Otto Dix, "Group Portrait: Günther Franke, Paul Ferdinand Schmidt, and Karl Nierendorf," 1923, oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 15-3/4 x 29-1/8." Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
The Otto Dix retrospective at the Neue Galerie includes more than 100 pieces and addresses four themes: Dix’s traumatic experiences as a soldier in World War I, portraiture, sexuality, and religious and allegorical painting. The show includes his best known work—paintings from the Weimar years, and also includes Dix’s work from the early 1920s, as well as his later work, produced as veiled protest against the Third Reich.
Roberta Smith reports that Dix's tour of duty in World War I, as with most German artists of his generation, was a formative experience. "He emerged from nearly four years in the trenches physically unscathed but psychically scarred. He attempted exorcism with 'Der Krieg' ('The War'), a suite of 50 mostly masterly etchings published by Nierendorf in 1924. They convey a searing sense of the physical horror of war — most prominently wounded and rotting flesh — that remains unmatched in the history of art....In many ways Dix looked fresher and more imposing in the 'Glitter and Doom' exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art two years ago. He is especially hurt here by a shortage of black- chalk and pencil drawings. But the show might have gained immeasurably from a chronological installation. It would have been shocking to see the hysterical 'Memory of the Halls of Mirrors' with Dix’s other paintings from 1919-21, which are the most tender and the most tenderly painted in the show....Dix’s achievement deserves a bigger museum. This show leaves us to piece together his wildness as best we can. There are wonderful rewards, but the first Dix retrospective in North America will also be the last for a while. It should have been overwhelming."
In the New York Post, Barbara Hoffman writes that "some, especially the war scenes -- drawn from his time in the trenches of World War I -- are almost too painful to look at. But it's all mesmerizing, thanks to his unflinching eye, acid wit and kinky sexuality."
Learn how to pronounce "Schjeldahl" and "Weimar" by listening to Peter Schjeldahl's New Yorker audio slide show. He analyzes several of Dix's major works, including a series of fifty etchings based on his experiences as a machine gunner during the First World War.
Otto Dix, "Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin," 1927. Courtesy Neue Galerie.
On Vanity Fair's Beauty Blog, Alannah Arguelles asks "Have you ever looked at a painting and wondered how you could somehow make its beauty your own?" Apparently the Neue Galerie collaborated with Estée Lauder (both Ronald Lauder productions) to launch "a blazing fire-engine-red lipstick and Bauhaus-style mirror compact" to celebrate the Dix retrospective. Shameless. Or brilliant? I can't decide.
"Otto Dix," organized by Olaf Peters. Neue Galerie, New York, NY. Through August 20, 2010.