Dadamax

The Punching Ball or The Immortality of Buonarroti-also known as dadafex maximus. Self Portrait of Max Ernst-Max Ernst 1920
The Punching Ball or The Immortality of Buonarroti-also known as Dadafex Maximus. Self Portrait of Max Ernst-Max Ernst 1920

The German artist Max Ernst who has been the subject of a number of posts here, was one of the key figures linking Dada to Surrealism. A founding member of Cologne Dada in 1919 Ernst titled himself Dadafex Maximus; Dadamax for short. Ernst experimented with photomontage during this period, the favoured medium of the Dadaists, before switching to collage and painting. Moving to Paris in 1922 he was a prime mover of the transitional period between the dissolution of Paris Dada and the start of Surrealism proper in 1924 with the publication of the First Surrealist Manifesto, known as the mouvement flou.

Above and below are works created in the Dada period, including The Elephant Celebes of 1921, a painting that combines the dreamlike composition of De Chirico with Dada collage techniques and thus anticipating the style so favoured by later Surrealists.

The Elephant Celebes-Max Ernst 1921
The Elephant Celebes-Max Ernst 1921
Little Machine Constructed by Minimax Dadamax in Person,  Max Ernst 1919-1920
Little Machine Constructed by Minimax Dadamax in Person, Max Ernst 1919-1920
The Word or Woman-Bird-Max Ernst 1921
The Word or Woman-Bird-Max Ernst 1921
The Hat Makes the Man-Max Ernst 1920
The Hat Makes the Man-Max Ernst 1920
Physiomythological Diluvian Picture, 1920-Max Ernst & Hans Arp
Physiomythological Diluvian Picture, 1920-Max Ernst & Hans Arp
Oedipus Rex-Max Ernst-1922
Oedipus Rex-Max Ernst-1922
At the First Clear Word-Max Ernst 1923
At the First Clear Word-Max Ernst 1923

A Week of Max Ernst: Monday

of-this-men-shall-know-nothing-1923[1]
Of This Men Shall Know Nothing-Max Ernst 1923
HE 2nd of April  (1891) at 9:15 a.m. Max Ernst had his first contact with the sensible world, when he came out of the egg which his mother had laid  in an eagle’s nest and which the bird had brooded for seven years. Some Data on the Youth of M.E , As Told by Himself.1942

Ernst had a talent for self-mythologising as the above quotes shows. At various times he was Dadamax or Loplop, the Superior of the Birds. His work retains to a remarkable degree a sense of mystery, we feel like we are on the verge of understanding yet we pause and begin to doubt; the answer to the enigma has escaped us and remains as elusive as ever.

Monday’s Ernst, the 1923’s Of This Men Shall Know Nothing (Ernst had a talent for titles) is a excellent example of the cryptic nature of Ernst’s art. Is it a pictorial representation of a Freudian case study, an illustration of alchemical and esoteric doctrine, or a prophetic declaration of the coming of Surrealism? The inscription on the back of painting, ‘This painting is curious because of its symmetry. The two sexes balance one another.’ would seem to point to esotericism, as one of the key tenets of the occult world-view is the reconciliation of opposites; Sun and Moon, Day and Night, Male and Female. Yet the partial eclipse where the moon seems to be gaining ascendancy could signify the rise of Surrealism and the reclamation of the rights of the unconscious and irrationality. Loplop, the Superior of the Birds, sings the answer to the riddle, but although we admire the beauty of the song, remain none the wiser.