Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage

Overview

Best known for his extraordinary abstract collages, German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) is one of the most influential figures of the international avant-garde. Emphasizing the significance of color and light in the artist’s work and delving into the relationship between collage and painting, this handsome volume accompanies the first U.S. retrospective of the artist’s oeuvre in twenty-five years.

Affiliated with Dada and the Constructivist movement in ...

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Overview

Best known for his extraordinary abstract collages, German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) is one of the most influential figures of the international avant-garde. Emphasizing the significance of color and light in the artist’s work and delving into the relationship between collage and painting, this handsome volume accompanies the first U.S. retrospective of the artist’s oeuvre in twenty-five years.

Affiliated with Dada and the Constructivist movement in the years following WWI, he coined the term “merz” to describe his ambition to “make connections, preferably between everything in the world.” Schwitters’s merz gave seemingly worthless objects of urban waste—train tickets, newspaper fragments, bits of wire—new life as compositional elements in his installations, assemblages, sculptures, and collages. Hoping to unify life and art by incorporating everyday objects into his work, this pioneer of installation art came closest to his ideal with Merzbau, a room-size walk-in sculpture constructed entirely of found materials.

Alongside images and analysis of a full-scale reconstruction of Merzbau, this book includes an illustrated chronology and 90 color plates of Schwitters’s assemblages, reliefs, sculptures, and collages, with emphasis on merz works from the 1920s and 1940s. The selection not only illuminates the artist’s response to the dominant art movements of his time but also illustrates his unique composition and design. Essays by prominent scholars provide new perspective on the artist who created poetry from the commonplace.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Avant-garde artist Schwitters (1887–1948) sought to create connections between life and art through his colorful assemblages of paint and nontraditional compositional elements such as discarded train tickets, newspaper fragments, and postal receipts. While well known for his affiliation with the anarchical Dadaist and constructivist movements, Schwitters differed from his peers as he used light and color to convey the oneness of all things, making his work arguably more elegant than absurdist. For example, his use of an exquisite little butterfly in Maraak, Var I and a petite bunch of red cherries in Untitled are small but significant ways in which his playfulness and tenderness set him apart from his Dada and constructivist peers. Schwitters coined the term Merz as a means of expressing his own focus on the importance of the inherent connection between all things; his magnum opus, Merzbau, a room-size walk-in sculpture, is a meditation on Merz and a significant precursor to installation art. VERDICT This volume offers 101 color plates; concise, well-written essays; an illustrated chronology; and a list of Schwitters's solo exhibitions, making it essential for 20th-century art lovers.—Jennifer Krivickas, Univ. of Cincinnati Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300166118
  • Publisher: Menil Foundation
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Isabel Schulz is the executive director of the Kurt and Ernst Schwitters Collection and the curator of the Kurt Schwitters Archive at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover. Josef Helfenstein is director of The Menil Collection. Leah Dickerman is curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gwendolen Webster is an independent scholar and expert on Schwitters. Clare Elliott is assistant curator at The Menil Collection.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Isabel Schulz Schulz, Isabel 7

Acknowledgments 11

Editor's Note 13

Plates I 14

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage Isabel Schulz Schulz, Isabel 51

Plates II 64

Schwitters FEC Leah Dickerman Dickerman, Leah 87

Plates III 98

Kurt Schwitters's Merzbau Gwendolen Webster Webster, Gwendolen 121

Plates IV 132

Chronology Clare Elliott Elliott, Clare 157

Checklist of Plates 166

Selected Bibliography 171

Solo Exhibitions 174

Photo Credits 176

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