Marcel Janco was one of the most influential and active artists at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and among the members of the Dada movement from its inception. He took part in exhibitions and contributed illustrations to Dada periodical and to posters advertising evenings at the Cabaret. These young artists were constantly searching for a new artistic language. Studying architecture at the time at Zurich’s polytechnicum, Janco began experimenting with collage, assemblage and plaster. The works were “carved” in the special material, some painted and others left in their natural color (they subsequently inspired Jean Arp’s poem White on White). Janco’s experience in architecture and his tendency toward constructivism influenced the shapes of the reliefs, which were built of simple and clear-cut geometrical shapes, arranged in well-ordered layers that erupted rhythmically from the static surface, generally at some central point. As Hugo Ball noted in his diary, they had “a logic of their own, devoid of bitterness or irony.” M.L. Mendelsohn wrote of Janco’s work Prayer, that the shape of an arrow that extends beyond the frame of the composition perhaps alludes to a solution to be found in higher spheres. Many of the works are contained within an oval structure. In his collages Janco combined various materials, such as newspaper cuttings, bits of paper and even feathers. His sculptures were made of bent metal cables, as in the sculpture Construction no. 3. Marcel Janco’s Zurich works evoke an erupting energy and abstract elements alongside an architectural elegance and a kind of urban structure that hovers over the compositions.
Although the Dada period was brief, it had a considerable impact on the development of Janco’s work throughout his life. Upon his return to Bucharest in the early 1920s, the geometrical patterns and the structures featured in the illustrations in the periodicals in which he had a hand, and particularly in Contimporanul. In these periodicals there appeared also sketches of utopian structures and designs for theater sets, whose asymmetry and explosion of shapes are reminiscent of the works from his Dadaist period. Most of the works that Janco produced in Zurich and in Romania did not make the journey to Palestine, to which he and his family arrived in January 1941. He returned to the compositions and techniques of the Dada period in a series of reconstructions he produced during the final thirty years of his life in Israel. The works he created here include masks, collages, sculptures and oil paintings, as well as a series of experiments in plaster. Many of them were done in Iche and Aviva Mambush’s printshop in Ein Hod. Janco created his beloved shapes in cement, clay, paper, metal and other materials. His last known series of reliefs was made of gold and completed just before his death in 1984.
Half a century ago, the writer Benjamin Galai wrote as follows about Marcel Janco, to mark the 50th anniversary of Dada: “Bucharest – Zurich – Paris – Bucharest – Ein Hod. Fifty years of Dada, years of Janco. The eternal rebel, sticking tram tickets to the earpieces of telephones, goes on sticking one dream to another, one gallery to another, and creates his own delightful corner…and just as he founded, at his own expense, the first Dadaist periodical, he is still prepared to found academies, to arrange general exhibitions, to quarrel with his friends, to establish literary cabarets, to decorate the road that runs down to the sea from his village with witty paintings – and if this isn’t enough – to engage in painting, sculpture, ceramics, and gobelins.”
The exhibition is simultaneous at Tal Gallery Kfar Vradim 74 Hatzav st
Curators: Raya Zommer-Tal, Ady Greenfeld