“To say that Kurt Schwitters was an amazingly versatile artist and anticipated much is such an absurd understatement that the remark is almost Dada.”
“And so you will understand why we have had enough of Dada. The mirror that indignantly rejects your worthy countenance, that in mirroring it banishes it, such a mirror does not love you, it is in love with the very opposite.”
To perpetually imitate KS is to be as unlike him as one could conceive. He was always pushing forward into the untried. But it is not for every artist to cross a boundary into the unknown. Some of us might be better suited to settling the frontier. There may be some among us more appropriately equipped to continue investigating the discoveries of a pioneering original— by sharing these visual concepts with a broader audience, by weaving them into a greater tapestry of the visual landscape, and, with a bit of luck, by finding a way to fuse our unique perspective with what has been handed off to us, in order to express new ideas that further cultivate a valuation of the past.
I am not an expert on Dada or the relationship of Schwitters with the phenomenon. I am always learning more. I just know that he was never fully accepted by the movement at its peak, and that he was compelled to articulate his own vision of Merz. Perhaps much of it relates to Fascist oppression and the resulting geographic disruption, but I’ve always believed there was more to it than that. More important to me is an ongoing effort to unravel the underlying differences. A certain veneration for painting, design, and the aesthetics of beauty probably set KS apart from some of his rejectionist or surrealist contemporaries, but that is what gives his creations a unique, seminal power for me and for others. His perseverance in the face of daunting circumstances and a professed goal of “creating relationships, preferably between all things in the world” fly in the face of a nihilist orientation. Although I remain awed by surrealism in collage, and I am as tickled by irreverent juxtapositions as the next guy, there is an inherent pessimism or metaphysical anarchy in the “art of weirdness” that never seems to resonate with my deepest creative urge. I cannot say that I fully understand that, or that I am not occasionally moved to place a fish head on a reclining nude or mask a face with a front-loading washer. Is it even productive for me to engage in such self-analysis? Or, is it important only to submit to the most undeniable inner motivations when in the studio, sorting through another pile of visual fragments that await an intuitive response?
collage artifact by J A Dixon
collection of Nancy and Charles Martindale