We could call Dadaism the essence of the avant-garde in art. If we look at any of the magazines, manifestos or posters of the Dada period, we indisputably see that the artists of this direction have attached great importance to visual communication and that graphic expression has had a great influence on the development of the identity of this direction.
Unique graphic compositions, unusual fonts, futuristic typography, abstract figures, but also an innovative approach to collage, photomontage, use of whiteness, the arrangement of letters and spacing — are just some features of the Dadaist aesthetic.
The rebellious character of the artist, even the very movement created as an expression of aversion to the devastation brought about by the war, is especially pronounced in graphic works since they thus expressed the subversive nature of their works. It is a movement that did not have its program, but fought against any program and denied the values established in the art up to that point.
Dadaism was an avant-garde art movement, which rejected all previous values of civilization — both in art and in life — until the end. It brings together artists who are rebellious against war, society and the arts of their time of destruction and ridiculing everything. Nihilism, black humor and a fervent desire to shock the world were all appealing in an atmosphere of hopelessness, despair, and disappointment with the world war.
The key tenet of Dadaism, espoused by its most influential representative Marcel Dishan (1887 – 1968), the first true “anti-artist”, was that art is all that the artist says he is. After Dishan, every object of any material was a potential work of art. After the war, Cabaret Voltaire became the center of a gathering of supporters of the new art movement, provocative enough and attractive to many avant-garde artists and intellectuals (Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janko, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, Man Ray, John Heartfield…). Disappointed by the civilization that produced the senseless and, the Dadaists affirm an utterly destructive attitude toward society, aesthetics, morals, customs, and conventions. Dadaism, an avant-garde movement extremely important for the development of modern and contemporary art. Cabaret Walter was his starting point, but soon spread throughout Europe and then the world. Although different in ideology and media used, Dada, from Zurich, via Berlin, Hanover, Cologne, Paris, Bucharest, Belgrade, Zagreb, to Tokyo and New York, basically represented freedom of art, combating tradition and its canons, bringing many innovations in a technical sense.
Abstract art — intangible, non-figurative non-representative art of the 20th century moving away from the interpretation and reproduction of nature and the world,the artist approaches the motif of wanting to paint his essence, as a result, the images appear to have been painted ” from the inside ”. In this attempt, the artist moves away from the subject, leaving only pure artistic values (line, color, outline, composition, etc.). At the very beginning of development, artists start from nature, to move away from natural forms and begin to use non-figurative, elemental visual elements as the essence of the composition. The term “non-figurative” should not be understood as if the artist is not in contact with objective reality, because he always communicates with reality, but in this case, the result of that communication is a non-figurative representation,interest in pure elements of the art form and pure emotion,strives for the pure expression of colors, lines, and shapes,subjective, emotional and rational artistic expression,the image becomes an indicator of the inner state of the spirit and does not tend to represent anything from the tangible world.
Wassily Kandinsky is formally considered the creator of the first abstract painting. In his 1912 book On the Spiritual in Art, he presents the idea that line, shape, and color can awaken emotions in the viewer in the same way that tones of musical composition. Painting no longer serves to imitate nature but is a separate form of reality, which has its elements and its laws.
There is almost no person who did not remain confused when encountering abstract painting. A few dots on the canvas, fields of clear color, a splice of lines that do not cause any association… It is a completely normal reaction.
What makes abstract painting so confusing to us is the complete absence of references (historical, mythological, biblical, psychological…) and the impression that nothing is represented in the painting. Unlike the subject painting, there are no specific, recognizable physical objects from the visual reality in the abstract paintings. Only the visual elements can be seen in the picture and the viewer has the impression that it is a mere decoration that has no particular artistic value. But “there is no greater obstacle to enjoying great works of art than our habit and unwillingness to dismiss our prejudices,” says art historian Ernst Gombrich.
Each work of art is tied to a particular social context, created in a particular environment and only after gaining at least a basic insight into the ideological circumstances at the time of its creation, its position within the developmental flow of art and learns more about the life of its creator, only then it is possible to get a more realistic picture of the work and appreciate it more. Art should not only be viewed, but it should also be read about art.
After it became clear that there was a connection between emotions and certain visual elements, the next, the very important question was — is the presence of the object a prerequisite for the existence of an artistic image? Does the absence of objects also mean the absence of content, or is it possible to convey to the observer the message (emotions) without the existence of the objects, by the use of the visual elements themselves?
Numerous representatives of abstract painting have developed unique philosophical systems in which theory has been an integral part of artistic creation.
This extremely brief overview suggests that abstract painting does not represent a single whole, especially not stylistically uniform. Sometimes it’s more about the experiment, play, exploration, sometimes expression of emotion. Sometimes the artist wants to engage in dialogue with the observer, to initiate, shock, provoke, break the routine. Don’t know what the image represents? Perfect!
The artist has just managed to get you thinking. Are you enraged by the picture? Even better. The artist managed to evoke a certain emotion in you.
If anything, abstract art should be approached without prejudice.
Abstract art is what it is — it does not imitate, it does not transform. No one expects you to enter a gallery, look at a painting, and discover in magnitude the meaning of life. Beyond abstract art, there is often no complicated or difficult philosophy, the emphasis is on the experience of the observer, on what he or she feels while viewing the work.
When we look at some other images, our thoughts are focused on recognizing specific forms and figuring out the meaning of the image. Abstract art does not need the consumption of this energy. It is devoid of all those factors that burden the conscious level of our existence and is directed at the very dialogue between the artist and our being.
Dadaism Vs Abstract Art
Numerous movements created in 19th and 20th-century art are intertwined, and their direct influence on contemporary art, including interior design, architecture, and industrial design, is noticeable. These include Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Art nouveau, Art deco, Constructivism, Dadaism and other avant-garde trends, as well as Bauhaus, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and many other movements.
Images of Dadaism drive the spectrum of collage, a work of pure abstraction. Dadaism was a reaction against cultural logic, which Dadaists accused of bringing humanity to the brink of suicide. As the first manifestation of “anti-art” culture, Dadaism evoked every aesthetic phenomenon that preceded it and shaped everything that was yet to come.
Many artists have been multidisciplinary in their approach. Dadaism manifested itself in all aesthetic forms, from literature, musical theater, photography to sculpture and beyond. Dadaist paintings were influenced by some movements that directly upgraded Dadaism, such as analytical Cubism, collages, and works by abstract painters such as Kandinsky. Nonetheless, it is inaccurate to say that any Dadaist painters deliberately tried to be abstract, since Dadaism denied the validity of labels such as representation or abstraction.
Yet many images of Dadaism fit within the internal logic of abstraction, as they interact with viewers not through representational content but lines, colors, shapes, surfaces, materiality, and dimension.
Jean Arp’s abstract paintings, collages, and prints include blends of geometric and organic shapes. The color palette is restrained and the shades diminished. His lines are sometimes careful, and at other times they almost vibrate with a kind of handmade delicacy. Through these works, Arp captures the morphing essence of the subconscious and the potential calmness available in images that exist beyond objective representation.
Francis Picabia — in the 30s he was influenced by Cubism. Dadaist paintings combined geometric shapes and quasi-industrial imaginations to create compositions that act as geometric abstractions and part of a machine. After more than half a decade, Picabia separated from the Dadaists and pursued a purely abstract direction in his work.
Hans Richter — the experience of the war made him one of the most politically active members of the Dadaists. His paintings often featured scary, creepy, albeit very abstract, images. Richter’s penchant for almost childlike gestures gives a sense of urgency and meaninglessness to some of his abstract works. These sometimes expensive, sometimes rigid images sublimely convey the Dadaist sense of the absurdity of human culture and logic.
The abstract images of Dadaism should be respected for contributing to the understanding of our nature by approaching something beyond logic, which is closer to nature and the true value of art.
In those years, art went far beyond the abstract painting, it created a vanguard that became meaningless, defiant, bold, magnificent, it became life itself. Today’s art — contemporary art, is a very wide and rich field where everything is possible. Installation, performance, activism, bio-art, digital art are just some determinants of contemporary art.