Published: October 17, 2000
MIAMI BEACH, FLA. – Through April 1, 2001, A graphic designer and architectural theorist, Teige was an innovator in many artistic areas, including book design, poetry, stage sets, and collage.
All are represented in “Dreams and Disillusion: .” The exhibition features some 100 objects, including a full-scale model of Teige’s ideal apartment for workers. This exhibition reveals Teige and his circle’s major contributions to the development of modernism and illuminate the social and political forces that affected Czechoslovakia from the end of the First World War to the end of the Second World War.
Guest curator, Dr Erich Dluhosch, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at MIT, working with Wolfsonian curators Wendy Kaplan and James Wechsler, drew from the Wolfsonian’s superb and unusual collection of Central European graphic arts. In addition, for the first time in the United States, 21 of Teige’s Surrealist collages from the Museum of Czech Literature in Prague are displayed.
This exhibition will travel to the Grey Art Gallery of New York University and the Smart Gallery of Art at the University of Chicago. It will be accompanied by the publication, Karel Teige, 1900-1951: L’Enfant Terrible of the Czech Modernist Avant-Garde (the MIT Press, 1999), edited by Dr Dluhosch and Rostislav Svacha of the Czech Academy of Science.
Teige was 18 at the end of the First World War when the new Republic of Czechoslovakia gained independence from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Faced with the challenges of defining post imperial culture during the 1920s and 1930s, he led the drive among Czech artists and intellectuals to participate in the international, left leaning avant-garde. An articulate and enthusiastic modernist, Teige traveled to Russia, France and Germany, establishing an ongoing dialogue between his Prague-based Devetsil group and well-known Constructivists, Purists, Dadaists, Surrealists, and Bauhaus designers.
During this period Teige’s critical and creative output was prodigious. He edited a number of significant Czech avant-garde journals, wrote extensively on graphic design, typography, photography and film, and lectured at the Bauhaus. Putting theory into practice, Teige embraced technology and produced numerous collages, montages, book covers, photomechanical illustrations, collaborative performance pieces, prints, and poems.
Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the artist remained confident that socialism offered hope. He sought solutions to the economic and political crisis through architecture; offering theoretical housing projects that would challenge the bourgeois status quo and meet the needs of a newly empowered working class.
However, the rise of Stalin, the Nazi invasion, the Second World War, and the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia effectively destroyed Teige’s dreams of utopia. From the late 1930s until his untimely death in 1951, he turned inward, creating edgy, erotic, and disturbing Surrealist collages.
Dr Erich Dluhosch, has largely based the exhibition on research conducted during his four month residency as senior fellow at the Wolfsonian in 1996. He has written on technology and modernism, lectured widely on the role of technology in architecture, and worked for many years as a consultant on low income housing in developing countries. He is translator of El Lissitzky’s Russia: An Architecture for World Revolution (the MIT Press, 1971).
Wendy Kaplan, associate director for exhibitions and curatorial affairs is a specialist in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century design history. Kaplan has written and edited numerous books and articles on decorative arts and design history.
James Wechsler, assistant curator, has worked closely with Dr Dluhosch on the show’s organization. A specialist in works on paper with a particular interest in art of the 1920s and 1930s in the United States and Mexico, he is currently writing his dissertation on artist and activist Hugo Gellert.
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