NEO DADA – #ZoomOnMovements

The Neo-Dada (or New-Dada) is not taking the name of the Dada movement because of a lack of creativity: the link with the Dadaists is very strong. In the key-concepts we will underline what they have in common!

Historical and artistic background

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In the ’50s some artists had enough of the colourful abstraction of the Abstract Expressionism, that was very popular at the time. They thought that it was too emotional, too bright, too distant. They started using everyday objects, mixing up techniques, experimenting with performance. To do so, their inspiration was obviously the Dadaist movement of the ’20s, that opened the gates for the development of contemporary art as we know it now (do you remember Duchamp and his Fountain?).

After them, Pop Art will rise, with all its catchy and colourful works, taking all the art scene. But they were not completely different from each other, as the pop artists were using the same method (but arriving to different conclusions): starting from the mere objects, mixing techniques, working on mass consuption.


  • In Europe at the same time the Nouveau Réalisme was rising, as a counterpart of the American New-Dada.
  • Jim Dine, Bedspring, 1960. Assemblage of oil, metallic paint, candles, metal candle holders, paper, corrugated cardboard, canvas, newsprint, waxed paper, tissue paper, tape, rags, burlap, corduroy, wool, plaid cloth, bowtie, carpet, aluminum foil, and light bulb on steel-wire bed spring, 57 1/2 x 74 3/4 x 11 inches (146.1 x 189.9 x 27.9 cm)
    Jim Dine, Bedspring, 1960

    One of the main features of the Neo-Dada was to create hybrid works, with hybrid concepts: they were against mass consumption but celebrating it at the same time, creating works that were both sculptures and paintings, installations and collages.

  • Like Marcel Duchamp was saying in the ’20s, the Neo-Dada artists believed that they were just starting the artwork, and that the public had to complete it afterwards. The public becomes then an active part in the experience of art.
  • Many of the artists wanted to search for the old manual action of creatig something new, but starting from something already existing. They were against the mechanical actions, against the industrial production.
  • The New-Dada covered many different art fields such as visual arts, music, performance and spectacle.

Artists involved

Robert Rauschenberg

He is surely the most famous artist related to the Neo-Dada movement. We spoke about him already, here! He created what he called “combine paintings”, where he was using various objects put together as a canvas, painting over it. The most famous work belonging to this category is certainly Bed (1955).

Jasper Johns

Risultati immagini per jasper johns flag
Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954-55

Jasper Johns is placed in the middle between Pop Art and Neo-Dada, because his most famous works are taking symbols from the pop culture, but using them in a slitely different way: his flags for example, are the most pop item anyone could think of, the whole world would immediately recognize it without any explanation. But if you look closely, the surface is irregular, the paint is not neat. He used newspapers under the paint, glueing them onto the canvas before painting! This brings back to Rauschenberg and his Combine Paintings, but with a totally different subject.

John Cage

John Cage was a composer, and he was the first one to introduce silence as music. His iconic work is called 4’33”, that consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of perfect silence. Players were supposed to “play it” going on the stage with ther instruments, sitting and waiting. You can see a video of one of the executions of this famous piece below.

He was believing that music could be whatever noise the human produced, and he made other compositions following this idea: he wanted to find the music of the Universe, by mapping the constellations and translating them into music notes, for example.

Other artists and contributors

Among the contributors of the Neo-Dada movement, we cannot avoid to mention again Allan Kaprow, who first started the happenings and the environments in New York. He contributed shifting contemporary art to something more participative, more “alive”, if we can say that. The happenings and the environments really brought up the concept of mixing techniques, that became a signature for the Neo-Dada.

We cannot forget that when all of this was happening in the US, the Nouveau Réalistes were working on the same subjects in Europe.


Allan Kaprow had a huge influence in the next movements: “Kaprow’s happenings paved the way for the international Fluxus groups’ actions and the general performance art movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, and also set a standard of interactivity, multimedia, and an art of everyday life that was a huge influence for later contemporary art.” (source:

Moreover, the idea of using already existing objects, recycling them and creating pieces of art has influenced other movements such as the Arte Povera and later developments.


Bibliography and further readings

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