Black and white photograph of mannequin legs with slippers
THE JULIEN LEVY COLLECTION ©1989 THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
Otto Umbehr (1902-1980), or "Umbo" as he was known professionally, was a German surrealist photographer and artist who studied at the Bauhaus while also dappling in film production, freelance photography, and work as a clown. Umbo was most known for his ability to transmit his darkly humorous ideas through photographic images such as here in Untitled (1928/29) where he presents a lone set of mannequin's legs standing upright in a pair of feathered slippers, transforming them from "elements of consumer display into symbols of erotic dismemberment". This was a subject played out many times by Umbo regarding his interest in "automatons as surrogates for human desire" -- an idea that was popular among many German artists and writers of the early 20th century. Umbo's artistic work was first featured in a surrealism exhibit in 1932 given by New York gallery owner and art dealer Julien Levy. The Art Institute of Chicago was gifted this particular piece from the Julien Levy collection in 1975 and in 1989, it was part of a travelling exhibit entitled: “On the Art of Fixing a Shadow: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Photography”.
The Art Institute of Chicago. "Untitled". The Collection. Retrieved from https://www.artic.edu/artworks/50194/untitled