Sophie Taeuber-Arp was born in Davos, Switzerland, in 1889.... Her first significant works were realized within the heady milieu of Zurich Dada. She was a key participant in the Dadaists activities with her companion Hans Arp....
It was during Taeuber-Arp's Zurich periods that she created her famous Dada Heads, forms of turned wood resembling the dummies of haberdashers and hairdressers, which she painted with highly stylized angular and curvilinear patterns. Taeuber-Arp called these works "portraits," though they show none of the interest in naturalistic, physical resemblance usually associated with the genre. Instead, their simple, elegantly severe shapes and colorful geometric designs combine to create mask-like faces, which evoke the ornamentation on Oceanic and Northwest Coast Indian artifacts. Incisively witty, Taeuber-Arp's Dada Heads are quintessential Dada objects, polychromed sculptures that might double as hat stands, described by Hugo Weber as a "feminine nuance of the Dada game: nonsense with a utilitarian purpose."(1)
1. Hugo Weber, in Georg Schmidt, ed., Sophie Taeuber-Arp (Basel: Holbein Verlag, 1948), p. 125.
Publication excerpt from Anne Umland, Report on purchase, Department of Painting and Sculpture, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2003