MADDIE GILMORE | DATE 8/21/2016
Recently picked by New York Magazine and LitHub, Hannah Höch: Life Portrait, published by The Green Box, spotlights 38 individual sections of the largest collage created by revered German photomonteur Hannah Höch (1889-1978), who produced the piece between 1972 and 1973. Measuring nearly 4x5 feet, "Life Portrait" was not only the largest, but also the last major photo-collage that Höch would produce before her death at the age of 88. It is rightly thought by many to be her masterpiece.
When she embarked upon the project at the age of 83, Höch—who is associated with the Berlin Dadaists, and lived through many decades of profound political and social upheaval—set out to create her autobiography, saying, “Here, the person Höch will be represented by way of collage.”
Called "the collage of collages, the self-portrait of self-portraits" and "a collection of collections" by art historian and essayist Alma-Elisa Kittner, "Life Portrait" evinces humor, irony and poetry through “the magical nuances of the endless shades of printed colored paper,” in Höch's own words.
Surprisingly, this complex and evocative autobiographical work is the first and only one to feature original photographs of Höch, including many by the younger photojournalists Liselotte and Armin Orgel-Köhnes, who inspired and collaborated with the artist, providing not only documentation of her as she worked on the piece, but photographs of earlier works, enlarged, miniaturized, detailed.
By focusing on smaller selections of the collage and providing accompanying commentary by both Höch and Alma-Elisa Kittner, Life Portrait unfolds childhood memories via early family portraits going back to the 1890s alongside images from her stint as "the only woman in the Berlin men's club of Dada" (during which she embarked upon a seven-year affair with the married "Dadasoph" Raoul Hausmann). It weaves references to Höch's large circle of friends, artistic peers and various lovers with images that critique the rise of Adolph Hitler, colonialism, misogyny and other social issues that she confronted over the many decades of her artistic career. And yet, despite the autobiographical elements, it is the poetic abstraction that ultimately makes Höch’s masterpiece so singular.
Each detail, beautifully reproduced on fine matte paper, reveals the artist’s hand, her life's history, and her artistic vision. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in autobiography, collage, photomontage, Dada, artist's books or the avant-garde.
MADDIE GILMORE is a recent graduate of Williams College and a poet. She has written on Jacques Lartigue, Paul Gauguin and Monika Baer.
THE GREEN BOX
Hbk, 9 x 9 in. / 96 pgs / 40 color / 3 b&w.