23 Jun 2011

Kurt Schwitters/MERZ updates, exhibitions and Merzbarn UK

I have always been influenced by the work of Schwitters, since my first few days at art school. In the UK his influence is everywhere, in fact it is hard to 'sweat it out' as Hoffman, once said about Cubism. In British art, it seems a default setting in fine art practice..this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but his influence runs deep. So I thought I'd put a post together of the diverse 'Schwitteresque' goings on out there.

It is the last few days of the 'Kurt Schwitters: Colour and Collage' exhibition at Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey. This is an excellent exhibitions of small scale collage works and a recreation of the Merzbau, see below, runs until 26th June.

Kurt Schwitters, 'The Cherry Picture' 1921, hear an excellent audio guide from MOMA here.
'From now through, 2011, the Princeton University Art Museum this is the first survey of this pioneering artist's work in the United States since his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1985. The exhibition will provide an unparalleled opportunity to view Schwitters's experiments in depth, including a full-scale reconstruction of his groundbreaking Merzbau, which has never before been seen in this region.'

Born in Hannover, Germany, Schwitters (1887-1948) is one of the most influential artists from the interwar avant-garde. During a period of social and economic turmoil, he developed a unique practice, one that merged art and life, embraced disparate media and utilized found objects and printed materials, most of them the discarded remnants of everyday life. 'Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage' was organized by the Menil Collection in Houston, see my earlier Schwitters post on this. It's about time, there was show like this in the UK.

A recording of Schwitters performing his phonetic poem (1922-32), will also be highlighted at the exhibition, Ursonate listen to a version by the artists himself here. 
There is a reconstruction of Schwitters's first Merzbau, destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943. In the UK,  there has been an extensive project to restore the Merzbarn, in  Elterwater, near Ambleside, in the Lake District. He was working on this before his death, see it here. Also there is Merzman, this an ongoing series of projects based in the UK that explores the infliuence of Schwitters, and is well worth looking at.

Kurt Schwitters, 'MZ 371' collage, 1922 (C) Menil Collection

Some background on Schwitters: In 1919, Schwitters named this body of work Merz-a neologism derived from the German kommerz (commerce)-which culminated in a series of collages, assemblages, experimental poems, prints and sculptures; the most famous being the Merzbau, a three-dimensional environment the artist began in the 1920s. Schwitters's work bridges some of the period's most important artistic movements, including Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism and Abstraction. Schwitters exerted a profound influence on artistic developments after World War II; Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, among others, considered him a source of inspiration, and contemporary installation art is inconceivable without the Merzbau. Schwitters was trained as a painter, and despite his experiments with other media, he never ceased painting. Indeed, painting informs almost all of his work, as witnessed by the passages of gouache, chalk, oils, paste and watercolor in his collages and assemblages-additions that transform the materials they cover. 

Merzbau Reconstruction, see Tate Research Papers here.


Gwendolen said...

Thanks for this and very best wishes
Gwendolen Webster

David said...

Wow, hello Gwendolen, and thanks for letting us know about your website and the Schwitters Society, I feel there is a whole new world for us to explore, thanks!