Friday, October 27, 2006

schwitters kunst

The Heart Goes From Sugar to Coffee, 1919

Miss Blanche
, 1923

The Knave Child, 1921

Images are from the website of the Schwitters Museum in Hannover, Germany (site in German).

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Blogger arthur said...

I hope all you people out there looking for Rauschenberg jpgs will like these!

8:13 AM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

I love these!

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Schwitters turned the junk of a burgeoning 'throw away' culture into high art. He was the great grandfather of pop art from which the likes of Rauschenberg and Hamilton can trace their lineage.
But where Schwitters simply organised 'rubbish' into neat and colourful designs, Joseph Cornell, the reclusive American, was far more masterful at turning a palette of junk and found objects into high art. This is because his 'boxes' are created with a greater sense of theatricality. They have depth and a story. A Cornell piece entices the viewer in a more substantial way than a Schwitters piece could ever achieve.
Look at Cornell's 'Untitled (The Hotel Eden)' c. 1945, it's filled with wonder and mystery and goes beyond a mere exercise in graphic design layout.
Move over Schwitters, Cornell is where it's at!

3:02 AM  
Blogger arthur said...


While I have great respect for Joseph Cornell, I strongly disagree with your stance on Schwitters. Its true that his sensibility, in the main, was far more formalist than Cornell's (and certainly graphic design related). But you're wrong in suggesting that their effect is straightforwardly decorative. In addition to his overtly symbolic and referential use of found pictures and text, his choice of materials and textures says much about the society he was living in.

Cornell's works are narrative and 'literary' in a much more traditional manner, one that relates closely to 19th century art. At their best, they do indeed posess great "wonder and mystery". At their worst, I find them mawkish and sentimental.

I appreciate you taking the time to express your artistic values. Clearly, my own are at least somewhat different.

5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said!

5:41 PM  
Blogger arthur said...

Do you still believe that Schwitters' work is "a mere exercise in graphic design layout"? (I would argue that much of the above applies to his actual graphic design as well as his fine art.) If so, how is he "the great grandfather of pop art" as well? Is pop art graphic design too? I would argue that much of it is about graphic design, which is a bit different.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent - some intelligent and well expressed opinions!
First of all, let me be clear, I do in fact admire the work of Schwitters. He's a stand out performer in 20th century art and his place in arts 'hall of fame' is well deserved.
It could be argued however, that Schwitters never really achieved his full potential...
Let me see if I can back that up!...
You have to consider where Schwitters fits, in terms of European history. We're talking middle Europe, 1920's, 30's. The world he occupied was screwed - post first world war Germany. Industry was emerging from the ruins, there was mass unemployment, extensive depression and so on.
In this stark environment, Schwitters had a lot to express - and fear - about the future of his society. Where the Futurists, such as Marinetti, felt excited about what lay in store, Schwitters had a more pragmatic and pessimistic view. He wanted to fill his work with a Wagnerian sense of drama. Provocative, operatic and grandiose statements were his aim.
But despite his German 'Wagnerian' sensibility, most of his work was relatively small in size.
It's as if he wasn't able to break free from the constraints of his cubist, highly constructivist pattern making. He was somewhat trapped in a 'graphic design layout' mentality, which is partly the result of the 'collage' nature of his work.
Schwitters was constrained to the 2d limitations of paper cutout collage, whereas Cornell was able to break free from this constraint by introducing a greater depth within the 'box' format.
I suspect, if Schwitters was born some thirty years later, he would have been a fantastic Abstract Expressionist - because he had a lot to express.
Now, to say Schwitters is the great grandfather of pop art is not say he is a pop artist!
It is to simply say that without Schwitters (or indeed Duchamp, Ernst or Demuth) there would be no 'pop' in the art of the 60's and 70's - but of course how would we ever know!
I enjoy your posts and hope you don't mind me dropping in from time to time to make some simple observations!

4:11 PM  
Blogger arthur said...

Your comments about Schwitters in relationship to his time period are astute. This expression of his time explains much of his appeal to me.

I can live with the failure of his "Wagnerian" ambitions, although it is an interesting historical claim. His small collages are exquisite.

I don't think that he was quite as tied to Constructivism as you suggest. His early paintings and collages (say before the twenties, I don't have a monograph in front of me) are more indebted to Futurism with Expressionist and Cubist inflections. The compositions are
dominated by diagonals and the colors are dark and apocalyptic in feeling.

His work from the twenties (and probably the early to mid-twenties in particular) tend to be the most rigidly Constructivist (often eschewing even the painterly use of collage materials found elsewhere). Much of his later work incorporates more organic shapes (sometimes actual natural materials). They often tend towards a more overtly symbolic and even narrative quality. "Homage to Sir Herbert Read", which I mention in my review is a good example. Of course, the Constructivism remains a kind of frame.

As for Pop Art, I suspect that it was the collage work of Braque and Picasso that laid the beginnings of the foundation. They combined the formal dislocations of the avant-garde (following from Cezanne) with snippets from the new mass culture (newspapers and advertisements). Schwitters and other artists took both of these much further. Of course, as you say, these things are speculative.

I haven't seen enough of Cornell's work in person, although I read Deborah Solomon's biography of him a few years back.

3:23 PM  

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