On first encountering Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s diminutive Head (1920), one might wonder whether it is an abstract sculpture, a playful portrait, or a functional object. Indicative of the artist’s pursuit to break down the conventional boundaries between the fine and applied arts, the work defies easy categorization. Its stylized features—a single eye, a long trapezoidal nose, delicately beaded “earrings”—hint at Taeuber-Arp’s interests in modernist abstraction and in the stuff of everyday life. A dancer, designer, puppet maker, sculptor, and painter at the heart of the Zurich Dada movement, Taeuber-Arp made Head in the wake of World War I, during a time of profound political and cultural questioning. A century later, her witty wooden figure has lost none of its punch as an investigation of art across aesthetic and material boundaries rather than within them. Curator Anne Umland’s essay positions this intriguingly anthropomorphic work within the broader arc of Taeuber-Arp’s remarkably vibrant and versatile career. 48 pp.; 35 illus.
Each volume in the One on One series is a sustained meditation of a single work from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. A richly illustrated and lively essay illuminates the subject in detail and situates that work within the artist’s life and career as well as within broader historical contexts. This series is an invaluable guide for exploring and interpreting some of the most beloved artworks in the Museum’s collection. View the entire series here.
7.25w x 9"h
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