Critics’ Picks

Untitled (with Anna May Wong), ca. 1929.

New York

Marianne Brandt

International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)
250 Bowery
June 9 - August 27

The only woman to complete the Bauhaus Metal Workshop, Marianne Brandt also briefly served as its acting director after László Moholy-Nagy left in 1928. However, she almost never exhibited the photography, photomontage, and collage work she did during her Bauhaus days before the 1960s, perhaps because of the work’s personal and highly political nature. For example, the explicitly feminist montage With All Ten Fingers, ca. 1930, depicts a man controlling strings connected to a prostrate woman made to look like a marionette, while the double-sided Bull-Ass-Monkey/Modern Idols, 1926, muses on violence, fidelity, and gender by juxtaposing photos of Brandt and her husband with provocative headlines and newspaper cutouts of dancing girls. Her compositions are spare, characterized by jarring diagonals and strong contrasts, and often exude a typographical exuberance reminiscent of Futurism. However, unlike Dadaist collages of the same era, Brandt’s work serves as a highly legible—bordering on simplistic—critique of war. For example, Untitled (Airplane, Soldiers and Military Cemetery), 1930, merely aligns weapon-wielding soldiers, a warplane, and a wide view of a military cemetery. The works, which have traveled from the Bauhaus Archive, Harvard, and several other institutions, are easy to overlook in the bland lower-level area of the museum, but their compositional strength and controversial subject matter retain an intensity and political relevance that is plain to see.