In his current exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Germanic Museum entitled "A Piece of My World," George Grosz has presented on canvas a realistic nightmare.
Though born in America, Grosz has spent most of his 56 years in Germany. During his entire artistic career he has depicted and satirized many types of human folly; but he has always reserved his most savage and telling strokes for the institution of War. "A Piece of My World" contains works by Grosz that are taken from many stages of his career. Despite a regrettable lack of dates on most of the paintings, the observer can follow Grosz' progress from early attacks on specific, topical subjects to abstract, but unmistakable blows at broad subjects like warfare and wretchedness.
The most startling work in the group, apart from aesthetic considerations, is his pen drawing, "The White General," dated 1919. Standing against a background of human misery and brutality, is an exact representation of the Nazi of World War H--complete with Storm Trooper helmet and swastika insignia. Grosz saw things very clearly 30 years ago.
Technically, Grosz ranges widely. Some of his early works show the influence of the first Italian abstractionists; others, like his "The Horseman is Here Again" and "Christ in a Gas Mask," have much of the quality of Durer's woodcuts. Later watercolors, however, are pure reflections of his own creativeness. These paintings, dating from 1946 to the present, repeatedly picture a twisted, angular, skeleton-like creature whom Grosz calls "the Gray Man." Other recurring symbols are an artist's canvas with a hole torn in its center, and a rainbow-colored flag torn from its staff. The series of water-colors, with its fantastic, degraded monsters and burning luminosity of color, is like a ghastly comic strip.
While the collection has omitted some of Grosz's best work, including most of his vitriolic satires of decadent German society after World War I, it is excellent as far as it goes.