Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Max Ernst

""The expressive possibilities of collage seem so simple that one is tempted to think that anyone could employ them to equal effect. Yet when one reviews the works of this early period - the printer's plate prints, say, those compositions made with the aid of old line blocks found in a printer's shop - it becomes obvious that Max Ernst's brilliant accomplishment consisted of having developed a syntax by which the employment of this found material could be controlled. For all their independence from traditional artistic techniques and the imitation of nature, it is surprising how much stylistic unity these works evince. Thanks to his stylistic syntax Ernst created recognizable links between the works, which form a coherent sequence. Criteria of choice and criteria of employment are everywhere in evidence. Indeed, the effect of every Max Ernst image depends largely on the fact that it sets its own limits. One might add, as a general principle, that the collages and frottages (and the painting and sculpture derived from these techniques) arc so astonishingly effective because their creator succeeded in placing conscious restrictions on the arbitrariness and amorphousness to which such semi-automatic techniques all too easily lead. Ernst not only created individual, disparate works; more importantly, with the aid of variations and series, he simultaneously created the climate in which these works live and breathe. And one should note that it was a climate his contemporaries found almost unbearably bracing. In an announcement in die schammade for the portfolio Fiat modes - pereat ars Max Ernst characterized himself, in an untranslatable pull on the German word for uterus, Gebarmutter, as 'der gebaervater methodischen irrsinns', the male mother of methodical madness. If we take 'methodical' to be the operative term which reveals the essence of his procedure, we have the precondition for the fascinating developments that now began."

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