Press Release

Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, and Jonas Mekas

Universal Language & The Avant-Garde

Stendhal Gallery
May 10 – July 28, 2007

Stendhal Gallery proudly presents Universal Language & The Avant-Garde, a show exploring the artistic relationship between artists Viking Eggeling (1880-1925) and Hans Richter (1888-1976). Since the early 1920’s, the avant-garde has embraced film’s capacity to capture specific themes, impulses, and philosophies associated with progressive artistic expression. Eggeling and Richter pioneered this pivotal transition in modern art practice. Rare drawings, some never before exhibited, in combination with film works, document Eggeling and Richter’s move from painting and drawing to creating the most influential avant-garde films and ideas in art history. Known as “The Godfather of American Avant-Garde Cinema,” Jonas Mekas pays a sentimental tribute to his earlier predecessors with the work Film Stills and Installation Quartet: Birth of a Nation (1997), also on view. The work is a powerful demonstration that the avant-garde’s collective vision is still very much alive today.

In 1918 in Zurich, Switzerland, Dada artists Viking Eggeling and Hans Richter met, and subsequently worked together for three years on a series of drawing studies in which “a precise interrelationship of contrasting elements remained the key for a new synthesis.” Rhythmic articulation of abstract form, line, and space reaches a point in which the paper’s static surface is no longer suitable. On view are extraordinary works from this time, leading up to the critical moment when the artists switched their activities to filmmaking. In 1920, the artists wrote the manifesto “Universelle Sprache” based on their observations. The show explores how this idea brought a social consciousness to their art, connecting abstract form to a universal language that permeated national borders and was to be understood by all.

The exhibition marks the first time new works by Swedish born Viking Eggeling have been unveiled to the public in decades. This is a landmark show for an artist who was recognized by his contemporaries as “one of those creatures who in their solitude exceeded the limits of their time, a precursor in all the fullness of this term.” Exceptional drawings (1915-1925) display the relentless commitment to finding new modes of creative expression that put Eggeling at the forefront of modern art. These works also expose the creative vision that led to his groundbreaking film Symphonie Diagonal (1925), also on view.

Hans Richter’s rare archival documents, studies, and gesture drawings present crucial historical information to understanding how he came to create the films Rhythmus 21 (1921), Rhythmus 23 (1923), and Ghosts Before Breakfast (1928), all on view. Personal notes and letters reveal themes and issues that compelled both he and Eggeling in avant-garde film theory and practice. Documents discuss his crucial role within the Dada art movement and the ideas that made it one of the most significant philosophies in modern art. Richter served as Director of the Film Institute at City College, New York and important lectures from his tenure expose just why later artists continue to look to him for inspiration.

Best known as the inventor of Diarist Cinema, today’s leading avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas created Film Stills and Installation Quartet: Birth of a Nation (1997) to give a voice to a ‘Nation’ of independent filmmakers who exist at the fringe of traditional cinema. Included are fleeting portraits of his inspirational mentor Hans Richter, as well as George Maciunas, Stan Brackage, Harry Smith, Paul Sharits, Jerome Hill, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, Barbara Rubin, Jack Smith, Allen Ginsberg and many more. Similar to Eggling and Richter’s belief that rhythmic articulation of form could unite all humankind, these ‘splices of life’ when viewed in cinematic sequence, bring together the 160 members of the independent film community Mekas has captured with his camera over four decades. This riveting documentary is a cinematic testimony to the fact that the universal ideas and worldviews propagated by Eggeling, Richter, and the avant-garde continue to stimulate today’s most innovative artists.

The films Symphonie Diagonal, Rhythmus 21, Rhythmus 23, and Ghosts Before Breakfast were transferred from 16mm film to DVD courtesy of Robert Haller of Anthology Film Archives.

For further information please contact:

545 West 20th St. | New York, NY 10011
T 212.366.1549 | F 347.287.6775 | |

Gallery Hours Tuesday – Saturday 11am to 6pm


Harry Stendhal

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