Decoding Graphic Design


At the time of this pieces creation in 1919 and 1920, Germany was experiencing political chaos after losing WWI. There was a struggle between two political parties, as German society navigated its way out of the old Weimer Republic and into the left-wing Communist movement. Dada artists used photomontage to express messages of critique that censorship would not allow to be put into words, as stated by George Grosz. This Dada art destroys the traditional value of art and creates a new art to replace the old art. Dadaist artists expressed their discontent toward violence, war, and nationalism, and maintained political affinities with the radical far-left. “Cut with the Kitchen Knife…” has a feeling of rapid progress portrayed through a mocking and satirical tone. ( The Museum of Modern Art, “Hannah Hoch: Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimer Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany.” ) Pieces of machine are exploding throughout the montage to symbolize booming industry and culture within an urban area. This booming progress is not displayed in a proud , exciting and dignified manner however, but rather in a circus-like environment. The mood is whimsical to the point of ridiculous, with theatrical expressions and dramatic body language mixed in with images of political figures serving as a critique of the political free-for -all between the old Weimer leaders and the new left-wing communist agenda.

The large head of Keiser Wilhelm II, who was blamed for leading Germany into the disastrous war. His mustache is replaced with two pairs of wrestling legs spouting from either side of his nose. Below Wilhelm is the head of General Hinderberg attached to the body of a belly dancer. And Hoch leaves a clue in the bottom-right corner of the piece, a map showing countries in Europe at this time where women were allowed to vote. This clue reminds the viewer of her interest in pointing out gender issues and inequality within the Dada art world, but also within society as a whole. She couples the heads of prominent male political figures with the bodies of female dancers and showgirls to emasculate them and strip them of their power. (detail)

Hannah Hoch was an outstanding female artist in the Dada movement in Germany after the First World War. She is also one of the most original and striking graphic talents of the Dada movement, Hannah Hoch introduced issues of gender and ethnicity into her collages. (Graphic design history pg.108) As introduced, her collage introduces the issue of gender. In this work, Hoch’s title for this piece illustrates her critique of the “bloated and heavy handed” nature of the male dominated Weimer republic and German military. She chooses to give specifications, such as kitchen knife and beer-belly, to make it clear that this piece is social commentary regarding gender issues in post-war Germany. ( Shearer West, The visual arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and despair ) Hoch’s satiric edge combined with her uncanny eye to produce peculiar hybrid images. Women were major figures and active innovators in the twentieth-century avant-garde, particularly in Germany and Russia. Hoch’s work aggressively attacked stereotypes of women, as well as the distinctions between Western and non-Western cultures.

Work Cited

Shearer West, The visual arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and despair.

The Museum of Modern Art, “Hannah Hoch: Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimer Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany.”

Graphic Design History.

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