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July 15, 2020

Sophie Taeuber-Arp — Queen of Dada

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Nearly 80 years after her death, the little-known Swiss artist finally arrives in the spotlight.

From the New York Times:

Sophie Taeuber-Arp did it all: Installations, textiles, costumes, abstract art.

Nearly 80 years after her death, an online gallery show commemorates her talent (and a major museum exhibition is coming).

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In 1937, the Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp wrote a letter to a friend, noting her exclusion from an avant-garde exhibition in Paris.

While a male Belgian artist in her circle was refused entry too, "as a woman it is ten times harder to hold your position in this caldron."

And therein lies a tale, one that may be receiving an updated ending.

Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943), a pathbreaking artist, is the only woman on a Swiss bank note, and she has been featured previously in major museum exhibitions.

But her name is hardly bandied about — certainly not with the frequency of her husband's, Jean (Hans) Arp (below) —

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and some influential people in the art world are collectively looking to change that.

Among her advances was using interior design as an artistic tool, an early version of installation art, and when she wasn't painting she made textiles, costumes and sculptures and edited magazines.

She was a dancer, too.

Beginning with a current online show from the gallery Hauser & Wirth, the artist is getting a too-rare spotlight, which intensifies next year with the museum survey, "Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction."

That exhibition is scheduled to debut in March at the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland, and then travels to the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Jointly organized by the three institutions, it was originally scheduled to begin this year and will be the most comprehensive show of her work to appear in the United States.

During her lifetime, Taeuber-Arp excelled in many media, and the exhibition shows her lifelong devotion to abstraction,

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represented in canvases, works on paper and gouaches on cardboard that range in style from assemblages of slightly biomorphic shapes to hard-edge geometries.

She and her husband, the noted French-German painter and poet, were key members of the Dada movement just after World War I, and both had avant-garde careers well after Dada petered out.

According Anne Umland, the curator at the Museum of Modern Art who co-organized the show that will stop there, Taeuber-Arp was a multidisciplinary artist when it was radical to be so, and not de rigueur as it is today.

"She proposed a both-and model," Ms. Umland said. "Applied arts and abstraction, not one or the other. She conjured a language of abstraction from a background of arts and crafts."

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Hauser & Wirth recently took over representation of Taeuber-Arp's estate, which had never been commercially represented.

The online show features Taeuber-Arp works made from 1916 to 1942, the year before she died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mostly a non-selling exhibition, the survey is a useful Taeuber-Arp 101 course.

It also gives a sense of her 3D work, which is even more varied.

Her marionettes of 1918 (below),

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tiny and elaborately constructed, seemingly derived from a dark fairy tale, will be a revelation for many.

So will "Pompadour" (1920; below),

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a purse in silk, cotton and glass beads.

"People always ask why she is not better known," said Iwan Wirth, Hauser & Wirth's co-founder, who is Swiss himself. "She's one of the great known-unknown artists of the century."

He added, "She's on the 50 franc note, but still many people in Switzerland don’t know who that is."

The Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp Foundation administers both estates, and Mr. Wirth, who already represents Arp’s estate, had been pursuing hers for a decade.

"There's a small but impressive trove of works," Mr. Wirth said, adding that he thought her geometric reliefs of the 1930s — like the 1936 "Rectangular Relief with Cutout Rectangles, Applied Rectangles and Rising Cylinders" in the online show — were her strongest mode.

Arie Hartog, the coordinator of the Sophie Taeuber-Arp Research Project and a scholar of Arp's work who advises the foundation, said that Taeuber-Arp's known oeuvre is around 1,200 works.

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Mr. Hartog, who is also the director of Gerhard-Marcks-Haus in Bremen, Germany, has spent much time in the couple's archives.

Having a renowned artist for a husband and collaborator helped ensure that her work would be known to a certain degree — but also overshadowed. "She was a strong woman in a milieu of modernist males," he said.

Mr. Hartog pointed to a famous 1928 collaboration of the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg with Arp and Taeuber-Arp for the design of L'Aubette, a leisure complex in Strasbourg, France, meant to be a complete work of art and a showplace for the new de Stijl movement.

"I'm a Dutch art historian, and when we learned about this in school, we were told it was by van Doesburg, who brought his friend Arp, who brought his wife," Mr. Hartog said. "She was unnamed."

Taeuber-Arp, he added, "made the color scheme for one of the spaces. She was one of the first artists in Europe who understood that with color, you can make space."

Born in Davos, Switzerland, Taeuber-Arp studied art in Munich before returning to her native country.

She met Arp in 1915 in Zurich and from 1916 to 1929 she taught textile design at the School of Applied Arts there.

"She kept the couple afloat," said Pipilotti Rist, a contemporary Swiss artist who admires Taeuber-Arp.

"I'm absolutely inspired by her," said Ms. Rist, perhaps best known for her video installations. "The idea of doing applied art, fine art, and things in between, that was big for me as a young artist."

Zurich was a hub of Dada activity and Taeuber-Arp's 1920 painted sculpture "Dada Head"  (below)

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is one of her key works, Ms. Umland, the curator, said.

"It represented the cross-pollination that Taeuber-Arp was so deft at, combining turned-wood construction and painted abstract patterns over the visage," she said.

Ms. Umland said that she discovered the artist’s works in the early 1980s, guided by an older colleague, and then included Taeuber-Arp's art in a 2006 Dada show. But that exhibition covered the work only until 1920, and "I wanted to see more," she said.

After 1929, Taeuber-Arp and her husband lived much of their life in France, in and around Paris and then later in Grasse, in the south.

The relationship between husband and wife is a source of fascination for scholars.

"From reading her letters, and letters from people who knew her, my impression was that she was friendly and organized," Mr. Hartog said. "Hans was more impulsive."

If Arp was sensibility, Taeuber-Arp was sense.

Mr. Hartog quoted a letter that Taeuber-Arp wrote to her husband in 1919, when the Dada movement was at a fever pitch, with its devotees penning manifestoes left and right:

"I'm furious. What is this nonsense, 'radical artist'.... It must only be the work, to manifest oneself this way is more than stupid.... Nobody cares if you're always hopping around on your vanity like this."

The Los-Angeles based artist Christina Forrer, who is Swiss and makes tapestries among other works, said she had always admired that Taeuber-Arp was "unpretentious," attributing it at least partly to heritage. "Swiss Germans aren't flowery," she said.

In particular, Ms. Forrer cited Taeuber-Arp's use of color in textiles, an approach that suffused her work in other media. "With her, color is part of the material," she said. "It's not additive or superficial."

"He did amazing work for her after she died by writing about her, publishing a catalog raisonné," Ms. Umland said. "He donated her work to European institutions, and he made sure she stayed in the public eye."

Taeuber-Arp's complicated legacy is exactly what appeals to contemporary artists like Sheila Hicks, who is known for her sculptural textiles and counts herself as a Taeuber-Arp fan.

But Ms. Hicks — who is based in Paris, a foreigner in the city as Taeuber-Arp was — has her own take on the gender politics of the past.

"Her husband had a powerful personality, and it was a free ride into the inner circle," Ms. Hicks said. "She wouldn’t have had that without him." She added, "It was a challenge to live in those times and achieve her goals."

"I hope they don't make her out to be a tragic figure," Ms. Hicks said of "Living Abstraction."

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[Above, Taueber-Arp in Switzerland in 1925]

"I love the agility of this person who was multitalented, and who was partnered with this super-popular guy," she said. "It was a win-win."

July 15, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: smaller than a bread box.

Another: does not employ photosynthesis.

A third: not found in Asia or the Americas

July 15, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bird Portraits by Gary Heery


From the Guardian:


"Feathered friends are the subject of 'Bird,'
a book from Gary Heery,
one of Australia's most celebrated portrait photographers."
"Heery says to capture the birds in motion he erected a translucent tent, creating an intimate and contained environment in which the birds could fly."
"'I treated it, not unlike any other portraiture situation, as a kind of controlled spontaneity,' he said."
"The end result is a collection of dynamic yet almost clinically detailed images,
with each bird's distinct personality captured in all its glory."

July 15, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

BehindTheMedspeak: Adolph's Meat Tenderizer is the best remedy for wasp or bee stings


Say what?

The best remedy for a wasp or bee sting (for the majority who are not allergic to them): Make a thick paste of of Adolph's Meat Tenderizer and a little water and rub it into the sting site.

You will experience instant pain relief.

The papain (papaya extract, the active ingredient in Adolph's) breaks up the venom molecules, much as it does meat fibers when used in the kitchen as intended.

How do I know it works?

Many stings over the years, most recently last week by wasps that exploded out of a nest hidden in my car's front door enclosure behind and above the upper hinge.

I almost had an accident involving two other parked cars: if I hadn't been backing up dead slow, as is my custom, I never would have been able to recover from the stings and stop the car in time.

There's something to be said for always backing up abnormally slow, so slowly that if I hit someone, they wouldn't be injured or even knocked over.

But I digress.

As with burns, which need to be put under running cold water for five minutes by the clock as soon as possible after the injury to minimize tissue damage, Adolph's needs to be applied as quickly as possible after the sting.

Its efficacy is directly related to how soon it's applied.

If within a minute, you'll eliminate most pain, redness, and swelling; once you get out to ten minutes, you're not gonna gain much, though it's still worth the effort.

The reason I don't discuss here those who are allergic to wasp or bee stings is that they'll be dead from anaphylactic shock long before they have time to make a paste — unless they have an EpiPen at hand and use it STAT.

I keep a bottle of Adolph's at home and another in my car's glove box.

You should too.

$20.99 for three 3.5 oz. containers.

Give one to someone you love.

July 15, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Rhodia Triangular Pencil


What took so long?

No more rolling off the edge and behind the desk.

Talk about a stealth pencil: looked at end-on, it disappears.

Don't use it, just look at it.


I'm reminded of Calvin Klein's remark upon the opening of his flagship Fifth Avenue store, to wit.:"You don't have to buy anything; just feel the fabric."

Spot on.

From websites:

The Rhodia pencil has a black linden wood body, black eraser, and smooth writing HB lead (equivalent to a #2 pencil).

The triangular-shaped barrel is comfortable to hold and won't roll off your desk or table, and will sharpen in any standard pencil sharpener.

Pencil dimensions: Approximately 7.4 inches (18.8 cm) long and 0.3 inches (7 mm) in diameter.


Apiece, $2.95 ($5.45 including shipping).

Note: the Rhodia website lists 15 sources for Rhodia products (below).

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Since they didn't appear to be doing much of anything — in fact, they appeared to be doing something close to nothing (but different than the day before) — I had my Crack Research Team©® check to see how much shipping costs were for each of the 15 companies.

Turns out you can pay from $2.50 (site linked above) to $12.16 (!) for shipping a lousy pencil.

I guess no one ever heard of putting one in an envelope with a 50-cent stamp and dropping it in the mailbox.


July 15, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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