-sized installation in which visitors peer through a hole in a door to a fantastical landscape. Wellington has recreated the concept to fit on a table top, still allowing the viewer the ability to see the private scene.
“Not a Rayograph (Spirals)” by Sean Matthews makes reference to Dadaist Man Ray. Man Ray’s “rayographs” were made by placing circular forms directly on a sheet of photosensitized paper and exposing it to light; hovering between the abstract and the representational, they created dreamlike visions.
In this sculpture, Matthews has encased a thick ring in a block of translucent rubber and framed it in wood, the size of a glass block. Since the rubber is not crystal clear, it gives the ring a blurry yet mysterious “rayographic” appearance.
“Who’s Your Dada” allows us to see the timelessness of the Dada movement. The feelings of frustration, alienation and confusion have always and will always exist within society, encouraging the reactions of artistic community. While “anti-art” may have been the Dada cry, it has spawned artistic inspiration and expressions for generations.
“Who’s Your Dada” is on display at Metropolis Collective until Aug. 20. Metropolis Collective is located at 17 W. Main St., Mechanicsburg. Gallery hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Friday; other times by appointment. For more information, visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MetroCollect or call the gallery at 717-458-8245.