1917/1918: Looking Backward, Stepping Forward
90036 Los Angeles
This display of European prints and drawings pinpoints two crucial years in Germany and Austria that would define the end of an era and lead toward a new future. Despite the sobering realities of World War I, those living beyond the battlefields sought normalcy in their day-to-day existence. Just as we—a century later—cope with uncertainty and upheaval, they instigated routines, examined their circumstances and beliefs, and escaped into fictional stories, plays, and films. As seen here, artists built on the legacies of Naturalism and Expressionism to evoke the texture and mood of a changing society agitated and energized by change. They also provided imagery for posters and periodicals, graphic forms of communication that inserted art into everyday life.
This selection of works made between 1917 and 1918 is a time capsule of sorts, revealing how artists captured ideas of place and identity, religion and societal norms, and cultural and literary traditions. From the standpoint of their difficult present moment, they turned a weary gaze on the past and a measured stride toward the future we now inhabit in 2017–2018. Drawn from LACMA’s permanent collection, most of these works have rarely been exhibited and many were created by artists who are today little known—yet they retain their power to communicate across the span of a century.
This installation was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.