Belarus (Poland) 1882 – France 1949
L'Homme réclame [Publicity man] 1926 Materials & Technique: sculptures, collage on cardboard and wood, cotton, string, book cloth, copper, sequins, steel tacks and eyelets
In 1926 Exter designed a number of marionettes which, unlike the Costume model of a Martian guard for the film 'Aelita', are specifically articulated for use in a performance. It is generally accepted that the marionettes were made to take the place of actors in a film directed by the Danish film-maker Urban Gad (1879-1947), a project that was never realised.1
At Exter's exhibition at Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, in October 1927, the catalogue lists work done 'for a film with marionettes'. However, in an article on Exter's marionettes published the following year, Louis Lozowick made no mention of the film project and assumed that the marionettes were to be used in a conventional fashion, simply stating that the creation of the marionettes was the logical outcome of an interest in painting and the theatre and intended as a synthesis of both.2 The article also provided a description of a marionette performance in which 'forty-odd marionettes participate in a carnivalesque play after the manner of the commedia dell'arte, with the addition of a modern background for contrast'.3 The scenario takes Punch and Colombine to New York, where Punch is arrested. While the reliability of the synopsis cannot be verified, it does account for the distinctive mechanical appearance of the two marionettes in the Gallery. These not only bear American images and advertising, but in photographs of their original installation at Gallerie Der Sturm in 1927 they are placed together with two other marionettes, Robot and American policeman.4 Publicity man carries images of the American clowns Emmett Kelly and Arthur Burson, a contrast to the familiar conventions of the 'commedia dell'arte' figures that make up the cast. Advertisements for a Goodrich tyre and the United States Line that decorate Publicity man also underscore the notion of travel to far-away places. The Sandwich man touts advertisements for Carnation Milk and the International Theatre Exposition held at the Steinway Building, New York, from 27 February to 22 March 1926, which included works by Exter.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.152.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra