UK show puts Schwitters "rubbish" art back in frame

Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:29am EST
 

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Sheep bones, nails, pegs, a scrubbing brush, a metal toy - all, according to avant garde German artist Kurt Schwitters, are on a par with paint, and all appear in collages and sculptures in a London show dedicated to his time in Britain in the 1940s.

Schwitters remains a relatively obscure figure in his adopted country, where he fled Nazi Germany and remained until his death, aged 60, in 1948.

"Schwitters in Britain" at Tate Britain aims to bring his works to a wider audience, although he is already acknowledged in the art world as a major influence on Pop Art and on famous figures like Richard Hamilton and Robert Rauschenberg.

He was also part of the Dada movement and a pioneer of both installation and performance art, most notably in his "Ursonate" poem which he developed between 1923 and 1932 and which consisted of repeated sequences of "pre-linguistic" sounds.

Curators and journalists discussing the show, which opens on January 30, jokingly refer to Schwitters's art as "rubbish", and his use of everyday fragments was born out of a desire to create beauty from the ruins of German culture after World War One.

In 1919 he created the radical new concept "Merz", a one-man movement and philosophy which he described as "the combination of all conceivable materials for artistic purposes, and technically the principle of equal evaluation of the individual materials..."

Works on display in the opening room of the show, designed to introduce visitors to his ideas and artistic career in Germany, include "Merzbild 46 A", or Merz Picture 46 A, a collection of wooden pegs and other objects stuck to cardboard.

"DEGENERATE ART"   Continued...

 
Two gallery security guards pose in front of 'Unitled (heavy relief)' by Kurt Schwitters at the Tate Britain, central London, January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning