What is Dada art? A deeply complex art movement of the early 20th century, Dada artists (as many artists do) responded to world events and politics of the time by rejecting societal norms and aestheticism. How does something potentially confusing for young children get their attention? By showing Marcel Duchamp's version of the Mona Lisa.
This painting definitely was a conversation starter. We discussed "readymades" and artists of the time creating something new and different, even at the risk of being criticized. Students became eager to transform their chosen works of art--traditional paintings that could be viewed as stuffy or boring by the Dada artists. Students were given a variety of collage and mixed media materials to work with and the results were spectacular!
We then turned to another artist emerging from the Dada era, considered one of the pioneers of the Happenings and Fluxus movements, Wolf Vostell. Vostell was known for embedding objects, in particular vehicles and televisions into concrete...a different use of a ready-made. Before we began introducing Vostell's work, students were asked to choose one small plastic animal or a small car and observe it, draw it, and then sink it inside plaster students mixed. Once sunken, students were again asked to draw their observations. Upon the plaster hardening, students used ink to stain the plaster.
The next part of our Dadaist-inspired art making came from acclaimed assemablage artist, Robert Rauschenberg, who many think kick started the Pop Art movement. Students were given a variety of materials to work from to create their own mini-assemblages...mixing 2D and 3D planes, again inciting great conversation and questioning of the art movement and artists.