Critics’ Picks

Raoul Hausmann, Peasant House (Can Rafal), 1934, gelatin silver print, 15 x 12".


Raoul Hausmann

Jeu de Paume
1 place de la Concorde
February 6–May 20

While one tends to associate Dada with anarchy, political anger, and the antiaesthetic, one encounters much quietude and refined formal beauty in this outstanding survey of Raoul Hausmann’s lesser known photography, expertly curated by Cécile Bargues. Hausmann’s images are exceptional in their versatility and fluency in various photographic styles. Some of his landscapes and still lifes, such as Untitled (Tree Stumps on the Beach), 1931, anthropomorphize forms in the natural world and evoke Surrealism, while his photographs of peasant houses in Ibiza between 1933 and 1936, including Can Nadal de Baix, Sant Josep, 1936, reveal his masterful understanding of architectural photography.

Though Hausmann was one of modernism’s true innovators, he seemed to have had an ambivalent relationship with modernity itself. Indeed, his techniques here are unmistakably of the era, as he experimented with montage, collage, and abstraction—the latter of which is illustrated beautifully by his shadow pictures from 1931. But the images of machines, industrial objects, and urban life that fascinated his contemporaries are conspicuously absent. The only architecture he ever photographed was that of the homes in Ibiza. The artist’s photographs are hard to categorize: Though they were made with a modern sensibility, they do not offer a facile definition of modernity. His unwillingness to be placed into any easy, accessible niche is especially obvious in this portion of his oeuvre. Here, the more confrontational aspects of Dada have been passed over in favor of subtlety and elegance.