Thursday, July 23, 2009

Out today: Review of Angelika Hoerle @ the AGO

When I saw the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibition info earlier this fall and saw a show on an unheard-of "comet of Cologne dada," I was intrigued. Who was this gal? I signed up to review it for NOW. But sadly, as my review published today reports, the result was disappointment. An excerpt:

The show, tantalizingly pitched as a look at “the comet of Cologne Dada,” starts straightforwardly enough. It shows us Angelika Hoerle as a girl, promises to reveal her connections to art and politics in between-the-wars Germany and establish her standing as an early feminist artist.

Unfortunately, the show fails to deliver on these promises.

The first issue is overstatement. Hoerle, sadly, died at 23, far too young to have made an outstanding body of work. A lot of the art displayed is by her Dada colleagues, husband Heinrich included. Also, her pieces feel more like sketches than finished works.

As I try to suggest in my review, I think this show could have worked better if the AGO had included or explained more elements of Hoerle's story in the show -- like the starting off with the fact that Angelika is "our local connection to Cologne dada", because Hoerle's grandneice ended up living in Ontario and donating her archive to the AGO.

It also would have helped to note in the show trajectory the reason Angelika died so young (tuberculosis) and also the fact that her husband left her in part because he was threatened by her growing art practice (this would have gone a long way to supporting the argument, made in the opening wall panels, that Angelika fought against the odds as a woman artist).

I never enjoy giving bad reviews, but the fact is the AGO could have done a lot better in presenting this Angelika archive -- contextualizing both why it's on view in the museum (a homegrown accompaniment to a German touring show on dada) and describing how Angelika's life progressed.

Image of one of Hoerle's drawings from NOW Toronto

No comments: