Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, until 23 March
Hannah Hoch was one of the great revolutionary artistic innovators of the early 20th century. Along with Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz and John Heartfield she led the way in developing what has become known as photomontage or collage.
The avant-garde Berlin Dadaist group, of which Hoch was a member, was the most politically developed of the Dadaist groupings that sprang up across Europe and the US from around 1916. The Berlin Dadaists would use their new method of working not as a mere innovative technique in their "art practice" but, crucially, as a weapon.
For them their art, and indeed any art worthy of the name, was to be politically committed. Art was their instrument to be used in fighting for a new world, one created by a proletarian revolution that would end the chaos and nightmare of capitalist war and insane accumulation.
Her caustically titled work "Cut with the Kitchen Knife DADA through the last Weimar Boer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany" vividly captured a society at a crossroad and was prominently hung at the First International Dada Fair in Berlin held in 1920 along with several other of Hoch's works. Her work "High Finance" explicitly makes the link between capitalist accumulation and the machinery of war.
And for all the subtlety and individuality that many of today's admirers see in Hoch's own developing artistic language, she was on the extreme left of this movement.
In 1921, along with Hausmann, Grosz, Otto Dix, Rudolf Schlichter and George Scholz, Hoch was a key signature to an open letter to other Berlin Dadaists calling on them not to abandon their original revolutionary goals. It ended with "a plea for artists to commit themselves to the proletarian revolution, to use their skills in building a new community of workers and artists and new proletarian art forms".
Walter Benjamin saw that the "revolutionary strength of Dadaism" lay in its "testing art for its authenticity".
The exhibition at the Whitechapel provides a fascinating and extremely worthwhile glimpse of the revolutionary Hoch.
However, it fails to reveal her essence, concentrating instead on her femininity and on her life-long commitment to developing the visual language of photomontage, which in and of itself is no bad thing. However, to paraphrase Gil Scott Heron, they are only "pieces of the woman".