until 20.01. | #2632ARTatBerlin | Kunsthaus Dahlem currently shows an exhibition with artworks by the sculpteur Jussuf Abbo.
The sensitively modelled female heads by the sculptor Jussuf Abbo inspired the Berlin art scene of the Golden Twenties. Abbo participated in the progressive movements of his time and was a close friend of Else Lasker-Schüler and Kurt Schwitters.
With the Nazi takeover, Abbo was repeatedly branded – he was stateless after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, exposed by his Jewish ancestry to Nazi racial fanaticism and his girlfriend Ruth Schulz was illegitimately pregnant by him. In a dramatic way, the pair fled to England in 1935, where Abbo could not continue his career.
On the occasion of the release of the first monograph on the life and work of the artist, Kunsthaus Dahlem dedicates a solo exhibition to Jussuf Abbo with about 40 works on paper and sculptures.
The exhibition is supported by the Mehler family and Freundeskreis Kunsthaus Dahlem – Bernhard Heiliger e.V.
In cooperation with Centrum Judaicum, Berlin, and Aktives Museum Faschismus und Widerstand e.V., Berlin and Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen.
THE ARTIST: LIFE AND WORK
Abbo was born between 1888 and 1890 in Safed, Palestine. As a young man he worked 1909-1910 on the construction of the Prussian Augusta Victoria Foundation in Jerusalem. There the German architect Otto Hoffmann became aware of him and taught him training in Germany. From 1913 Abbo studied at the Royal Academic College of Fine Arts in Berlin.
In 1917 the public also began to take note of Abbo’s talent: His works are presented in the 31st exhibition of the Berlin Secession at Kurfürstendamm. With exhibitions by Paul Cassirer (1919), Fritz Goldschmidt & Victor Wallerstein (1921), Ferdinand Möller (1922 and 1928) and Alfred Flechtheim (1932), Abbo was present in the most important galleries for modern art at the time. As early as 1921 the Galerie von Garvens in Hanover dedicated the first comprehensive solo exhibition to him, and in the spring of the same year the Nationalgalerie purchased three drawings. Other public collections followed, for example the Städtische Kunstsammlungen in Chemnitz acquired the portrait bust of the art historian Max J. Friedländer in 1924, which was released for melting in 1940 as part of the “Metal Donation”.
In the 1920s, the sculptor moved confidently in the artists’ circles of the capital and enjoyed the nightlife of the pulsating metropolis. He is friends with the poetess Else Lasker-Schüler, who mentions him in her letters and dedicates poems to him: “[He] speaks the language of the Bedouin princes, who learned their sounds from the desert birds. As a child he rode wild horses with the tribes. Jussuff Abbu’s heart has remained completely white. But his eyebrows, which grow together in a primeval forest, darken his Galilean eyes” (from: Else Lasker-Schüler, Jussuff Abu, 1923).
In 1924 Abbo took part in the First German Art Exhibition in Moscow, organized by the International Workers’ Aid (IAH), and in 1929 he was presented for the first time in the United States: The Oakland Art Gallery shows him in the exhibition Seven Celebrated European Modernists curated by Galka Scheyer alongside Emil Nolde, Karl Hofer, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Pechstein and Oskar Kokoschka.
While Abbo is recognized nationally and internationally in exhibitions, his financial situation begins to deteriorate – stock market crash and world economic crisis affect the art market. And the political circumstances are also becoming increasingly adverse. In 1931 Ludwig Justi, the director of the Nationalgalerie, tried to buy his works, but in 1933 Abbo, who was considered stateless with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, was forced to emigrate. In 1935, a forged passport issued by the Egyptian consul enabled Abbo and his wife Ruth to emigrate to England.
Despite numerous letters of recommendation from collectors* and museum people, but without working materials and presentable works, he made his way in exile as a casual laborer, and hopes of an artistic new beginning were quickly dashed. In 1945 Abbo had to give up his last studio for financial reasons. Lacking the money to house the now homeless works of art, the artist destroyed numerous works. The last few years have been marked by illness and financial hardship. To top it all off, Abbo had to amputate a finger after a slight hand injury that remained untreated. “His wife Ruth remembers later: “Every hope of ever working sculpturally again seemed to be shattered. On August 20, 1953, Jussuf Abbo dies in London.
Abbo has left behind a work characterised by the search for a “plastic form of action” (Arie Hartog). Based on an examination of Adolf von Hildebrand’s theories on sculpture, which were close to classicism, he developed a personal style in his early work that overcame the model of nature and led to a “concise form”. In his art of the 19th and 20th centuries (1924-1931) Hans Hildebrandt assigns him to a generation of artists “who stand on the ground of undeformed representationalism, […] who keep their distance from both realism and idealism in the classical sense”. “They seek form,” Hildebrandt continued, “not the empty form, but the form permeated by spirit and soul. Abbo executed his sculptures in very different materials. They testify to a high interest in technical experiments and processes, which should also remain comprehensible for the viewer. In contrast to his calm sculptures and sculptures, his drawings are often characterized by bold expressive traits. The subtlety in the surface design of his sculptural works finds its counterpart here in the sudden power of the drawing gesture.
The first comprehensive publication on Jussuf Abbo’s life and work comprises five extensive art-historical essays dealing with various aspects of the artist’s life and work. Prof. Dr. Burcu Dogramaci (Professor of Art History at the LMU Munich and proven expert on exile art), Dr. Arie Hartog (Director of Gerhard-Marcks Haus Bremen), Dr. des. Jan Giebel (University of Osnabrück), Ariele Braunschweig (Degenerate Art Research Centre, FU Berlin) and Dorothea Schöne, curator and editor, are published in German and English by Wienand Verlag.
Exhibition period: Friday, 8 November 2019 – Monday, 20 January 2020Zum Kunsthaus Dahlem
Image caption: JUSSUF ABBO, Kopf eines Schwarzen Mannes, 1939, Gips, Nachlass Jussuf Abbo, Brighton/England, Foto: Gunter Lepkowski
Jussuf Abbo – Kunsthaus Dahlem | Exhibitions Berlin Museums – Kunst in Berlin | ART at Berlin