A, E and G, from the series "# 0 Meyers kleines Konversationslexikon 1906" | 2012 | 26 collages | 56x76 cm

E, G and S from the series "Dennert‘s Konversationslexikon / 1911" | 2012 | 29 collages | 50 x 70

B, F and O from the series "# 2 Jedermanns Lexikon / 1922 – 29" | 2013 | 28 collages | 24x31 cm

I, M and V from the series "# 3 Allbuch in vier Bänden und ein Atlas / Brockhaus / 1937/38" | 2011 | 28 collages | 38 x 45 cm

A, F and L from the series "# 4 Danubia Volkslexikon / 1948" | 2010 | 25 collages | 22,5x25 cm

H, K and L from the series "# 5 Standard Lexikon Farbig / Herder 1958" | 2010 | 26 collages | 29,7x42 cm

F, I and P from the series "# 6 Grosses Lexikon der Büchergilde in 4 Bänden / 1962" | 2012 | 28 collages | 42 x 59,4 cm

P, W and X from the series "# 7 Bertelsmann Lexikon / 1974" | 2012 | 26 collages | 60x80 cm

K, M and P from the series "# 8 Das Neue Lexikon / 1984" | 2012 | 28 collages | 50x50 cm

B, O and S, from the series "# 9 Harenberg Kompaktlexikon / 1994" | 2012 | 28 collages | 33x48 cm

Dissecting Worlds
Käthe Schönle
(English translation by Christine Schöffler and Peter Blakeley)

Sophie Dvořák leafed and combed through thousands upon thousands of pages for her work Aa – Zy. Hundreds of images, illustrations, and photos were selected from lexica of the past one hundred years and cut out with great precision. For each respective decade of the twentieth century she chose a German-language encyclopedia and extracted the image material from their volumes, which then served as the basis for the ten series of letters from A to Z with a total of 272 collages.
Following an intuitive system, the artist reassembled the visual fragments with a playfully elegant aesthetic, creating works with a unique and powerful complexity.
The decades are organized into different formats. Also various qualities of paper are employed, some with more texture, others smooth, oriented upon the different white levels of the original paper of the respective encyclopedia. Each piece surprises with a subtle wealth of visual impressions, which seem strangely familiar and intuitively associable with the decade from which they originate.
Paper encyclopedias – stored in the bourgeois bookcase or display cabinet – were the generally recognized authority for quick reference answers to questions of all kinds. Already at first glance Sophie Dvořák’s work undermines the apparent neutrality and objectivity of these answers.
Page A from the series #0 Meyers kleines Konversationslexikon / 1906 shows apes [Affen] of all species dancing around an aqueduct [Aquädukt], eyeballs [Augäpfel] blossoming like flowers, aloe vera interwoven with an antiquated astronomic device [Astronomie]. The technique applied to the selected illustrations and the resulting scenery seem eccentrically poetic, harmlessly aged in their warm gray tones. #2 Jedermanns Lexikon / 1922 – 29, the source for the letter B, presents Bismarck, with his famous fixed stare, in the company of a leaf [Blatt], bacteria [Bakterium], and a bear [Bär] enthroned upon blood [Blut], beekeeping [Bienenzucht], and Gross National Product [Bruttosozialprodukt]. Political situations, the technological and scientific state of society, sociocultural conditions and contexts and their rapid transformations in the twentieth century are inescapable and attain an almost daunting clarity in Sophie Dvořák’s alphabet pages.
On page L of the series #5 Standard Lexikon Farbig / Herder 1958, the head of Lenin rests atop a Las Vegas billboard and is fondled by Zarah Leander; a locomotive [Lokomotive] and an airship [Luftschiff] whoosh past over a lung [Lunge]. The times and the icons become faster, more colorful and poppy; personalities and illustrations ask for deciphering like in a quiz show.
In the seventies, sport photography is on the advance. In the series #7 Bertelsmann Lexikon / 1974 on a page with a comparatively huge letter S, we find extracts from photographs of sailing [Segelsport], skiing [Skifahren], swimming [Schwimmen], which speak of new imaging and reproduction techniques and emerging media. #9 Harenberg Kompaktlexikon / 1994 completes the elaborate series of works: A pretty, slim yoga gymnast sits above the gaudy Yellow Press.
In a very subtle, ironic, and aesthetic way, Sophie Dvořák has designed an impressive panopticon of apparently neutral facts and images in Aa – Zy, which investigates and questions the encyclopedia as a mirror for the mutable construction of knowledge and its societal significance. The meticulous hand of the artist transforms the visual fragments of these lexica into a fragile construct of finely proliferating insinuations and brachial references.
In the dissection of a generally recognized logical system Sophie Dvořák creates a new world in its own right, full of unanswered questions and relationships, which makes us leaf for answers in ourselves.
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