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Bio Art  

Suzanne Anker

From Anatomical studies to landscape painting to the Biomorphism of Surrealism, the biological realm historically provided a significant resource for numerous artists. More recently, Bio Art became a term referring to intersecting domains that comprise advances in the biological sciences and their incorporation into the plastic arts. Of particular importance in works of Bio Art is to summon awareness of the ways in which the accelerating biomedical sciences alter social, ethical and cultural values in society.

Coming to the fore in the early 1990s Bio Art is neither media specific nor locally bounded. It is an international movement with practitioners in such regions as Europe, the US, Russia, Australia and the Americas. Several subgenres of Bio Art exist within this overarching term:

(i) Artists who employ the iconography of the 20th and 21st century sciences, including molecular and cellular genetics, transgenically altered living matter and reproductive technologies as well as the diverse fields of neuroscience. All traditional media such as painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking and drawing are employed to convey novel ways of representing life forms. Images of chromosomes, the double helix, magnetic resonance imaging body scans and neuroanatomy comprise this iconography. The molecular underpinnings of the living world have also become visible through high technological instrumentation when artists incorporate such pictorialisations as part of their practice. Representations span both genotypic variations and phenotypic ones. Artists include Suzanne Anker (...

Article

Mona Hadler

(b Cologne, June 25, 1920; d New York, Feb 6, 1984).

American painter of German birth. His father was the prominent Surrealist artist Max(imilian) Ernst and his mother was the art historian and journalist Louise [Lou] Straus-Ernst. In 1935 he was apprenticed as a typographer in the printing firm of J. J. Augustin in Glückstadt where he set type for anthropological studies. The company worked to attain a visa for Ernst, whose mother was Jewish, and he departed Germany one week before Kristallnacht in 1938; his mother was to die in Auschwitz at the end of the war. Ernst passionately recounts these events in his memoir, A Not-So-Still Life, published in 1984, the year of his death.

In 1941, on the recommendation of gallerist Julien Levy, Ernst was employed by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. After welcoming his father to the city, he began to work for Peggy Guggenheim, which placed him securely within the Surrealist émigré community and burgeoning New York school along with friends such as the painter William Baziotes. His career as an art dealer advanced in tandem with his painting production. With Eleanor Lust, he opened the experimental Norlyst Gallery in ...

Article

Malcolm Gee

(b Brühl, nr Cologne, April 2, 1891; d Paris, April 1, 1976).

German painter, printmaker, and sculptor, naturalized American in 1948 and French in 1958. He was a major contributor to the theory and practice of Surrealism (see Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale, 1924). His work challenged and disrupted what he considered to be repressive aspects of European culture, in particular Christian doctrine, conventional morality, and the aesthetic codes of Western academic art. Until the mid-1920s he was little known outside a small circle of artists and writers in Cologne and Paris, but he became increasingly successful from c. 1928 onwards. After 1945 he was respected and honoured as a surviving representative of a ‘heroic’ generation of avant-garde artists.

Article

(b London, Dec 27, 1901; d Paris, May 4, 1988).

English printmaker, draughtsman and painter, active in France and the USA. He came from a family of painters, including George Hayter, but started his career by studying chemistry and geology at King’s College, London (1917–21). After graduating he worked in the Persian Gulf for several years for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In 1926 he settled in Paris, where he enrolled at the Académie Julian and studied burin engraving privately with the Polish artist Joseph Hecht (1891–1951), who also taught Anthony Gross. Hayter began to take his own pupils in 1927 and in 1933 named his workshop Atelier 17, after the street number of his studio in the Rue Campagne-Première. The hallmark of the workshop was its egalitarian structure, breaking sharply with the traditional French engraving studios by insisting on a cooperative approach to labour and technical discoveries. In 1929 Hayter was introduced to Surrealism by Yves Tanguy and ...

Article

Mark Haworth-Booth

(b Great Falls, MT, Dec 14, 1890; d New York, Oct 22, 1954).

American designer and painter, active in England. He studied painting first, at evening classes at the Mark Hopkins Institute, San Francisco (1910–12), at the Art Institute of Chicago, with lettering (1912), and in Paris at the Académie Moderne (1913–14). In 1912 he adopted the name of an early patron, Professor Joseph McKnight (1865–1942), as a gesture of gratitude. In 1914 he settled in Britain.

From 1915 McKnight Kauffer designed posters for companies such as London Underground Railways (1915–40), Shell UK Ltd, the Daily Herald and British Petroleum (1934–6). One of his master works, Soaring to Success! Daily Herald—The Early Bird (1919; see Haworth-Booth, fig.), was derived from Japanese prints and from Vorticism. In 1920 he was a founder-member of Group R with Wyndham Lewis and others. McKnight Kauffer’s designs included illustrations for T. S. Eliot’s Ariel Poems...

Article

Leland M. Roth and Gordon Campbell

(John)

(b Vienna, Sept 22, 1890; d New York, Dec 27, 1965).

American architect, stage designer, furniture designer and writer of Austrian birth. In 1920 he worked with Adolf Loos in Vienna. He was also in contact with the artists associated with De Stijl and began experimenting with innovative theatre designs. In 1924 he produced the Endless Theatre design. The ‘Endless’ was a double-curved shell of reinforced concrete that could enclose any irregularly traditional divisions into floor, wall, and ceiling but offered the inhabitant an open interior that could be modified at will. For the theatre he adapted the ‘Endless’ by devising a double-spiral stage interconnected by ramps and rings of spectator seats. Kiesler believed that the Endless Theatre, without proscenium or curtain, projecting out into the audience, with perpetually moving walls bathed in light of ever changing colour, would promote greater interaction between actors and audience.

For the celebrated Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925...

Article

Elaine O’Brien

(Mathilde)

(b Saint Mandé, Val de Marne, Nov 17, 1910; d July 20, 1993).

French painter, active also in the USA. Lamba graduated in 1929 from the Ecole de l’Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Employed as a designer, she was attracted to the fine art she saw in such places as the studio of the Cubist painter André Lhote, where her friend Dora Maar, the Surrealist photographer and intimate of Picasso, was studying painting. Probably influenced by Maar, Lamba experimented with photography. She read and identified closely with Symbolist poets Baudelaire and Rimbaud and illustrated Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus. In 1934 she read Les vases communicants (1932) by André Breton, whose Surrealist poetry and Communist politics captured her admiration. Lamba immediately orchestrated a meeting with Breton, which proved fateful. Breton saw in Lamba the ideal muse to his genius and she inspired his book, L’Amour fou (1937). They married months after meeting and had a daughter in 1935. For the next decade Lamba was at the centre of Breton’s circle creating Surrealist art. In ...

Article

Mona Hadler

(b Lucerne, April 8, 1918; d. Meilen, April 25, 25).

American painter of Swiss birth. Although Sekula was born and died in Switzerland, she spent the greater portion of her artistic career in America. Sekula was a major figure in the Surrealist circles in New York in the 1940s as well as a friend and collaborator to choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage , who were to play a dominant role in the art world of the 1950s. Coming to New York in l936, she studied art with George Grosz , enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College, and then, from 1941 until 1942, painted at the Art Students League under Morris Kantor. She was quickly catapulted into the Surrealist émigré circles in New York City. In 1943 she contributed a drawing and text to the New York Surrealist Magazine VVV, edited by her friend the sculptor David Hare. For that magazine she also collaborated on a Surrealist experimental work with Max Ernst, André Breton, Roberto Matta and Marcel Duchamp. Indicative of her inclusion in Breton’s circle, she was invited to exhibit at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery, Art of This Century, where she participated in various group shows and held a solo exhibition in ...

Article

Celia Rabinovitch

(b Basle, July 20, 1900; d Sugar Loaf, NY, Jan 2, 1962).

American painter, printmaker, sculptor, stage designer and writer of Swiss birth. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva (1920) and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence (1927). From this training he drew upon two dominant influences, combining a predilection for the illusionistic deep space and the clear vibrant colour of the Italian tradition with the fantastic narratives explored by earlier Swiss artists such as Johann Heinrich Füseli, Ferdinand Hodler, Urs Graf and Niklaus Manuel Deutsch.

In 1929 Seligmann moved to Paris, where he remained until 1938 and where he became associated with Surrealists. While in Paris he also became a member of Abstraction–Création and an acquaintance of Le Corbusier as well as Hans Arp, whose example led him to explore deliberately ambiguous biomorphic imagery. Although he did not formally join the Surrealist movement until 1937, he participated in Surrealist exhibitions throughout the 1930s and made use of organic and fantastic forms, often fusing natural with artificial elements. His paintings and etchings of this period, distinguished by their high degree of finish, make striking use of masks and of dancing figures constructed of abstract forms. Their sense of play, secrecy and concealment recalls the animism of the fairy tale and the Gothic tradition of northern Europe. The element of drama, tension and struggle in the dance is particularly apparent in his depiction of multiple figures. He worked in white tempera on a reddish ground, glazing over that layer with transparent colour and black outline. The highlights were added at the end in keeping with a traditional systematic approach to the illusionistic depiction of space....

Article

Joyce Zemans

(Leonard)

(b Shoeburyness, Essex, Feb 4, 1909; d Vancouver, BC, Nov 22, 1998).

Canadian painter, draughtsman and writer of English birth. In 1912 his family emigrated to British Columbia. Educated at Victoria College, BC (1926–7), and the Provincial Normal School in Victoria (1929), he studied art at the Euston Road Art School, London (1937), the André Lhote School of Art, Paris (1938), and the Art Students’ League, New York (1948–9). From 1929 to 1937 he taught art to children in Vancouver and in 1938 joined the Vancouver School of Art, where he was head of painting and drawing from 1945 to 1966. In 1944–5 he served with the Canadian war artists. In 1955 he became the first instructor at the Emma Lake Workshop, Regina College, Sask. He also executed costume and poster designs for theatre and dance, as well as murals for Edmonton Airport, the National Arts Centre, Ottawa, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Vancouver....