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Ivan Seal

RaebervonStenglin
Pfingstweidstrasse 23
August 27–September 30

Ivan Seal, vulch grinning, 2016, oil on canvas, 59 x 59".

The memory of a childhood event—a car accident Ivan Seal survived with his family, riding in a yellow Chevette—is the genesis for his third solo show here. The gallery, located in a former garage, is an ideal stage for the revival of this memory. These oil paintings, on display for the first time, are complex constructions whose point of departure is the dismembering of cars with vibrantly colored, crystal-shaped excrescences that provide a visual balance. Six large pieces in a first room seem to suggest they are a body, with two works in the second room making up its heart and brain. The paintings reveal the artist’s memories in an equilibrium between what is resolved and what is yet to be understood. Vague backgrounds uphold wavering, impossible structures, sometimes defined by motifs such as keys or tree-shaped air fresheners.

Abstraction goes out of control in the second room, where the two canvases vulch grinning and vavet grinning (all works 2016) have stable appearances giving way to a free representation of impossible engines. Flowers and vegetation seem to sprout from the ferrous masses. These works inspired the artist’s musical composition “chevette in dub,” which gives the show its title. Like the paintings, this recording of metallic noises, engine rumblings, creaking, and belches brings into the present the resonances of moments impressed in the artist’s mind.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Maria Chiara Valacchi

Kurt Schwitters

Galerie Gmurzynska | Zurich
Paradeplatz 2
June 12–September 30

View of “Kurt Schwitters: Merz,” 2016.

Putting on a commanding exhibition during Art Basel isn’t easy, but this gallery has succeeded with a display of Kurt Schwitters’s Merz to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Dada movement, launched at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Featuring several dozen posthumous works by Dada’s agent from Hannover, the exhibition was designed by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid—who died a few weeks before the opening—making for a perfect pairing.

Schwitters famously constructed the Merzbau, 1923–37—an expressionist Gesamtkunstwerk lost in a hail of bombs during World War II—in his family’s home. Far from the artist’s spatial collage with its many nooks and crannies, in Hadid’s flowing installation a visitor can experience a free-form adaptation of it through bellied curves of plastic and marble, among other materials, that stretch as if to suck the capital out of the banks across the street into the gallery space. One is led to and immersed in the furthest niches and alcoves of the display, finding constructivist collages made of painted segments of wood such as Blue, 1923–26, and Treble Clef, 1923–27, or works on paper like Mz 196, 1921. Along with these are a great deal of what would now be designated as “mail art,” including letters and postcards that were supposed to carry the artist out into the world via his 1919 poem “To Anna Flower,” as documented in Postcard to Mr. Walter Drexel, “Anna Blume,” 1921. It’s a pity that all that’s gathered here will soon be scattered again, widespread and little seen, but treasured.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Max Glauner