Marcel Janco, “Fabulation Dada,” 1969

Marcel Janco was born to Jewish parents in Bucharest before the turn of the century. After studying art in Romania with Iosif Iser, then 20-year-old Marcel moved to Switzerland to study architecture in 1915. It was there in neutral Zurich in 1916 that several young intellectuals met and befriended one another, sharing their mutual disgust for the ongoing mass slaughter of World War I and the deterioration of European society. The group met at the Cabaret Voltaire, named for the great French skeptic of the eighteenth century. The group, who would become known as the Dadaists*, included Janco, the German writers Hugo Ball and Richard Huelsenbeck, artist Jean Arp and the Rumanian poet Tristan Tzara.

Initially, the group met; and their evenings consisted of mask-wearing, musical, literary, or poetry presentations; or sometimes a combination of these elements in what became known as ‘noise music.’ Janco designed many of the masks and costumes for these Dada ‘balls’ and some scenery done in bas-relief. Readings were presented in various languages, some ‘real’ languages listeners might be able to translate, and some in ‘made-up’ languages of nonsense syllables invented for their acoustic appeal. The Dadaists attacked every cultural standard, even those that had seemed so recently avant-garde. The movement, despite its aggressive rule-breaking, is enormously clever and funny, though it often caused a furor during performances at Cabaret Voltaire. Still, Dada caught on quickly in the U.S. A group led by Marcel Duchamp later included Francis Picabia and the photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. The movement spread quickly to Paris and Berlin. Before it died out in 1923, the Dada Movement had generated a torrent of creative work.

In 1922, Marcel Janco returned to his native Romania where he became well-known as a painter, theoretician, and architect. His work was accepted and shown in many international avant-garde exhibitions until 1940 when he fled Europe to escape the Nazis. Janco settled in Tel Aviv. The move to Israel marked a change from his previously abstract style to one focused on the colorful local life in Israel. The artist is particularly well known for his paintings of Safed and Tiberias.

At the same time, Janco became actively involved in progressive art education in Israel, founding in 1953 the Artist’s Village Ein Hod. Established on the ruins of an ancient Arab village of Carmel near Haifa, Ein Hod is one of the very few art centers in the world dedicated to the visual arts, theater, music, and literature. In the last year of his life, the artist worked with friends to erect the “Janco Dada Museum’· in Ein Hod, though he died ten months after the museum’s inauguration.

Marcel Janco had many one-man shows in Israel and in private galleries throughout the world. His work is owned by leading museums in Bucharest, Paris, New York (MOMA), and Zurich. His contribution to the arts has been recognized by the following Israeli awards: 1951 Dizengoff Prize; 1958 Histadrut Prize; 1967 Israel Prize for Art; 1982 Prize from the City of Tel Aviv.