Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kurt Schwitters - opening at the Berkeley Art Museum in August

 Schwitters: Mz 601, 1923; paint and paper on cardboard; 17 × 15 in.; Sprengel Museum, Hannover, loan from Kurt and Ernst Schwitters Stiftung. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage - opening at the Berkeley Art Museum the first week in August..

Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) was an integral part of Germany’s revolutionary art and intellectual movements in the tumultuous wake of the First World War. A loner, an epileptic, a visionary, an odd-man-out, a late developer, he went through every style of the post-war period before settling on his unique vision as a connoisseur of urban debris, rearranged into miniatures of Persian delicacy. 

A master of collage, Schwitters’s diverse body of work cuts across boundaries, hierarchies, and media to include painting, sculpture, typography, poetry, sound, and architecture.

The more one sees of Schwitters, the more we see his influence, not only Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.  but Kleinholtz, the SF Beats with their love of urban decay, the contemporary conceptual artists with the hanging rope and deformed wire props. He's the inspiration for Pop Art, Fluxus, Conceptual Art to site-specific art, and the forerunner of present day artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Gregor Schneider and Rachel Whiteread.

Like a prophet scorned in his own day, he saw it all, made it all and, as is true with so many great artists, came into his own only after his untimely death.

One of his avant-garde friends, on first viewing the Merzbau's bizarre grottoes and columns (which included such elegancies as a "Sex-Crime Cavern" and a bottle of the artist's urine with artificial flowers in it), thought it "a kind of fecal smearing--a sick and sickening relapse." Would it look so violent today? 
more to come....


Gwendolen said...

Thanks for your review; I look forward to reading the rest. I'm not quite sure Schwitters was quite such a loner as you make out - he was also very gregarious, if you read the descriptions of his friends.
The final comment about the Merzbau was attributed to the Hanover museum director Alexander Dorner (later a museum director on Rhode Island) by his biographer Samuel Caumann, so is not a direct quote. Caumann's book was published in 1958, shortly after Dorner's death. From the context, it seems that Dorner visited Schwitters in 1927, six years before Schwitters invented the word Merzbau. Dorner's verdict is not echoed by any other of Schwitters' contemporaries.

namastenancy said...

Thank you for the very informed comment! When I went to the show today, the curator also emphasized how well connected Schwitters was. I think what I wanted to say is that while he was completely involved in all the avante guarde art movements of the time, he was not "part" of them in the sense that he was a joiner. He participated but also stood apart in a way that perhaps other artists didn't. If you can get to the show, do so - it's really good, intelligently laid out and with a marvelous catalog that accompanies the show.

A Cuban In London said...

I don't think it would look violent today. For Christ's sakes, look at Norway! That's violent. I think that sometimes we get too worked up with artists and what they 'mean'. To me, artists don't try to 'mean' something (I'm distorting the grammar on purpose), they feel. If they feel, I feel. Art without feeling, now, that's something to get hot under the collar about.

Re Cuban music, my suggestions are: anything by Roberto Fonseca or Harold Lopez Nussa. They're both brilliant pianists but sit at opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Yusa (based in France), Telmary and Danay should give you a measure of the power female vocalists have nowadays in my lovely island. I would say, stay away from "timba", the hard-hitting salsa sound, unless you're planning to throw a party. It's not my favourite genre. Too repetitive and unimaginative. Descemer Bueno, the bass-guitarist-turned-producer-turned-singer. He's good, not a good voice, though. But I know Descemer from way back in the day.

If I think of anyone else, I will let you know.

Greetings from London.