Sophie Taeuber-Arp
(Swiss, 1889-1943)
Dada Head

Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Untitled (Head). 1920

Painted wood with glass beads on wire, 9 1/4" high (23.5 cm). Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange) and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: This diminutive Dada Head was made by Sophie Taeuber, who was one of the only female participants in Zurich Dada. Taeuber's background was in decorative painting, drawing, and textile design. In fact, she was one of the first among the Zurich Dadaists to very clearly demonstrate the way that the applied arts could contribute to the development of abstract art.

This work is made from turned wood: an oval head, a thin, columnar neck, and this wasp-wasted, bobbin-like base put together to comprise an unconventional portrait bust. The features of this head are applied with beautiful coloration and paint details. Taeuber is often said to have been inspired by the stylized features of Oceanic and Northwest Indian masks.

NARRATOR: With its beaded accessories and muted colors, this work may actually be a self-portrait – a counterpart to Taeuber’s portrait of her husband Hans Arp in this case.

ANNE UMLAND: Many of the Zurich Dadaists sought to go beyond mere external appearances, beyond superficial details, to arrive at deeper notions of resemblance - something that gets away from quotidian detail, and can speak on a more universal plane.

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