Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, El espiritu Dada 1915/1925, 1980-81, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Madrid, Fundación Juan March & Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Kurt Schwitters, 1982-83, no. 54, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Zurich, Kunsthaus; Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle und Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen; Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts & Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Schloss Charlottenburg, Orangerie & DAAD-Galerie, Der Hang zum Gesamtkunstwerk: Europäische Utopien seit 1800, 1983-84, n.n.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; London, The Tate Gallery & Hanover, Sprengel Museum, Kurt Schwitters, 1985-86, no. 60, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Qu'est-ce que la sculpture moderne?, 1986, no. 69, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne; Valencia, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno & Grenoble, Musée de Grenoble, Kurt Schwitters, 1994-95, n.n., illustrated in color in the catalogue
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste & Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Kurt Schwitters. I is Style, 2000, n.n., illustrated in color in the catalogue (illustrated upside down)
Basel, Museum Tinguely, Kurt Schwitters: MERZ - ein Gesamtweltbild, 2004, no. 66, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Celebration of Art: A Half Century of the Fundación Juan March, 2005-06, no. 26, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Houston, The Menil Collection; Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum & Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage, 2010-11, no. 33, illustrated in color in the catalogue
This expansive and democratic use of materials continued the Dada anti-art message, but whereas Dada also placed an emphasis on nonsense and silliness, Merz was self-consciously serious. In creating both his collage and relief constructions Schwitters moved beyond the confines of traditional oil painting; rather than placing line against line, and color against color, he juxtaposed actual materials, seeking a purer form of artistic expression. Much as the de Stijl artists (Schwitters met Theo van Doesburg in 1922 and they became close friends) sought a new truth in abstract forms, Schwitters insisted that abstraction was the future, arguing that any external reference undermined a work’s status as an art object.
The success of this approach is particularly apparent in the three-dimensional collage-reliefs that Schwitters began making in the mid-1920s, using found objects – often pieces of wood – that were then painted in bold, primary tones. Discussing these works John Elderfield writes: “… these painted high-relief pictures took two general directions. The first produced a group of usually quite small, blocky reliefs with relatively few geometric elements arranged in a grid-like way. Blau (Blue) of c. 1923-26 [the present work] is characteristic of these simple, sturdy and very beautiful works, which are at one and the same time objects (its ground of vertical planks and geometrically disposed objects producing a symbiosis between the inside of the picture and its literal shape) and containers of objects, albeit objects disguised by paint” (J. Elderfield, op. cit., p. 184).
In Blau, Schwitters combines different shapes of roughly-hewn wood with a striking palette of blue, yellow and red or pink tones, using the paint to achieve an important synthesis between the constituent elements of the work. As Elderfield goes on to explain: “One surprising feature of these pictures is their color… nothing in his earlier paintings prepares us for the beauty and originality of pure color that we find here. Schwitters seemed unable to control the color balances of very complex compositions … but with simpler ones – where color could spread to occupy relatively large areas – he proved himself very adept indeed. As with the Constructivist-style collages of this period, it is the color as well as the roughness of the materials that lift these works out of the ordinary” (ibid., p. 184).
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