A Radiating World: Kurt Schwitters and El Lissitzky

Were it not for the German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters, Lissitzky may not have received the commissions for the two Kestner portfolios, currently on view, which I recently blogged about. Through an introduction from Schwitters, Lissitzky met the president of the Kestner Society during a visit to Hanover in 1922. After hosting Lissitzky’s first solo exhibition early the following year, the society of art supporters commissioned him to produce its first and then second limited edition lithographic portfolio as gifts for its members. You can see the Phillips’s fabulous collage by Schwitters, Radiating World, completed just three years before these Lissitzky prints, in an installation currently on view in the Main Gallery of the house.

Elsa Smithgall, Curator

Kurt Schwitters's Radiating World (1920) hangs at left in this view of the current installation of the Phillips Main Gallery. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Kurt Schwitters’s Radiating World (1920) hangs at left in this view of the current installation of the Phillips Main Gallery. Photo: Joshua Navarro

A Geologist Painter Goes to Brussels

A retrospective of Danish artist Per Kirkeby’s extensive body of work opened in February at the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels at the heart of its Let’s Dansk! program to mark the Danish EU Presidency.

Over 40 tireless years, Kirkeby has produced a huge body of work. He has mastered expression in painting, sculpture, film, poetry, and other media. With training in both art and arctic geology, thorough knowledge of art history, and familiarity with the philosophy of another renowned Dane–Søren Kirkegaard–Kirkeby is a rare polymath.His artistic range seems only natural given his expertise across disciplines, and his sense of continuity between art, science, and philosophy is embodied in paintings like Inferno V (1992) in The Phillips Collection.

The  retrospective in Brussels features more than 180 of Kirkeby’s works–including early Masonite “blackboards,” paintings, architectural models, sculpture, watercolor, and illustration–capturing the shifts and changes in his work as well as pervading thematic links. Kirkeby’s art is complemented by the “forbidden paintings” of Kurt Schwitters–realistic landscapes revealing a range beyond the artist’s typical dadaist style.

The exhibition touches on Kirkeby’s dialogue with art and nature: important and inevitable shifts and changes in material, sensitivity and responsiveness to the surrounding world, and continuity through time. Every shift draws from the past and fuels the future. Retrospective Per Kirkeby and the “Forbidden Paintings” of Kurt Schwitters is on view at BOZAR in Brussels through May 20, 2012. And that’s not all–another Kirkeby exhibit is on view in Germany through May 28 at Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, and the Phillips looks forward to bringing his work to D.C. audiences this fall with Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture, 1964–2010 (Oct. 6, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013).