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  • Author or Editor: Merse Pál Szeredi x
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Abstract

This article analyses the 1924/26 paintings by Sándor Bortnyik, known as The New Adam and The New Eve. The interpretation of the paintings that has gained general acceptance in recent decades is that the satiric compositions convey a disillusionment with the avant-garde movements’ belief in social and technical progress. Like many artists in Weimar Germany, Bortnyik in the first half of the 1920s gradually turned away from the utopian avant-garde towards the creation of a “new unity” of art and life. The dissolution of traditional art in architecture and design – areas that exert direct influence on society – became a major focus in the Bauhaus programme. Against this backdrop, Bortnyik’s choice of the traditional art form of panel painting in The New Adam and The New Eve prompts several questions. In my article, I argue that The New Adam and The New Eve are not purely satirical works, but works that simultaneously operate on several levels of meaning. Through references to the visual techniques of Dada and Constructivism, these paintings convey both the utopian and dystopian connotations of the “new man” of Modernism. Bortnyik thus imbued his pictures with irony, an intrinsic feature of the worldview of one variety of the New Objectivity, so that an overall interpretation of the message of the compositions is only possible after decoding each layer. By identifying the visual paraphrases and allusions in Bornyik’s paintings, I show that his compositions offered a criticism of the theoretical debates between Dada and International Constructivism between 1922 and 1924. Through their use of Dadaist and Constructivist imagery the paintings make an ironic contribution to this discourse and, at the same time, invalidate the programmes of these movements.

In: Cannibalizing the Canon
This rich, in-depth exploration of Dada’s roots in East-Central Europe is a vital addition to existing research on Dada and the avant-garde. Through deeply researched case studies and employing novel theoretical approaches, the volume rewrites the history of Dada as a story of cultural and political hybridity, border-crossings, transitions, and transgressions, across political, class and gender lines. Dismantling prevailing notions of Dada as a “Western” movement, the contributors to this volume present East-Central Europe as the locus of Dada activity and techniques. The articles explore how artists from the region pre-figured Dada as well as actively “cannibalized”, that is, reabsorbed and further hybridized, a range of avant-garde techniques, thus challenging “Western” cultural hegemony.
In: Cannibalizing the Canon
In: Cannibalizing the Canon
In: Cannibalizing the Canon
In: Cannibalizing the Canon
In: Cannibalizing the Canon
In: Cannibalizing the Canon