art

The Wandering Creativity of Sophie Taeuber-Arp – The New York Times

Summary

There’s an object in the Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of the Swiss polymath Sophie Taeuber-Arp that’s so covetable I wanted to squeeze it.

It dates from 1922, and takes the form of triangles that lock together into an allover pattern of blue and pink, brown and olive. Interrupting these abstract forms are five red birds, flattened and simplified into icons of a new age. Their wings are jazzily misaligned. Their napes …….

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There’s an object in the Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of the Swiss polymath Sophie Taeuber-Arp that’s so covetable I wanted to squeeze it.

It dates from 1922, and takes the form of triangles that lock together into an allover pattern of blue and pink, brown and olive. Interrupting these abstract forms are five red birds, flattened and simplified into icons of a new age. Their wings are jazzily misaligned. Their napes are festooned with triangular plumage as consistent as the teeth of a comb.

This isn’t a painting. It’s a pillow: something beautiful and practical, something new for the eyes but fit for the head.

Modern art, right on your sofa! Opening after a year’s pandemic-obliged delay, “Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction” offers a view of an artist who could not have cared less about the distinctions among the art on your wall, in your living room, on the stage, or on your back. Freewheeling and alive with color, the show puts Taeuber-Arp in her rightful place as a prime mover among the Dadaists of wartime Zurich. It intermingles her abstract watercolors and painted wood sculptures with necklaces, marionettes, beaded purses, stained-glass windows. She could do it all, and was underestimated for decades because of it.

Her multimedia appetite makes her the ideal subject for a blowout in MoMA’s expanded home, where curators now mix painting, photography, design and even cinema into single presentations. The show, exquisite if unbalanced, has arrived here from the Kunstmuseum Basel and Tate Modern in London. It sure is big, with more than 300 objects on loan from 50 collections. Maybe even too big? There are some longueurs in its later galleries, replete with dozens of later abstract paintings and reliefs: so many dancing circles, so many boogieing lines.

It’s also weirdly fainthearted about her art’s sources, notably its clear debts to Native American textiles and African sculpture: influences shared by many of the anarchic rule-breakers of Dada, which plunge her colors and patterns into dialogue with colonialism and ethnography. There’s so much to fancy here, and I bet “Living Abstraction” will sire scads of younger Sophie stans. But might it have done with a little more grit on this score?

She’s never been an obscure figure, exactly. She was a regular at the Cabaret Voltaire, dancing and drinking alongside Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, and her future husband, the artist and poet Jean (Hans) Arp. Her face used to be on the 50-franc note in Switzerland, wearing a cloche hat that made her look uncannily like one of her own symmetrical, turned-wood Dada Heads. (She got phased out last decade, replaced on the 50 by some Alps and a dandelion.)

She isn’t even new to MoMA: …….

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/26/arts/design/sophie-taeuber-arp-review-moma-dada.html