Ohne Titel (Apollo im Februar)

Schwitters, Kurt, 1929

Collage, 18,4x14,2cm, Henie-Onstad Art Center

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) was part of the European avant-garde during the first half of the 20th century and had a determining influence on later artists and experimental movements and genres, such as Surrealism, Fluxus, happenings, performance art, etc.

Schwitters is especially known for his so-called Merz pictures. The name was chosen by coincidence and had no particular significance; it stems from a fragment of the name of a business, “Commerz- und Disconto-Bank”, which Schwitters cut out of a leaflet and used as a central element in one of his pictures. The Merz pictures are collages composed of various materials and found objects such as newspaper clippings, postcards, wrapping paper, bits of cloth, tram tickets, photographs, etc. Untitled (Apollo in February) is a characteristic example of these works.

But Merz is also larger and more significant than the individual work. It can be viewed as an expression of Schwitters’ entire artistic project, which encompasses a cornucopia of genres in addition to visual art: poetry, drama, music, art criticism, prose, architecture, etc. For Schwitters there was actually no distinction between life and art, it was rather a question of everything being part of an overall Gesamtkunstwerk [all-embracing work of art] where there was no difference between high and low, important and unimportant.