L'Assiette Au Beurre: L'Argent, no. 41
12 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (31.8 x 24.1 cm)
Medium and Support:
Photomechanical reproduction(Journal issue)
Purchased with funds provided by the Art Angels
Label for Strategic Ambiguity: The Obscure, Nebulous, and Vague in Symbolist Prints, La Salle University Art Museum, December 6, 2012- March 1, 2013:
Better known for his later abstract Modern art, Kupka started his career as an illustrator. In this thematic issue about the evils of money (L’Argent), the antagonist’s belly is literally filled with gold. Kupka, further, gives his antagonist a hook nose, making this a biased, anti-Semitic caricature. He plays on prejudices associating Jews and money and suggests that Jews can be blamed for capitalist greed. “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” was the rallying cry of the French Revolution. (The illustrations Égalité and Fraternité, pages 648-649, were included in the exhibition but are not illustrated in the catalogue.) Kupka depicts these values perverted by moneyed-interests. In Liberté, the huge central figure presides over soldiers with canons aimed at the masses that pass by. Smog pours out from factories stacks that line the horizon, implicating industrialization in suppressing the liberty of individuals. In Fraternité, rather than brotherhood, proletarian workers are yoked to a cart straining to pull the over-sized rider and his bags of gold. In Égalité, the bourgeois capitalist overlord guides the hand of a worker, forcing him to create an unequal “law in the name of the people.” Although influenced by Symbolism, the heavy-handed didacticism of this work qualifies as a conventional use of symbolic language to communicate a specific, unambiguous message.
-Carmen Vendelin, Curator of Art