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Doctoral candidate, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, New York University

The Arp Archive and Latin America: Lines in Motion

This archival project examines the relations between the Arps and the Latin American avant-gardes. It explores Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Hans Arp’s contacts with the Parisian group Cercle et Carré, led by Joaquín Torres-García (1929–30), and the later four-handed writings of Arp and the poet Vicente Huidobro (Tres inmensas novelas, 1935). The research revolves around questions of literature and archive as related to transatlantic modern art: what did the Arps have in common with the Latin American artists with whom they engaged in intellectual dialogue and artistic collaborations, and how did this exchange shape ideas about materiality—specifically that of the human body? The research, therefore, traces Taeuber-Arp and Arp’s encounters with Latin American artists through diverse materials held in the Arp archive and library: correspondence, ephemera, catalogs, and artworks. The aim is to rethink, on one hand, their outside contact and convergences with the main vanguardistas of the Latin American diaspora. On the other, the project analyzes their impact on the neo-avant-garde (from the 1950s), exploring lesser-known relations between Hans Arp and artists, Collectors, and cultural actors in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay and Spain, among other Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries.



Curator, Museum Beelden aan Zee, The Hague

Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Her Contemporaries 

Context:  The proposed research project will delve into the vibrant artistic milieu of 1920s Europe, which was marked by significant cultural and societal shifts. The avant-garde movement, responding dynamically to these changes, found its epicenter in Paris, where artists gathered to exchange ideas and build connections. Notable academies and groups, such as Académie Moderne and Cercle et Carré, facilitated collaborative environments that fueled the exploration of new visual vocabularies.     

An Example: Taeuber-Arp and Clausen: The Circle: The research initially centers on the innovative quests of Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) and Franciska Clausen (1899–1986), particularly their exploration of the circle. Both artists, exhibiting unconventional and idiosyncratic approaches, straddled the line between applied and fine arts, challenging societal norms and gender biases prevalent in the art world at the time. The pivotal Cercle et Carré group exhibition in 1930 served was a focal point for them. Clausen’s contribution aimed to enhance rhythm and harmony, exploring the visual experience and afterimages. Taeuber-Arp, influenced by Clausen, incorporated circles into her work, marking the beginning of her renowned circle paintings. The circle, symbolizing a cosmic metaphor encompassing all forms, became a significant motif for Taeuber-Arp. The research aims to explore the evolution of their use of circles over time, as well as a more thorough examinations of the intricate relationship between Taeuber-Arp and her other contemporaries. The study involves a thorough analysis of primary source materials, including letters, notes, sketches, photographs, and interviews from the archives of the Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp and the Franciska Clausen Estate. 

Broader Research Initiative: The investigation extends beyond the exploration of the circle to delve into identity. The study will also encompass the use of dolls and puppets as expressions of the personal and political, involving comparisons with other artists of the period. Taeuber-Arp’s multifaceted contributions as a performer, costume maker, and collaborator will be analyzed, including her partnership with her husband Hans Arp and projects like the Aubette Dance Theatre, which was also carried out together with the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg. 

Exhibition and Collaboration: The end goal is to develop an exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, curated in collaboration with Laura Stamps. The exhibition aims to spotlight Taeuber-Arp alongside both renowned and lesser-known figures from the interwar period, offering a nuanced perspective on their contributions. 



Postdoctoral Fellow, Art History Department, Free University Berlin

Abstraction, Coloniality, Transculturation: The Case of Sophie Taeuber-Arp 

Recent exhibitions and scholarship have afforded Sophie Taeuber-Arp an increasingly central position in histories of European abstract art. In 2021–22, the artist’s long-overdue retrospective Living Abstraction introduced the full scope of her production to audiences at the Kunstmuseum Basel, Tate Modern, and the Museum of Modern Art. Even more recently, her novel integration of abstraction and applied arts was placed at the very outset of the major 2023–25 exhibition Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction. Despite this fresh attention, however, the relationship between Taeuber-Arp’s abstract production and her known interest in Indigenous and non-Western practices remains underexplored. As such, my project seeks to foreground these interactions. It asks: how was Taeuber-Arp’s approach to abstraction related to practices of other cultures? What are the larger cultural and political stakes of these connections? And most significantly, how might these relations compel us to rethink the nature of abstraction in Taeuber-Arp’s work? 

This inquiry builds on a body of scholarship that has reassessed Taeuber-Arp’s connections to non-European cultures within the frame of Dada and applied arts, represented perhaps most prominently by the 2016 exhibition and publication dada Africa: Dialogue with the Other. Nonetheless, the cross-cultural exchanges undergirding her approach to abstraction have not yet received sustained consideration. Accordingly, my research will focus on Taeuber-Arp’s practice from its formative years in the mid-teens until the early 1930s. During this time, the artist demonstrated a keen awareness of various folk and non-Western traditions, especially those of certain Native American and African cultures. The initial goals of my investigation are to locate specific non-European objects and practices with which Taeuber-Arp directly engaged and consider the degree to which they contributed to her thinking and production. This process will include close formal, technical, and conceptual analysis of the objects themselves, incorporating both those made by Taeuber-Arp and others that she encountered. Taking methodological inspiration from Aníbal Quijano’s framing of “coloniality,” Monica Juneja’s notion of “transculturation,” and reevaluations of modernist primitivism by Jonathan Hay and Joshua I. Cohen, the eventual aim of this study is to scrutinize the power relations at stake in Taeuber-Arp’s cross-cultural engagements and their implications for understandings of European abstract art. 



Doctoral Candidate, Department of History of Art, University of Belgrade

The Influence of Native American Art on Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s Textile-Based Works

During the ARP Research Fellowship, I would like to examine the influence of Native American artistic practices on the textile-based works created by Sophie Taeuber-Arp. The artist’s interest in Indigenous peoples’ art and culture can be traced back to her girlhood, when the decorations for her room were inspired by Native American memorabilia. This interest is also evident in the artist’s sketches for costumes that were inspired by the Native American Hopi Kachina dolls. The formal elements of her textiles also show connections to the artistic practices of Indigenous peoples. 

For the ARP Research Fellowship project, I would like to propose a two-month fellowship, including a month-long residency in Berlin to conduct research at the Arp Foundation. The focus would be on examining primary sources, specifically Taeuber-Arp’s textile-based pieces. Secondary sources from the foundation’s library would complement the research, exploring Taeuber-Arp’s connections to and interests in Indigenous artistic practices. Part of the fellowship stipend would be allocated to accessing primary sources concerning exhibitions of Native American art in Switzerland, particularly those Taeuber-Arp visited at the Zurich Ethnology Museum. 

The second month of the fellowship would be spent at my home university and would be dedicated to writing a research paper and incorporating essential aspects of my research into my PhD thesis, which focuses on the use of textiles in feminist artistic practices in the United States. The feminist artists I am researching for my PhD thesis were inspired and influenced by various artists and cultures. Thus, researching the ties between Indigenous, avant-garde, and feminist art is of crucial importance. The current institutional interest in exhibiting and showcasing fiber art and textile-based pieces made by women artists highlights the importance of researching these topics. This growing interest broadens perspectives on craft, women’s art, feminist art, and the cultural heritage of fiber art—opening various discussions in art history and social politics. By researching these aspects of modern art, there is an opportunity to amplify voices that have historically been silenced and encourage discussions about the past. 



Professor, Instituto de Artes, Universidade de Brasilia

Sophie Taeuber Arp in Brazil: Exhibitions and Influences, 1949–1955

Sophie Taeuber Arp’s work influenced the Brazilian art scene, but how did this happen? Indeed, a major posthumous exhibition in honor of Taeuber Arp took place in a special gallery at the third São Paulo Biennial in 1955. As the first major exhibition of Taeuber-Arp’s oeuvre after her death in 1943, it brought together works from different phases of her multifaceted career, including paintings, photographs, models, and reliefs. In this way, the exhibition helped promote new directions for Brazilian Concretism.

After receiving the acquisition prize at the first São Paulo Biennial in 1951, Sophie Taeuber-Arp was honored with a major exhibition at the third biennial in 1955. Co-organized by the Swiss Embassy and Hans Arp, it presented the work of an artist who had died prematurely but made a major contribution to Constructive art. This research, therefore, aims to carry out a complete survey of the works exhibited in Brazil from 1949 to 1955, analyze the specificities of the artworks presented, and assess the impact of these works on Brazilian artistic production based on artists’ testimonies and changes in Brazilian artistic production from 1955 onward.

The São Paulo Biennial was the channel of contact with the modern art world—not only for Brazil but also for Latin America. Maria Bonomi was among the artists based in Brazil who also recognized the importance of the exhibition of Taeuber-Arp’s works. In 1955, on the occasion of the third biennial, Bonomi commented on the impact of Taeuber-Arp’s work on Brazilian art and Concretism in Brazil. Although she lived in São Paulo and had no ties to Concretism in Rio de Janeiro, her connection between Taeuber-Arp’s works and local production is indicative of how the Swiss artist’s lessons served to criticize the more dogmatic position of Concrete art and provided new, more robust paths for artistic production based on the lessons of simplicity and structure in formal construction. In fact, Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s work perhaps signaled that concrete art could be more than simply a game of privileged forms and the application of relationships between form and background. Early on, her reliefs indicated the possibility of thinking about art beyond the traditional categories of painting and sculpture, as well as the understanding of art as an object. To be sure, the object takes center stage in art, as was made clear at the third biennial in 1955. In addition, Taeuber Arp’s reliefs paved the way for a series of existential and environmental experiments that were realized from 1955 onwards by Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica.



Visual artist, London

ARP: Form, Critique, Humour 

In a radio programme which the BBC broadcast in the early 1960s, the British critic David Sylvester (1924–2001) pinpointed ‘the humour’ in Arp’s reliefs as a conceptual device that the artist used to counter what he described as the most dangerous follies of his age.

I plan to research this idea of humour, and how Arp developed a system of visual motifs and arrangements, that, in Sylvester’s words, created formal ‘visual pun[s]…that mean[t] two or three different and incongruous things at once’. It interests me that Arp’s ‘puns’ were made from simple, ‘formal’ pictorial elements. Through this research, I plan to further a methodology for my own painting practice where formalism and a critical use of humour can cohabitate. 

I will study Arp’s reliefs, from the Earthly Forms (1917), via the biomorphic composition, to the Constellation series from the 1930s. I am interested in finding out about the planning and genesis of such work—and the development of Arp’s ideas of seriality, equivalence, and sequence in them. These are all ideas that resonate with my own painting practice. The reliefs also challenge ideas of uniqueness and the artist’s subjectivity through the use of chance and compositional shifts. These methodologies challenge and critique past conceptual positions, and it is here that I see Arp’s humour residing. It is, as I see it, humour that elicits a nervous laugh, as the viewer’s expectations—of what one might expect to encounter in a painting or artwork, its norms—are called into question. 

My interest in Arp’s use of humour stems from my own studio practice. As a painter, I use humour, casualness, and a slight ‘cartoonising of past abstract positions’ to move my paintings beyond ideas of modernist certainty, to open up a contemporary space for abstraction. The paintings adhere to aspects, or tropes, of modernist abstraction, while also co-existing with the opposing but related world of quick modern design. Through indirect quotations, rather than the directness of appropriation, the paintings acknowledge the old-modernist catalyst of the tension between high and low—the supposedly serious and the knowingly frivolous. By combining a pictorial vocabulary which oscillates between the language of past abstract painting (hard-edged, factual, constructivist, and built on the certitude of systems of belief) and that of today’s visual world (of totally designed trainers, bright digital screens with their over-loaded colours and compositional combinations), I hope my paintings speak to the present both visually and theoretically. They are historically informed—but with ‘a digital absence-of-assertion-of-self’. They present an oppositional but optimistic vision—where differences are asked to coexist effectively within the whole.