"How will art react when the world goes crazy?" - this is the question asked by Marcel Janko, an artist of Romanian origin who has become an international star that has received immense recognition. He found his answer in Dadaism - an art that turned the world upside down.
In January 1941, unprecedented violence erupted in Bucharest, perpetuated by the infamous Iron Guard, a fascist group of Romanian radicals who rebelled against dictator Ion Antonescu's attempts to remove them. Anti-Semitic and viciously nationalist legionaries led by Horia Sima killed Jews sympathizing with the Communists and other "national traitors", wreaking havoc and destruction in the city.
In the midst of this madness, one person watched the unfolding violence, unable to come to terms with these new realities. It was then that the Jewish-Romanian artist Marcel, who had already been recognized for his contribution by the time fascism invaded Romania, made the most difficult decision of his life. After years of struggle and hope, he finally decided to leave Romania. The murders at the slaughterhouse in Stralucesti, the stories of his friends and the events he witnessed in those days, inspired the horrors depicted in his many drawings.
He wondered what art could do when the world went crazy. Swinging between styles and ideologies, Marcel ultimately found his answer in Dadaist art, declaring that the artist would lose if he began to ignore the madness around him.
Marcel was born in 1895 and recalled his childhood as "a time of freedom and spiritual enlightenment." He spent his early years surrounded by prominent Romanian intellectuals in the rapidly growing Bucharest. It was around this time that Romania expanded its territory, built its nation and invested in its capital, laying the foundation for an unprecedented cultural revival within its borders. In the interwar period, such world stars appeared as the composer George Enescu, the sculptor Constantin Brancusi (Brancusi), the artist Stefan Luchian and the playwright Eugene Ionesco. Yanko was fortunate enough to meet most of them in the Romanian capital.
Unlike Enescu and Brancusi, who were both ethnic Romanians of modest descent, Marseille, the future co-author of Dadaism and an adherent of constructivism, was born into a respectable Jewish-Romanian family. He received an excellent education that allowed him to pursue a career in urban design, painting, architecture and some other applied arts.
Several overlapping legacies influenced Marseille in its early days. His Jewish heritage matched his Romanian upbringing, and his interest in Western constructivism rivaled his fascination with the Russian avant-garde. His artistic connections extended across Europe, and his curiosity knew no bounds.
The growing Symbolist movement influenced the early years of Marseille in Romania. Having conquered all types of art, it swept across Europe, gaining particular popularity in the Balkans and in Russia. Symbolism originated in France and has inspired a new generation of artists who have departed from the previously popular realistic and neoclassical movements.
Symbolism first invaded the literature promoted by such famous Romanian poets as Alexandru Macedonski and Adrian Maniu. The new aesthetics brought depleted forms, romanticized decadence, and an intense use of symbolic language in poetry.It was in these symbolic clubs that Marseille first met the Romanian literary elite and struck up a long friendship with Tristan Tzara.
In comparison with this "sophisticated pessimism", reality seemed dull and dull. Thus, in 1912, Janko joined the Symbolists as editor of their main art magazine, Simbolul, and went so far as to ask his parents to support the venture. After all, symbolism, like the Art Nouveau movement, took off in Romania, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of Marseille. Almost all of the prominent Romanian artists of the time dabbled in symbolism, including Tzara, who later looked embarrassed at his symbolist experiments. On the other hand, the artist Stefan Lukyan and his passion for Art Nouveau left an indelible and more successful imprint on Romanian art, perfectly reflecting the aesthetics of those days.
Although Marcel was fascinated by Stefan, he did not follow in his footsteps. He wanted to go beyond symbols. Symbolism was neither rebellious enough nor revolutionary enough for a young artist. Later in his life, Marcel writes: “We have lost confidence in our culture. Everything had to be demolished. " For the first time, he found a way to parse reality in the absurdist verses of a Romanian clerk who became an expert on the literature of Urmuz. Inspired by both the rise of futurism with its anti-establishment absurdism and its proactive view of reality, Marseille decided to leave Romania and see new trends in art for himself. He was particularly interested in the Sonderbund, a group of artists who presented contemporary art from West Germany. However, Janko's path led to Switzerland, the birthplace of Dadaist art.
After the outbreak of World War I, Marseille had little desire to remain in Romania. The only place in Europe where the war did not interfere with art, in his opinion, was Zurich. Janko's pacifist sentiments and his intense resentment about the war shaped not only his political and cultural ideas, but also his life. Marcel's thoughts on Dadaist art arose as a protest against a reality that blindly accepted violence.
In Zurich, he studied chemistry and architecture. He soon ran out of money and turned into a cabaret performer playing the accordion in nightclubs. It was one of those evenings that Marcel, Tristan Tzara and Janko's younger brother met Hugo Ball, the German writer best known for developing "sound poetry." was known as Anti-Art.
In war-torn Europe, a group of young and educated people protested like no other: they brought the madness of reality onto the stage of their small club, thus founding the Voltaire cabaret. In grotesque masks and absurd costumes, they ridiculed both contemporary art and contemporary politics. Tzara claimed to have coined the word "Dada" by opening a random page in the dictionary, but this is far from the case. In a sense, Dadaism was the creation of Ball, Yanko, Tzara and the rest of their company.
During his time in Zurich, Marseille made a significant contribution to the art of Dadaism, creating his paper costumes and masks. One of these masks later became the most recognizable portrait of Tristan Tzara - a distorted face with a monocle. This mask-portrait illustrated Tzara's idea of the so-called "approximate man" - an abstract human being.
Marseille's anti-war sentiment and rebellious spirit were not the only motivations for his flight into Dadaist art. With the help of Dadaism, he was also able to show the madness of the world to all those who viewed the rise of radical ideologies as the new normal. With his stage props, masks and costumes, he demonstrated the absurdity of everything that was happening around him.
Marseille created Dada art for art's sake, mixing trends and experimenting with forms.His canvas, depicting an evening at Voltaire's cabaret, for example, mixes the brightness of Fauvism with the sharp angles characteristic of primitivism. Relying on collages and montages, he rebelled against traditional drawings, creating absurd, often funny and always strange works. Marseille was inspired in part by the folk masks of his native Romania, as well as by his discovery of various African folk art movements that he did not fully understand.
While Tzara turned to nihilism in art, Yanko saw something different in the absurd speeches of his Dadaist colleagues. The world could go crazy, but Marcel had to show it while staying sane. Thus, he joined the constructivist movement and began exhibiting with them. He supported their Neue Kunst while still creating Dadaist art. However, by the end of the First World War, the artist began to draw closer to the German Expressionists, drawing inspiration from their style. This influence was already evident in his 1917 painting Floral Geometry, where Marseille tried to combine colorful textured areas protruding from the canvas with the asymmetry of dada. The artist has turned to expressionist and Dadaist motives many times in his life - always when there was a war in his mind.
During the interwar period, Marseille spent time torn between his beloved Romania and Western Europe. Fascinated by Theo van Doosburg, he became a pioneer of constructivism in Romania. In 1927, Marseille conceived what would later become his most iconic feat as an architect - Villa Fuchs in Bucharest. Combining flat white facades with spacious, light interiors, he created a series of terraces and balconies connected by simple walkways and accentuated by porthole windows. Inspired by the constructivist principles and elongated shapes of Brancusi's sculptures, Marseille reinterpreted Romanian modernism in architecture.
Brancusi's theory of the spirituality of form, his experiments with Romanian folklore and constructivist ideas influenced Janko to such an extent that he decided to do in architecture what his compatriot did in sculpture. To achieve this goal, he created an architectural bureau called the Office of Modern Studies.
The controversial public reaction to Villa Fuchs only increased Marseille's fame by attracting more commissions. Soon enough, he built modernist villas in the most exclusive areas of the Romanian capital, many of which are still famous today. Famous for creating the first cubist housing in Bucharest for his friend Poldi Chapier, Marseille soon designed an apartment building for his family and their residents. While working simultaneously as an architect and editor for Contîmporanul, Romania's oldest avant-garde magazine, he forged connections with some of Europe's most prominent intellectuals and artists.
In the 1930s, Marseille joined the art society of the world famous philosopher Mircea Eliade "Criterion". It was then that Janko became interested in urbanism, convincing the Bucharest authorities that his city needed regulated urban planning. His functional relationship to art prompted the construction of practical and pristine residential buildings that combined easy access with minimal decoration and unusual shapes. Marseille's Solly Gold apartment and his Alexandrescu building were perhaps the most representative of his works, demonstrating Marseille's interest in block design and artistic clarity. His connection with Eliade also helped him earn an excellent income at the time.
Tragically enough, Eliade and many other Romanian intellectuals soon fell under the influence of growing nationalist movements and fascism in the late 1930s.Marseille could only watch as madness seizes Romania, unable to change the outcome. With the advent of the Iron Guard, Janko's Jewish heritage became a problem, like any other deviation from illusory Romanian origins. Even Ion Vinea, a youthful friend of Yanko and an outstanding poet, has been criticized for his Greek roots.
Marseille left Romania reluctantly, driven out by the growing fascist movement. Like many intellectuals of Jewish origin, he renounced all nationalism, including even its Jewish variety. Marseille proudly bore the nickname “Cosmopolitan Jew,” which was bestowed upon him by Romanian right-wing radicals. The artist turned to Zionism, while his friend Tzara turned to communism, preferring a romantic and libertarian interpretation of Marxism. When the world went crazy again, Marcel could do nothing but fight his art. He moved to British Palestine and Israel with his second wife and their little daughter.
He survived World War II and lived to tell the story in several of his paintings, some of which were the result of the horrors he saw in Bucharest before leaving the country. Others, such as The Wounded Soldier, were Marcel's expressionist reflections on the Israeli-Arab conflict in 1948.
Becoming an international star, Marseille exhibited his work in the Israel Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and even set up an art colony in the once-abandoned settlement of Ein Hod. While living in Israel, he adopted a more abstract way of painting. However, his Dada past never left him. In the 1960s, he created Symbols, painted frames of shapes suspended in space, reminiscent of Paul Klee, whose art he once appreciated when he lived in Zurich.
Perhaps in a world that seemed too crazy, the art of Dada could really make those around Marseille understand his point of view. The artist often returned to Dadaism in his later life. For example, in his "Imaginary Animals" series, he once again recalled the poems of Urmuz and his Symbolist youth, which led him to Dadaist art. His illusion of an animal paradise combined abstract shapes and fantastic colors. In the end, for Marcel, everything abstract became a new reality.
He modernized not only Romanian but also Israeli art, transferring the legacy of constructivism from Romania to Jerusalem. Fascinated by the local landscapes, Marseille joined other artists and again looked for new ideas, never abandoning his old hobbies.
He was instrumental in the development of the Israeli avant-garde, designing a pair of Mediterranean Modernist villas in Tel Aviv and expanding his art village at Ein Hod. In the last years of his life, Marcel wrote:.
Once despised and persecuted for his cosmopolitan views, Marseille made his universalist approach to art a search that broke boundaries and was never distracted from reality. When he died at Ein Hod in 1984, he was an international star with an unparalleled reputation.
Urban planner, designer, art theorist, artist, Janko has always considered himself a Dadaist in nature (despite his later disagreements with Tzara), never deviating from his Jewish heritage, he cherished his Romanian heritage. In many ways, Marseille was one of the most versatile and versatile artists of the twentieth century. His work reflected the ingenuity of the avant-garde and included many styles and forms, always reminding the world of what it could be if creativity were given free rein.
Marcel Janko is not the only person whose work literally drives the world crazy. Collages created by Lola Dupre are shocking at the same time, intrigue and arouse interest, forcing you to close your eyes, because the image is so strong that it makes you dizzy.
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