German Expressionism - Kündung 2018

Combining hand-cut typography with striking imagery, Kündung ranks among the most ambitious projects of German Expressionism. A triumph of design, it was also the last Expressionist periodical to be published in Hamburg - an extraordinary undertaking cut short by the catastrophic financial collapse of the Weimar Republic.

Kündung was the brainchild of Rosa Schapire and Wilhelm Niemeyer, leading academic luminaries of the Expressionist movement. The journal was founded as an adjunct to the recently established 'Kunstbundes Hamburg', a federation of artists, writers, and patrons who promoted lectures and exhibitions of modern art.

Its title - meaning 'Proclamation' - announced the journal's revolutionary spirit: Kündung heralded a new age of Expressionist art, poetry, and criticism, one that drew on the vitality of 'primitive' African art and which would reinvigorate contemporary culture through a fusion of the figurative and the abstract. Alongside full-page woodcuts and lithographic prints, scattered throughout the text were numerous 'Wortbilder' - 'word-images' - cut by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, preeminent Expressionist and one of Niemeyer's heroes. A key contributor to the publication, Schmidt-Rottluff was also responsible for the journal's powerful title page, a tumbling, typographic tour-de-force printed over different colour-blocks for each successive issue.

Printing took place in the studios of a local university where Niemeyer lectured. The quality of the impressions, combined with an 'extraordinarily low' print run of just 200 copies, made Kündung the foremost publication of its kind, as noted by German Expressionist expert Timothy Benson: 'This exemplary printing facility and the substantial Kunstbund funding made possible one of the most sumptuous Expressionist periodicals combining poetry and art.'

Hyperinflation throughout Germany eventually killed off the deluxe journal. Having premiered in January of 1921, it ran for just twelve issues before production was suspended. Since its release, many of its lesser-known contributors have faded into obscurity. The few editions that have survived reveal a host of unfamiliar names that prove the rich breadth of the Expressionist movement, and the particular strength of its Hamburg branch. As Benson writes: 'If Kündung was done in by inflation, it had survived well into the era of Expressionist obituaries, Dada, and the dawn of International Constructivism - not an insignificant accomplishment.'

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