Collection 1880s–1940s

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Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Head. 1920 575

Oil on 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. © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Curator, Anne Umland: Sophie Taeuber-Arp was a multidisciplinary artist. She made textiles, bead work, paintings, sculpture. We're looking at one of a group of turned wood, painted objects that she made called Dada Heads.

The Dada Movement was born in Zurich in 1916. It was a group of artists and poets and writers who were outraged by the political and social and cultural structures that they held responsible for the devastation of World War I. And so they decided to question any preexisting structures, from political ones or institutional ones to the fundaments of art and language.

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