Role Reversal

When Hannah Hoch cut out photographs from magazines that were circulated in 1920s Germany, she rearranged the fragments into compositions antithetical to what might appeal to popular taste. Gender is ambiguous in her work because figures are often made of both male and female body parts. She wanted to unravel gender stereotypes by presenting them as absurd.

• Hannah Hoch, Bourgeois Marriage, 1919
Black Felt Hat by Greta Vasiliauskaite
Vintage letterpress type

In Bourgeois Marriage, the images of gadgets, especially the different models of meat grinders, suggest that this couple has an overwhelming number of choice in how to construct their identities. The two become infants at the mercy of magazines that tell them which gadget to buy or which swimsuit to wear. Hoch reveals the idea of the bourgeois couple as a constructed identity by mismatching images that barely come together as human figures. The prominent areas of cardboard decontextualize the scene to reveal it as a half-dismantled fantasy.

• Hannah Hoch, Argument, 1930
Black Tulle Skirt by Monique Martinez-Sandoval
Vintage letterpress letters

Eleven years later, Hoch made Argument, a more theatrical and coherent work that still plays with gender role reversal. The couple acts out a performance, complete with a ballet costume, chain mail, and masks. The woman moves forward aggressively, opening her palm, while the man moves away and covers his face with his hands.