Dada

Kurt Schwitters
(German, 1887-1948)
Merz Pictures 32 A. The Cherry Picture
1921

Kurt Schwitters. _Merz Picture 32 A. The Cherry Picture_ (_Merzbild 32 A. Das Kirschbild_). 1921

Cut-and-pasted colored and printed paper, cloth, wood, metal, cork, oil, pencil, and ink on board, 36 1/8 x 27 3/4" (91.8 x 70.5 cm). Mr. and Mrs. A. Atwater Kent, Jr. Fund. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: In Hanover, Dada was largely a one-person show performed by the artist Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters was famously refused entry in Berlin's club Dada, and in reaction launched his own countermovement, which he called ‘Merz,’ taken from a fragment of the German word ‘Kommerz,’ or commerce.”

NARRATOR: Curator Leah Dickerman:

CURATOR, LEAH DICKERMAN: Schwitters loves all the things that are tossed off in modern culture, and he loves particularly the signs of wear and touch. He spoke of pulling together the fragments of a culture that had been shattered, and his ‘Merz’ work serves as an analogy for a world that could not be put together as a whole.”

NARRATOR: To Schwitters, ‘Merz’ meant “the principle of using materials of all kinds,” of making art from fragments.

KURT SCHWITTERS [actor]: In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. Out of parsimony I took whatever I found, because we were now an impoverished country. One can even shout with refuse, and this is what I did.

ANNE UMLAND: As you look across the surface of this very large assemblage, you get a sense of the incredible variety of materials used. They are carefully arrayed into a basic grid format - bits of newspaper, address and product labels, textured materials or fabrics, like burlap, found wood elements, a cork, even a small pipe in the left center of the composition, making it clear why Schwitters thought that this work all by itself could stand in for the meaning of the word ‘Merz,’ dedicated to the proposition that art could be made from anything, anything at all.”

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