Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hans Bellmer

Today is the birthday of Hans Bellmer, born March 13, 1902. Bellmer was born in Kattowitz, Germany and at his father's insistence worked in a steel factory and a coal mine until entering Berlin Polytechnic to study engineering. While in Berlin Bellmer met the artists John Heartfield, Rudolf Schlichter and George Grosz and their friendship and inspiration led him to drop out of college in 1924 to work as a book printer and then as a commercial illustrator.

In 1933, as the Nazi party assumed power, Bellmer resigned his position and refused to continue working as a sign of resistance. He began to construct deliberately provocative sculptures using girlish three-dimensional dolls, which he photographed in erotic poses. Some of these works were published by Bellmer at his own expense in 1934, and others appeared in the Surrealist journal "Le Minotaure," signaling a long association with the European surrealists. In 1938 Bellmer fled Germany for Paris and on the outbreak of the second world war was interned with Max Ernst in a camp near Aix-en-Provence. On being discharged from the camp in 1941, Bellmer renounced his German nationality and fled to Castres. In 1943 Bellmer had his first one-man show at the "Librairie Trentin", a bookshop in Toulouse. It was followed by numerous international Surrealist group shows.

Over the course of his career Bellmer continually explored the subconscious aspect of sexuality by creating hallucinatory sculptural objects, photographs, drawings, prints and paintings. Bellmer never stopped creating evocative and arguably obscene images with which he expressed a rebellion against society, conventional rationality and the dangerously conformist times and places in which he lived.

Hans Bellmer died in Paris in February 1975.

A show of his work is on display in Los Angeles at Galerie Anais through March 31.

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