PRINT December 2006

Elizabeth Schambelan

1 “Dada” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) “It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style.” Oscar Wilde’s aphorism, which came to mind as I wended my way through MoMA’s rendition of this sprawling bazaar of a traveling show (co-organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris), seems weirdly germane to the Dadaists. In their efforts to come to grips with “real tragedy”—World War I, modernity in general—they met reality on its own ground, pioneering the use of “inartistic” manners, ludic absurdities, and a pointed lack of style in the practice of art. Duchamp and Schwitters, of course, aren’t the whole story. With revelatory works by Hannah Höch and other lesser-knowns, this

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