Kurt SCHWITTERS
(elikan)

Collage
17 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. (43.5 x 36.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

From John Elderfield, "Kurt Schwitters"

"The opposite solution was new. Instead of energizing the surfaces of his materials, he could relax the recently established compositional geometry, and allow materials a greater independence than they had even in the early collages - in which case, the materials could remain clear and geometric; indeed, they would need to be. Their clarity and geometry would compensate for what had been surrendered on these counts in the newly relaxed compositions. As with the mature pioneering collages, the materials would create the structure. Just as, in those collages, Schwitters had to free himself from dependence on a priori, Futuro-Expressionist and Cubist-influenced structures, so in the early 1920s he had to free himself from a priori Constructivist, and especially De Stijl, structures. When he wrote of having "condensed" his effects in 1924, and made then his "first attempts at a greater rigor, simplification and more universal expression," it was not to the influence of Constructivism, but to his beginning to achieve a new, personal order out of Constructivism, that he referred.

"The larger, mid 1920s collages show how this new order was established. An untitled collage of c. 1925, known as elikan, reprises the composition of apparently falling materials that we noticed in the early work. The materials, however, are cleaner, crisper, and juxtaposed with stronger figure-ground contrast. They speak more separately than they did before - but because of their common character they speak in a similar voice. In this case, the architectural connotations of both the block-like and the diagonally overlapping materials cause the collage to resemble some views of the Merzbau.