Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction

Dada Head

Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Dada Head. 1920

Oil and metallic paint on wood. Height: 11 9/16" (29.4 cm), diam.: 5 1/2" (14 cm). Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. © CNAC /MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY, photo Philippe Migeat

Curator, Anne Umland: The Dada heads, above all other things, I think, are indeterminate objects. They are part sculpture, part mannequin head, part mask, part something to be looked at, part something to be played with. They're impossible to categorize. And that in itself is deeply connected to Dada and to questioning conventions, and it speaks so deeply to the boundary-crossing aspects of Taeuber-Arp's practice.

If you look closely at the Dada head at the far right of this case, you can see that it is labeled with the word Dada and Taeuber-Arp has also added the year 1920, memorializing when it was made and her relationship at that moment in history with the Dada movement.

I think she was deeply funny. You get a sense of that from the photographs with her posing with this work that actually were created in response to a request for a Dada anthology—potential contributors were asked to send a clear photo of your head. So, it's her head, but you can't see her face.

Writer and journalist, Amah-Rose Abrams: I think Dada must've been so attractive to a young artist at that time, because it was about pushing back on the establishment. I see her as a radical person, even if she didn't like the term. Her radicalism, I think, comes to not seeing boundaries anywhere. Maybe because there were so many real physical boundaries—border restrictions, war, turbulence—so when it came to the things that she had control over, she kind of just went for it.

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