Press Releases

The Akron Art Museum presents John Heartfield vs. Nazi Germany, On View Aug. 30 - Nov. 30, 2008

For Release: July 2008

Akron, Ohio, July 28, 2008 — “Use photography as a weapon.” This was John Heartfield’s battle cry in his struggle to prevent the Nazis from gaining power in Germany in the 1930s. Rather than creating documentary photography like many socially conscious photographers of the era, Heartfield created photomontages by combining several separate photographs to create one image with a specific message. John Heartfield vs. Nazi Germany, on view at the Akron Art Museum August 30 - November 30, 2008 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery, presents 40 original Heartfield photomontages created between 1932 and 1936, all from the museum’s collection. The Akron Art Museum is one of only three art museums in the United States to possess substantial holdings of Heartfield’s art.

Born Helmut Herzfeld, he chose to call himself Heartfield in 1916 to criticize the rabid nationalism and anti-British sentiment prevalent in Germany during World War I. His photomontages are satirical commentaries that attacked fascism and the Nazi regime and were made by cutting and joining parts from several photographs which he either took, commissioned or found, and re-photographing them to form a seamless image. Heartfield gained international recognition for his photomontages after he was hired by AIZ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung or Workers’ Illustrated Paper), one of the many illustrated German tabloids in the late 1920s and 1930s. Heartfield regarded the printed magazine page, which was a photogravure, as his finished work of art. In addition to the original works, all of which are from AIZ, a complete issue of the magazine will be on view to demonstrate their original context.

Text and images illuminating the historical context for the works are an important component of the exhibition’s design, which is being created by Christopher Hoot, Associate Professor at the Myers School of Art of The University of Akron in collaboration with the museum’s head preparator Joseph Walton.

Although Heartfield’s works were acquired by the museum between 1979 and 1981, this is the first time all have been viewed together. Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and additional funding from the Mary and Louis S. Myers Foundation, the museum was able to have the previously fragile works conserved at the Intermuseum Conservation Association in Cleveland in 2005-2006, allowing them to finally be displayed to the public.

The bite of Heartfield’s images remains sharp. While the countries, names and faces may have changed, many of the abuses of power lampooned in his images still occur around the world today.

This exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation and Dianne and Herbert Newman.

Exhibition Related Event

Veterans Salute
November 9 – 15, 2008.
In honor of Veterans Day, all veterans of any branch of the United States Armed Forces will receive free admission to the Akron Art Museum, by presenting valid identification.

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