October 14, 2010 - Menil Collection - Kurt Schwitters
October 14, 2010

Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters, “Untitled (So Mo Di)”

Kurt Schwitters:
Color and Collage

Artist’s first solo museum show in 25 years
October 22, 2010 – January 30, 2011

Menil Collection
1515 Sul Ross Street

Houston, Texas 77006

T 713-525-9400

F 713-525-9470


Exhibition includes full‐sized recreation of the Merzbau—on display for first time in the U.S.

KURT SCHWITTERS: Color and Collage examines one of the 20th century’s most enduring figures of the international avant‐garde.

Organized by the Menil Collection in cooperation with the Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung at the Sprengel Museum Hannover, KURT SCHWITTERS: Color and Collage marks the first U.S. overview of the artist’s career since 1985, when the Museum of Modern Art presented its Schwitters retrospective. The new Menil exhibition is curated by Isabel Schultz, co‐editor of Schwitters’s catalogue raisonné and curator of the Kurt Schwitters Archive and Executive Director of the Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung at the Sprengel Museum Hannover, in collaboration with Menil Director Josef Helfenstein.

Kurt Schwitters (1887‐1948) worked at the edges of Germany’s revolutionary art and intellectual movements in the tumultuous wake of the First World War. In the summer of 1919 he created the term “Merz” (taking a syllable from kommerz—”commerce”) to describe his process of dismantling the established boundaries that existed between the fine arts. Employing equal parts philosophy and artistic process, Schwitters sought to unite all art forms as a means of developing a new aesthetic for the chaos of modern living.

As an artist and writer Schwitters spent more than thirty years constructing an impressive range of works, from collages and sculptures to poems and performance pieces. Exploring key works from Schwitters’s multi‐faceted oeuvre – including a full‐sized recreation of the Merzbau installation, on display for the first time in the United States—KURT SCHWITTERS: Color and Collage uncovers the expressive palettes, textures, and techniques behind the artist’s revolutionary work.

Born in Hannover in 1887 Kurt Schwitters had a conventional upbringing during prosperous economic times in Germany. Trained as a painter in the conservative academies of Berlin and Dresden, he explored a number of naturalist styles before the onset of the war. Schwitters diverged from many of his Dadaist contemporaries who fully rejected long‐established artistic genres, subjects, and media. He transformed the “useless” forms of everyday life into a language and aesthetic that engaged the turmoil of the post‐war era. Nailing and gluing together forgotten pieces of urban waste—train tickets, scraps of fabric, candy wrappers—Schwitters advanced collage and assemblage as integral modernist practices perhaps more than any artist of his time.

While collage called into question the very nature of painting, Schwitters’s background as a painter remained central throughout his work, particularly in his sensitivity to color and light.

KURT SCHWITTERS: Color and Collage includes more than 100 assemblages, sculptures, and collages from 1918 to 1947, highlighting the artist’s compositional methods and design principles as well as his critical and often witty response to the major art movements such as Constructivism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. The exhibition also explores Schwitters’s work during his Scandinavian exile and his initial reception in the United States. A new generation of young American artists—many of whom are prominently featured in the Menil’s own holdings—began to look to Schwitters for compositional inspiration as well as for a model of working with found materials. Both Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly owned collages; Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns have each loaned pieces from their personal collections to this exhibition. As Josef Helfenstein writes in the exhibition catalogue, “It seems almost compulsory to present Schwitters in the Menil Collection, for his work forms the historical precedent for any number of artists represented in the collection with important groups of works.”

Following its Menil debut the exhibition will travel to Princeton University Art Museum (on view March 26 – June 26, 2011); followed by Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (on view August 3 – November 27, 2011).

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage is accompanied by a fully illustrated color catalogue.

Menil Collection
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