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Aesthetic Function in Space

A work made of oil on masonite and cardboard with mirror, in artist-painted frame.

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  • A work made of oil on masonite and cardboard with mirror, in artist-painted frame.




Knud Merrild
American, 1894–1954

About this artwork

A pioneering modernist working in Los Angeles from the 1920s until the early 1950s, Knud Merrild believed that avant-garde artists should challenge the boundaries of the picture plane by expanding outward. He assembled Aesthetic Function in Space out of shaped pieces of Masonite, corrugated cardboard, wood, and a small mirror, layering the forms to create a three-dimensional construction that unites elements of painting, collage, and sculpture. Described as being a “space composition” or “space painting,” this work is an early American example of a wall construction. It is also the first to be made by any California artist, noteworthy given Merrild’s distance from avant-garde art centers. When exhibited in San Francisco, local critics noted the work’s highly radical form, referring to it as “one of the most ultra of the modern paintings.”


On View, Gallery 271


Arts of the Americas


Knud Merrild


Aesthetic Function in Space


Los Angeles (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1928–1933


Oil on Masonite and cardboard with mirror, in artist-painted frame


Signed and dated lower right: Knud Merrild 1928-33


78.7 × 57.8 cm (31 × 22 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Dale Taylor and Angela Lustig

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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