Pure geometric forms, including the sphere, the circle, and the cylinder, are interrelated in classic Bauhaus style in the iconic teapots, bowls, and ashtrays that Marianne Brandt designed in the 1920s in Germany and later in France. In 1924, Brandt distinguished herself as the only woman to apprentice and complete studies at the Bauhaus’s Metal Workshop, an integral part of this influential art and architecture school. Less-well known, however, are her amazing — and amazingly contemporary-looking — photomontages, which were created in the mid 1920s and early 1930s but not shown for more than 40 years. These works are both personal and political; they explore a time of great change in German culture and society through its own imagery, as Brandt found it and clipped it out of the mass-media publications of her time. More than 30 are on view in “Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt,” which opens at Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum on March 11. Their fragmented, kaleidoscopic quality seems to embody the modern sensibility; Brandt uses public imagery in the service of personal expression, mirroring our own inundation with imagery and our struggle to reconcile public and private. The social issues she examines continue to resonate: the role of women, and images of men in society — boxers, business tycoons, soldiers — who can be seen to represent the problematic links among manhood, aggression, and militarism in the wake of World War I.
Perhaps the intervening years have also had a strange, inverse effect on how we experience the realities of life and politics; Boston-based artist Samantha Fields, who may be watching a bit too much TV, sees the spectacle in the private, exploring domestic space through the metaphor of the circus in her installation “Life-o-rama,” which opens at the Essex Art Center in Lawrence on March 3. As the Center’s press release aptly points out, “With an explosion in the popularity and number of ‘reality TV’ shows, especially those that go into private homes to make public all that goes on within those inner most sanctums — Trading Spouses, Nanny 911, How Clean Is Your House? — home as theater has never been a more accurate comparison.”
Fresh air, the great outdoors, this is reality, right? Not in “Hilary Tolan: Beloved” (Kingston Gallery opening March 3), where the Boston-based artist juxtaposes organic material including grasses, roots, and rock with silk and plastic replicas of nature. It’s yet another manifestation of the currency of “collage” — in this case, sculpture, installation, photography, and work on paper.
“Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt” | Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum, 32 Quincy St, Cambridge | March 11–May 21 | 617.495.9400 | “Hilary Tolan: Beloved” | Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave, #43, Boston | March 3–April 1 | 617.423.4113 | “Life-o-rama” | Essex Art Center, 56 Island St, Lawrence | March 3–April 7 | 978.685.2343
On the Web:
Harvard Art Museums: www.artmuseums.harvard.edu
Kingston Gallery: www.kingstongallery.com
Essex Art Center: www.essexartcenter.com