Hannelore Baron: Works from 1969 to 1987
Self-taught artist Hannelore Baron (1926-1987) made collages and box assemblages that drew upon her own experiences as a Holocaust survivor, cancer patient, and a person who suffered periodic depression. Baron found more than solace in her art: she found a fountain of creativity with which she could explore her feelings and ideas.
She developed a profoundly personal iconography, which included abbreviated human figures, birds, patterns, and hieroglyphics to symbolize her own anguish as well as that of humanity. The intimate scale of her work (few collages are wider than 12 inches) and their abstract qualities help the themes achieve a universal appeal.
Hannelore Baron: Works from 1969 to 1987 was the first national touring retrospective of her artwork. More than 40 collages and box assemblages were presented along with quotes from Baron regarding her artistic inspirations and creative processes. Born in Dillingen, Germany, Baron experienced the early horrors of the Holocaust. On the night of December 9, 1938, known as Kristallnacht, Nazis pillaged Jewish businesses, synagogues, and houses, including Baron's home. After a series of moves throughout Europe, the family escaped to the United States in 1941, settling in New York City, where Baron studied applied design at the Straubenmuller Textile High School.
Baron's first collages, made in the early 1960s when she was in her 40s, were composed of old torn paper, ink, and watercolor. She later incorporated cloth, etchings, and monoprints into her work. In 1968, she began making box assemblages from various found items, including wood, discarded cloth, and string. She also constructed series of black boxes, white boxes, and boxes of mysterious games with unusual game pieces. Many of her motifs, such as monoprints made from thin copper sheets, appear in both the collages and the assemblages.
Often compared to the art of Paul Klee and Kurt Schwitters, Baron's work combines a sense of naïveté with sincerity and appreciation for the accidental. With their torn and tattered edges and fragments of chipped wood, Baron's pieces are imbued with a sense of passing time and the frailty of the human spirit. Although influenced by her early traumas, her work reveals other inspirations, such as American Indian, African, and Tantric art, Persian miniatures, the illuminated pages of the Koran, and existentialist writings. Her art touches on issues that were prevalent during her lifetime, including the Vietnam War, industrial pollution, and civil rights.
Hannelore Baron was organized by SITES in cooperation with the Estate of Hannelore Baron and the Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles. Independent contemporary art curator and critic Ingrid Schaffner curated the exhibition. An award-winning full-color catalogue (SITES, 2001) published in conjunction with the tour was made possible by The Judith Rothschild Foundation, Ruth and Robert Halperin, Ruth and Barney O'Hara, The Jamie and Steve Tisch Foundation, Mary Mhoon Walker, and The Howard Earl Rachofsky Foundation.
This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 2002-2004.