With the end of World War I in 1919 came a cloud of confusion and disorientation that settled over the Western world. The war as a whole was a bitter statement of irony, as it fell short of all preconceived expectations set by Western society. The prediction of just a few months of war extended into five years, and the expectations of glory and fame returned broken by the harsh actuality of war. The expectations created for the war were not consistent with reality; thus, as the war ended, a state of confused anxiety settled in. The long-rooted values and beliefs in culture and intellect that had previously guided the Western world were being questioned and abandoned. This confusion led to revolutionary developments in the arts and in philosophy; the creation of Dadaism and Nihilism reflected changes in the post World War I culture. Constructed two years after the war by American sculptor Man Ray, The Gift is a physical manifestation of the confusion and irony experienced by the world after the war. A piece of modern art, The Gift represents World War One by reflecting both Dadaist and Nihilist ideals in its structure and composition.
Examination of Man Ray’s The Gift reveals a deep connection with the philosophies tied to the Dadaist art form. The Gift is a simple sculpture, made from a traditional metal iron, with fourteen brass tacks glued in a line down the middle. With his sculpture, Man Ray took away the practicality of an iron and transformed a useful household item into a tool for destruction. Essentially, Man Ray created an item with a discrepancy in function, something incredibly illogical and senseless. This concept is characteristic of Dada art, a cultural rebellion instigated in response to World War I, as it conveys the confusion and disorientation experienced by the world at the time. A backlash against tradition and art, the Dada movement emphasized a rejection of prevailing standards. This cultural movement continues with a strong belief...
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