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Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile

Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile

By Megan R. Luke

“Luke is particularly adept at operationalizing the artist’s writings to support a compelling interpretation of individual artworks and to subvert the idea that study of his late work (and perhaps such work by many artists) is unproductive. . . . Recommended.”―Choice

Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile is an excellent study of a deeply fascinating artist, and has important things to say about the history of modernism.”―Visual Studies

“A surprising and penetrating account of ‘Merz,’ this book gives Schwitters his rightful place at the very heart of the theorization of modernism and offers one of the most illuminating accounts I have come across of the implications of his practice for the intersections of art and identity.”―Michael White, University of York

German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) is best known for his pioneering work in fusing collage and abstraction, the two most transformative innovations of twentieth-century art. Considered the father of installation art, Schwitters was also a theorist, a Dadaist, and a writer whose influence extends from Robert Rauschenberg and Eva Hesse to Thomas Hirschhorn. But while his early experiments in collage and installation from the interwar period have garnered much critical acclaim, his later work has generally been ignored. In the first book to fill this gap, Megan R. Luke tells the fascinating, even moving story of the work produced by the aging, isolated artist under the Nazi regime and during his years in exile.

Combining new biographical material with archival research, Luke surveys Schwitters’s experiments in shaping space and the development of his Merzbau, describing his haphazard studios in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom and the smaller, quieter pieces he created there. She makes a case for the enormous relevance of Schwitters’ aesthetic concerns to contemporary artists, arguing that his later work provides a guide to new narratives about modernism in the visual arts. These pieces, she shows, were born of artistic exchange and shaped by his rootless life after exile, and they offer a new way of thinking about the history of art that privileges itinerancy over identity and the critical power of humorous inversion over unambiguous communication. Packed with images, Kurt Schwitters completes the narrative of an artist who remains a considerable force today.

Hardcover
352 pages
22 color plates, 98 halftones
The University of Chicago Press, 2014
7 x 1.2 x 10 inches
ISBN 9780226085180
Artist Monograph, Art History, Biography, Installation 

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