Art Historian, Nasher Sculpture Center Dallas
In September 2018, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas will present The Nature of Arp: Sculptures, Reliefs, Works on Paper, the first major museum exhibition in the US in almost three decades to examine the seminal achievements of the artist Hans Arp. In a 1920 collaborative text published under the pseudonym Alexander Partens, Arp declared that he wanted “immediate and direct production, like a stone breaking away from a cliff, a bud bursting, an animal reproducing.” The Nature of Arp will explore how Arp achieved this ambition by seeking ways of making art through creative strategies analogous to the operations of nature, in particular what Arp called “the laws of chance;” cycles of birth, growth and transformation; and the unremitting persistence of entropy, death, and decay. The exhibition will bring together approximately 80 objects across a variety of media spanning all periods of the artist’s career and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, for which I will be providing the lead essay and inviting contributions from other scholars. As curator of the exhibition, I also devised the exhibition’s title, The Nature of Arp, to indicate my interest in exploring other aspects of the “nature,” i.e. the disposition, of Arp’s life, work, and career. These other aspects are currently focused on three areas: Arp’s relationships with other artists, his role in the creation and sustaining of art-world networks, and the circulation of art objects within these networks; the role of installation and exhibitions in the presentation of his works; and his radical approach to the concepts of originality and creativity. My research plan for the archive and library fellowship at the Stiftung Arp e.V. is based on the scope of this exhibition project.
DR. DENIS LOMTEV
Music- and Art Historian, Moscow
The research project addresses a particular aspect of the multi-faceted artistic transfer between the cultural spheres of Western Europe and Russia. Specifically, it analyses Hans Arp’s reception of the Russian Avant-Garde and how their members were receptive to Arp’s ideas. The intellectual and artistic exchange between Arp and his Russian counterparts, as mediated by El Lissitzsky (1890-1941), will be studied at the Archive and Library of the Stiftung Arp e.V. Of particular interest is the Franco-German artist’s experimentation with Alexander Rodchenko’s (1891-1956) concepts of space. The relationship between Rodchenko’s photographs, photomontages and his collage techniques, which has much in common with Arp technique of collage, will also be studied. The director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948), whose name is inseparable from Russian film history, acted in the experimental film Everyday, which was filmed after a scenario of Arp in 1929. Arp’s concept of a so-called primer on the Avant-Garde also provides a key to better understanding of the context the artistic exchange between Arp and Lissitzsky. Special attention will therefore be paid to their collaboration on the 1925 publication The Isms of Art (Die Kunstismen). A further aspect of their encounter, Lissitzsky’s photographic portrait of Arp, establishes a link to the literature of the Russian Avant-Garde. Lissitzsky incorporated the photograph into his cover design for Notes of a Poet (1927) by Ilja Selvinskij (1899-1968), the Russian Constructivist poet and playwright. As the text refers to the creative arena of the Dadas, Arp’s cover portrait thus epitomizes the artistic and literary movement in this Russian context.
Art Historian, Universidade de Brasilia
The project aims to study the importance of the exhibition of works by Sophie Taeuber-Arp at the Third Biennial of São Paulo in Brazil for the consolidation of the constructive trend in Brazilian art during the 1950s and early 1960s. It was a great exhibition of her work, showing 41 paintings of various sizes. No doubt the presentation of Taeuber-Arp was the greatest contribution of the Swiss delegation to the Biennial after the award won by Max Bill in its first edition in 1951. It was a time when countries facing Cold War sought to recover or affirm their leading position in the international cultural scene. The art world was increasingly polarized by disputes between the US and USSR. One way or another, critics and curators of these countries made use of the power and the conviction of their ideas in the struggle fought since the beginning of the Biennial of São Paulo. In this context the case of France is exemplary. The exhibitions were covering the period from the nineteenth century to the contemporary and were emphasizing nothing less than the School of Paris, led by mentors and personalities such as Germain Bazin and René Huyghe. Beside of France, the focus of the new momentum of the visual arts was on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, specifically in New York, which had become the new center of modern art. In the clash period between constructive art and informal art, the US were featuring informal art at the Biennial of 1957 and 1959 with the active presence and influential will of Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Sam Hunter. The Swiss concrete art pointed the other way, a way which interested the Brazilian and South American artists. Max Bill and Sophie Taeuber-Arp represented at that time the constructive contribution to international modern art, which was resisting the fashion imported from New York with Abstract Expressionism and European Informal Art. Although the Taeuber-Arp exhibition has been consolidated the constructive trend in Brazilian art, little information exists about the reasons why the Swiss delegation organized the big exhibition of her work in Sao Paulo. To deepen the knowledge about these reasons it is important to research and raise primary sources, to provide a plausible explanation of the confluence of the constructive trend in the art of Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Brazilian artists in the 1950s.
Museologist, Photographer, Cyprus University of Technology
Despite the acknowledgement that everyday photography and photographic archives can elicit different meanings and narratives over time and depending on who views them, there is not much in-depth research into artists’ vernacular photography. Ironically, photographs owned by artists are more likely to be catalogued, archived and preserved for future generations than many other types of vernacular photography because of their assumed historical value. Unfortunately, the use of such archives has been limited since vernacular photography produced or owned by artists is traditionally used to inform art historical narratives and artist biographies. What is usually ignored, and thus understudied, is the meaning of these photographs to the artists themselves and to contemporary viewers. Additionally, further investigation is needed to understand how these meanings are created, enacted or suggested. This research project investigates what happens over time to the materiality, meanings and uses of vernacular photographs owned by artists. The photographic archive of the artists Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, now at the Stiftung Arp e.V., will serve as a case study for investigating not the life of the artists per se, but the life of their photographs. That is, how the meaning of vernacular photography owned by the artists has shifted over time when used in different social and historical spheres as well as in various media (ex. albums, newspapers, exhibitions etc.). In order to understand the use and meaning of these photographs through time, I plan to examine the production, use and consumption of the photographs while the artists were alive as well as after their death. This should provide valuable information about how the artists viewed themselves and wished to present themselves to others. The research will provide evidence of a personal life narrative and sense of self-identity. On the other hand, examining a photographic archive after the artists’ death, and the use of this archive by art historians in various publications and museum settings, will tell us a lot about how vernacular photography can be transformed to support other narratives. In other words, how an initially personal life narrative can be transformed to support an art historical narrative. Questions about the indexicality (what is it that we see), materiality (printed vs digital) and meaning of photography (for various “actors”) are crucial in this examination. The photographs owned by the artists are examined against two visual communication systems: that of the family album and that of art history. Furthermore, the results are expected to contribute to the debates related to vernacular photography, performance and identity as well as the debates on the value and meaning of vernacular photography.