Paul Klee, (Metamorphoses:) The Collapse of the Biblical Serpent, 1940, colored paste on paper on cardboard backing, 34.2 × 49.3 cm, Zentrum Paul Klee
Catherine Yarrow, Black and Green Faced Figures, 1935, Gouache and watercolor, 46,5 × 33,8 cm, Estate of Catherine Yarrow/Austin Desmond Fine Art
Based on the writings of the anti-academic art historian Carl Einstein (1885-1940), the exhibition is devoted to despair over the present and the pressing interest in “altering” humanity, as manifested from the 1920s to the 1940s in the artistic avant-gardes and the sciences. In addition to works of art, publications and archival materials will be presented that demonstrate the intensive interplay of the visual arts, politics, philosophy, ethnology, psychology and the natural sciences in this epoch of historic turmoil and totalitarian projects.
Neolithic Childhood examines how the artistic avant-gardes reacted to the multiple crises of European modernity around 1930 – the “crisis of consciousness,” the revisions of early and pre-history, the imperialist struggle, the barbarism of technological mass war, the shock of capitalist industrialization, the failure of the Second (Socialist) International, the endgame of bourgeois humanism and the hypocrisies of colonial discourse. The title of the project, Neolithic Childhood, is based on a 1930 essay by Carl Einstein in which he interprets the pictorial symbols in Jean Arp’s art as a repetition of children’s ritual, “prehistoric” play. The perceived need to re-establish European civilization after the disaster of the First World War led to an interminable reconstruction of such origins and beginnings – making “ground zero” the limiting function of modernity.
The exhibition will show artworks by Jean Arp, Willi Baumeister, Georges Braque, Claude Cahun, Lux T. Feininger, Max Ernst, Barbara Hepworth, Hannah Höch, Heinrich Hoerle, Valentine Hugo, Paul Klee, Germaine Krull, André Masson, Alexandra Povòrina, Gaston-Louis Roux, Kurt Seligmann, Kalifala Sidibé, Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen, Frits van den Berghe, Paule Vézelay, Catherine Yarrow and others.
Printed matter and archival material, including manuscripts and typescripts from the Carl Einstein Archive of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin, will be exhibited side-by-side with the works of art. They are among the manifold material evidence of the diverse and active role played by art and art theory in the perception and radicalization of the upheavals around 1930.
The exhibition will be catalogued and contextualized by a comprehensive, richly illustrated publication. The authors include Irene Albers, Joyce Cheng, Anselm Franke, Charles W. Haxthausen, Tom Holert, Erich Hörl, Susanne Leeb, Sven Lütticken, Jenny Nachtigall, Kerstin Stakemeier, Maria Stavrinaki, Zairong Xiang and Sebastian Zeidler.
Curated by Anselm Franke and Tom Holert; with academic consulting by Irene Albers, Susanne Leeb, Jenny Nachtigall, and Kerstin Stakemeier.
Neolithic Childhood is part of Kanon-Fragen