Kurt Schwitters, one of Ray’s early heroes along with Duchamp, came to label his collages “Merz,” signifying an “openness to everything.” In her essay on Schwitters in DADA, Dorothea Dietrich writes: “Merz designated above all a collage process that Schwitters defined so broadly that it could be applied to any and all matter of things, so much that he also considered his own works of art as collage material for later projects, thus creating a rich web of connections that extended into space and time.” Of course, this could be said about Ray, as well.
There’s a Schwitters’ piece that he made in Germany in 1947, entitled “For Kate,” that carries all the essential Ray attributes. It’s a postcard collage sent to Kate Steinitz, with a handwritten note to her inside the collage. Swchwitters has signed and dated the piece in the left-hand corner. He’s glued the found papers in a rough manner, and the post office has stamped the images, which appear to come from comics, magazines and books. In the center of the collage resides a lovely woman surrounded by other figures—a bearded man above, a strange bald man to her right who appears to be brandishing a stick (though it’s really a piece of paper laid down by the artist); there’s another bearded man behind her grimacing, and another woman directly to her left whose arm reaches across the heroine’s torso, profile hiding her facial expression. The woman is bisected by a bar or line and her hands are up as if in defense. It seems her beauty and sensuality have gotten her boxed in. Or she's dreaming, surrounded by dream figures encircling her in her sleep.