Tuesday, September 26

The Reina Sofía reviews the power of graphic art in the first half of the 20th century

‘Mediero’, (1945), by Elizabeth Cattlet. Linocut from the Yale University Art Gallery collection, / Reina Sofia Museum

Focused on Germany and Mexico, the exhibition ‘From Posada to Isotype, from Kollwitz to Catlett’ brings together more than 450 originals of various techniques

Michael Lorenci

Propaganda, vindication and art often go hand in hand, and they were especially close in the troubled 20th century. The Reina Sofía Museum is now reviewing this fruitful association by focusing on two countries with high activity in this field: Mexico and Germany. ‘From Posada to Isotype, from Kollwitz to Catlett’, is the title of the first exhibition that the museum opens in 2022 and on the bill until August 29. With more than 450 originals, it examines the evolution of graphic art and its role as a tool for social vindication during the first half of the 20th century.

Curated by Benjamin HD Buchloh and Michelle Harewood, it deals with the work of two of the great figures of engraving, José Guadalupe Posada and Käthe Kollwitz. as well as the work developed in this field by artists of German expressionism and the Mexican Popular Graphic Workshop, or the Isotype project (International System of Typographic Picture Education), undertaken by the Austrians Otto Neurath, Marie Reidemeister-Neurath and the German Gerd Arntz .

It brings together more than 450 works made with very different techniques -xylography, dry point, linoleum, lithography, among others-, many of them from important private collections, institutions and museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MoMA, in New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; the Library of Congress of the United States, in Washington; the Center Pompidou, in Paris; or the Kunstmuseum in The Hague.

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The first section contrasts the work of José Guadalupe Posada and Käthe Kollwitz, “located at opposite ends of the geopolitical and artistic spectrum.” On the one hand, Posada’s scathing political cartoons, advertisements, and vignettes and, on the other, Kollwitz’s socialist and feminist work.

«Posada’s work, with numerous leaflets, posters and newspapers that served as a reference of a Mexican national identity for decades, dialogues in the exhibition with the designs with which Kollwitz reflects the social dramas of the Germany of the Empire until the First World War World”, explain the commissioners.

The second section is dedicated to the reappearance of the graphic art tradition in the first ten years of German expressionism. Under the impact of Paul Gauguin’s woodcuts, several members of the Die Brücke movement, such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner or Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, spread from 1905 woodcuts and engraving “both as a specific medium of the German artistic tradition and, paradoxically, , a way of presenting a primitive globalism».

The third and largest section is dedicated to the Popular Graphics Workshop. “Post-revolutionary Mexico also experienced the debate on the use of the graphic medium as a communication and education tool for the working and rural classes, a debate that began in newspapers such as Frente a Frente and El Machete,” explain those responsible for the exhibition. “In them, it was doubted that the mural paintings promoted by the State corresponded to the needs of these social classes, and they defended that the graphic media were more effective for that purpose,” they add.

As a dialectical and historical conclusion, the fourth section develops, through extensive documentation, the Isotype project, by Otto Neurath, Marie Reidemeister-Neurath and Gerd Arntz, in its different phases and locations: Düsseldorf, Vienna, Moscow, The Hague and London. “This project gained wide international recognition, both in practical applications for a new and emerging information society and in terms of a theoretical debate about the appropriate functions of the pictorial,” the curators explain.

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