As far as Western modern art pedigrees go, it's hard to beat László Moholy-Nagy: born in Hungary 1895, Moholy-Nagy spent his early years in Budapest studying Impressionism, Cubism, and Futurism. He then traveled to Berlin where he encountered Dada and Constructivism. He was at the Bauhaus from 1923 to 28, in Amsterdam for De Stijl during the 30s, then finally London and Chicago where he founded Institute of Design (later part of IIT). He dabbled in every medium imaginable: painting, film, sculpture, typography, graphic design, theatrical set design, and architecture. But what's most remarkable about Moholy-Nagy—and what shines through in the exhibit Moholy-Nagy: Future Present—is how consistently he explores the same themes across the breadth of his lifetime. Moholy-Nagy was clearly enthralled with light, transparency, planes, and depth—in the words of curator Karole P. B. Vail, who spoke at the exhibit's press preview, he was constantly trying to "materialize light" and "use light to dematerialize matter." As the exhibition moves up the Guggenheim's spiral, chronologically displaying his work, you can see him play with light in countless ways across multiple mediums, starting with painting and concluding with plexiglass (a material invented 1934, three years before he arrived in the US). Over 300 works, some from rarely-seen private collections, are on view. Despite their number, the works never feel densely packed. The Guggenheim spiral also has a natural affinity to Moholy-Nagy: one of his drawing/photomontages depicts a spiraling space not dissimilar from the Guggenheim itself. Moholy-Nagy was fascinated with photography, not least because photography's chemical process turns light into a physical image. Photography also plays with the idea of reproducibility and authenticity. Like putting a urinal into an art gallery, Dadaists love to play with conventions and challenge shared definitions of what constitutes art. That desire manifests throughout Moholy-Nagy's work. In what he called "photoplastics," he would collage photographs, draw over them, then photograph the ensemble anew—where does one photograph begin, the other end? Some of these pieces are genuinely absurd, and I even laughed out-loud at their Monty Python-levels of irrationality. In another famous work on display, Moholy-Nagy designed a set of porcelain enamel-on-steel paintings whose rectangles of color were governed by a series of formulas. This meant the painting could be printed in an industrial sign shop at different sizes without distortion—infinitely reproducible, consumable, and scalable. Works like that, along with his photographic experimentation, evoke a similar question we face today: from the Venice Biennale to Palmyra, we're still grappling with about ability to recreate artifacts. While that debate usually pertains to something lost or decayed, Moholy-Nagy flips the question on its head by starting with something intended to be infinitely duplicated. The exhibition features one project that exists an architectural scale: the recreation of Room of the Present (Raum der Gegenwart), conceived by Moholy-Nagy in 1930 as a space to show modern artworks across all mediums—film, photography, typography, sculpture, architecture, and more. Made with gleaming steel and glass, and filled by the curators with period-appropriate avant-garde works, it does feel like a time capsule from the past. It's no coincidence that the room is made from industrial materials: Moholy-Nagy was an avid experimenter. Gropius brought him to the Bauhaus precisely because his focus on modern materials coincided with the school's move toward creating and licensing designs to industry. From metallic paint to early plastics, it's stimulating to watch Moholy-Nagy play with new materials as they appear over the decades. The exhibition text concludes "Moholy-Nagy was always in pursuit of the “whole man,” seeking out new materials and methods in the steadfast belief that what mattered most were intellectual awareness and the necessity for the assimilation of art, technology, and education." As Vail remarked, he was a "truly utopian artist" who thought technology could improve society, though he was a true humanist as well. As Moholy-Nagy himself said, there was a “specific need of our time for a vision in motion.” As technology—smartphones, 3D printing, virtual reality, self-driving cars—rapidly changes our lives, and tech companies sell us on their utopian, people-friendly vision, we should ask: What exactly does a techno-humanist-utopia look like? The exhibit offers bracing insight into Moholy-Nagy lifetime of art-making, but leaves us to contemplate what Moholy-Nagy's vision for a utopian society looked like. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present will be at the Guggenheim from May 27 to September 7 before traveling to LACMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, is the Guggenheim’s organizing curator for the exhibition, with the assistance of Ylinka Barotto, Curatorial Assistant, and Danielle Toubrinet, Exhibition Assistant.
Posts tagged with "Bauhaus":
China’s culture of copying is well-documented, but the recent sale of Berlin-based art dealer and collector Torsten Bröhan’s large collection of 19th- and 20th- century design objects to the city of Hangzhou, China raised eyebrows. The “Bauhaus Collection” deal was allegedly made for tens of millions of dollars and contains over 7,000 pieces of design from the modernist period. Scholars have questioned the use of Bauhaus, but argue that the Chinese understand Bauhaus as the whole of modernism, not just the products of the seminal school. The curious case is compounded by a lawsuit that charges that Bröhan never gave business consultant Stephan Balzer his 10 percent cut of the purchase price.
In August in Dessau, Germany, a jury in the design competition for the construction of the Bauhaus Museum awarded two first prizes. By a majority vote, the joint winners are from New York and Barcelona with third and fourth place teams hailing from Zürich and Toronto. The design to be constructed from the shortlist of two is yet to be selected. According to the Bauhaus, the competition has shown that the museum typology is in a transitional phase. “The vertical is over—a new theme is flexibility," Chris Dercon, Director of the Tate Modern in London and one of the material prize jurors, said in a statement. "However, the new development has no clear direction. The two first prizewinners are very diverse. It will be a chance to start the discussion in the international public and with experts. To be the beginning of the New, Dessau and the Bauhaus are ideal places. This is exciting.” The winners were: Architects: Young & Ayata Michael Young, Kutan Ayata New York Landscape architect: Misako Murata New York Architects: Gonzalez Hinz Zabala Roberto González Peñalver, José Zabala Rojí, Anne Katharina Hinz Barcelona, Spain Landscape architect: Roser Vives de Delás Barcelona, Spain Third Place: Architects: Berrel Berrel Kräutler AG Maurice Berrel Zurich, Switzerland Landscape architect: ASP Landschaftsarchitekten AG Florian Seibold Zurich, Switzerland Fourth Place: Architects: Ja Architecture Studio Nima Javidi Toronto, Canada Landscape architects: JA Architecture Studio Behnaz Assadi Toronto, Canada Both joint winners will receive $36,800 in prize money while the third and fourth place teams will take home $20,100 and $12,300 respectively. The Bauhaus staid that it felt reinforced by its decision to have the competition open for international entries as Claudia Perren, Director and CEO of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and building contractor, stated that it is a "first-class competition.” The idea was also conceived to "offer young offices and international architects a real chance" which has no doubt been taken—the competition received over 800 entries.
A 900-foot tower is coming to Manhattan’s high-end Sutton Place and it looks like Norman Foster is the architect behind the geometric tower punctuated by inset terraces and gardens. New York Press reported that the commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield created a sales brochure for the project which it described as an “ultra-luxury, as of right, ground up, opportunity which will reach over 900 feet tall and feature unparalleled 360 degree views of Midtown, Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, Central Park and the East River.” While no permits for the project have been filed, the publication reported that the Bauhaus Group has assembled the necessary air rights for the 95-unit tower. While Foster’s named has not been officially attached to the new drawing, in March Curbed reported that Bauhaus had hired Lord Foster for a major tower in the area. This should all become clearer in the near future as Bauhaus is expected to release more information on the project.
The days of China as a staging ground for progressive, even experimental, architecture may be numbered. High-profile projects by Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, et al, while the delight of design aficionados around the world, haven't impressed Chinese President Xi Jinping—at least in a positive way. At a symposium on the arts held in Beijing at the end of last year, he made statements to the effect that "weird" buildings—an adjective that has not yet been codified—would not be welcome in the future. Government intrusion into architectural aesthetics is not, of course, without ugly precedent. Joseph Stalin—who was called "the father and friend of all Soviet architects" at the All-Union Congress in 1946—essentially conscripted architects to work for the state, forcing them to close their practices to deliver structures like the Seven Sisters, fortress-like buildings topped with Gothic-ish towers. (Un-fun fact: The project manager for these buildings was a KGB honcho, and the construction crews were composed of POWs and political prisoners.) Mies van der Rohe, in an act of cunning integrity, convinced the Third Reich of the importance of keeping the Bauhaus open, only to close the school himself in a statement of artistic principle. We wonder who among the contemporary architectural community might take such a stand—should the need arise—with regard to China.
For those in the A/E/C practices, there is little doubt about the greatest gift of all: time. While AN can't source that elusive asset for you, we have assembled a collection of material goods that are designed to make life a little more elegant, efficient, and even fun. Happy holidays to all! Elements Collection J. Hill's Standard A fresh take on Irish cut crystal, this barware is marked by cuts and textures of varying depth, creating a graphic language. Designed by Scholten & Baijings. Ossidiana Alessi Fabricated out of cast aluminum, this old-school, new-style espresso makers comes in three sizes. Designed by Mario Trimarchi. Bauhaus Chess Set Chess House No prancing steeds or earnest foot soldiers here: Wood cubes, spheres, and cylinders comprose this 1923 chess set. Designed by Josef Hartwig. Glass House Snow Globe The Glass House You'll never have to battle the traffic on I-95 or shovel the snow at this finely crafted miniature masterwork. Flo Bedside/Desk Light Lumina Italia Rotate the head of this minimalist light fixture to focus the LED beam where it's wanted. In varnish-coated aluminum and steel, the fixture is also available in clamp, wall, floor, and grommet styles. Designed by Foster + Partners. FollowMe Lamp Marset Cordless and rechargable via USB, this oak-handled lamp shines a diffuse light through its polycarbonate shade. Designed by Inma Bermudez. Prismatic Scarves notNeutral From the product-design branch of Los Angeles-based architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios, these thirty-inch-square silk scarves are based on color studies for a competition project. Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography Yale University Press Featuring more than 250 plates, this book by Philadelphia Museum of Art curators Peter Barberie and Amanda N. Bock chronicles the career of the seminal photographer. Louise Fili, Perfetto Pencils Princeton Architectural Press Graphic designer Louise Fili celebrates Italian typography with these two-tone pencils; related items include notecards and a book. Qlocktwo W Watch Biegert & Funk In this reactionary design to a digital world, a grid of 110 letters illuminates the time in text form. And it's multi-lingual: The watch communicates in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Arabic. Brut Nature 2006 Louis Roederer Of his design for the packaging for this vintage, Philippe Starck says, "The contents are so potent I decided to design a bottle that was stripped of any superfluous embellishment." Shape of Sound Artifice Books Architect Victoria Meyers examines the dynamic relationship between architectural forms and materials and acoustics in this amply illustrated book. Snøhetta Limited Edition, XO Contemporary Cognac Braastad Adding Scandinavian cool to a classic French product, the graphic design team at Snøhetta uses subtle metallic colors and hand-lettering to reinvigorate the image of the stodgy spirit. Archaeologist Chopstick Rests Spin Ceramics Impeccably details and finished, these glazed clay pieces are both naturalistic and abstract in form. Eight pieces to a set; designed by Na An.
Built in 1970 by prolific Cape Cod–based architect Charles Zehnder, the Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired Kugel Gips house spent nearly a decade unoccupied and in disrepair while under ownership of the National Park Service (NPS). Abandoned and rotting, the compact Modernist home was nearly lost to the idyllic peninsula’s salty winds, and worse yet, the wrecking ball, until Wellfleet, Massachusetts–based architect Peter McMahon and the Cape Cod Modernist Trust (CCMT) stepped in. As part of their mission to preserve and document the Cape’s rich Modernist heritage—a legacy of 80 homes by local and European-born architects like Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff and Nathaniel Saltonstall—McMahon and a group of around 35 volunteers have faithfully restored the house, opening it up to visitors, vacationers, scholars, and artists. Following the outbreak of World War II and their subsequent migration to New England, seminal Bauhaus figures like Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer were drawn to Cape Cod by its pristine natural environment, cheap, undeveloped land, and the open minds of the local artistic and architectural community. On parcels costing as little as $1,000, architects constructed simple, experimental summer cottages with budget materials and intimate connections to their natural surroundings. “The designs were very intentional,” CCMT founder McMahon told the Boston Globe in 2009. “There’s a lifestyle implied by these buildings, one that recognizes the importance of nature, creativity, and sustainability, one that says you don’t need a lot to be happy” Featuring a large cantilevered roof, exposed concrete, wood shingles, two decks and gracious windows overlooking a nearby kettle pond, the 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house is the first restoration undertaken by the CCMT. Commissioned by Peter and Judy Kugel, both Boston academics, the house was built within the boundaries of the Cape Cod National Seashore and in 1998 was acquired through eminent domain by the NPS for $80,000 before falling into disrepair. Thanks to a generous $100,000 contribution from the town of Wellfleet and the pro bono services of Manhattan based Fox Diehl Architects, along with the sweat of McMahon and his volunteers, the home now looks as good as it did 43 years ago. Seven such Modernist homes are owned by the NPS, five of which were in poor condition and scheduled for demolition before the Massachusetts Historical Commission deemed them significant specimens of postwar Modern residential architecture. The CCMT has since acquired long term leases on the five properties and plans to make them available for educational programs, summer rentals, and scholar and artist residencies. Over the summer, the CCMT completed renovations of the Jack Hall-designed Hatch cottage, and in October the organization raised over $60,000 via Kickstarter for the restoration of the Weidlinger house, designed Hungarian Modernist Paul Weidlinger. According to the CCMT, Gropius, Breuer, and Le Corbusier all weighed in on Weidlinger's design, with Corbusier reportedly commenting "don't pave the driveway." But it is not the publicly owned properties that are in real danger. Times have changed and land prices have escalated since Breuer built his pair of houses on the Cape for $5,000 each. For many would-be residents, the modest scale and off-the-shelf materials of these mid-century relics are not worth saving when a beachside McMansion would fit nicely in their place.
Miss out on your Bauhaus opportunity because you were not an artistic youth in 1920s and 1930s Germany? Now, architecture and design enthusiasts can revive their desired pasts as students at Walter Gropius’ iconic design school, at least in sleeping accommodations. The Bauhaus School of Design in Dessau, Germany has converted one of its studio buildings into a boutique hotel with dormitory-style rooms for overnight rental. Visitors can spend the night in spaces that once housed some of the biggest names in modern architecture, when they were still just students. From 1923 to 1935, the Bauhaus studio building contained 28 rooms for architecture students studying at the school. Now, hotel clients can choose from 20 different spaces, each furnished with the steel tube furniture of architect, designer, and former Bauhaus instructor Marcel Breuer in recreation of the original dormitory accommodations. Select rooms have been designed to reflect some of the Bauhaus’ most famous alumni. Beginning in late October, these specialty rooms can be rented out, according to the visitor’s architectural preference. Among these dorms, the New York Times’ T Magazine says, is a room in the style of Josef Albers that contains replicas of the furniture he created for himself while at the design school and another, representing architect Franz Ehrlich, decorated with furniture he designed for the German Democratic Republic in the 1950s. The Bauhaus Studio Building offers single accommodations from €35 and doubles from €55. But, be warned, like in the Bauhaus’ student dorm days, bathrooms and showers are communal and accessed from the hallway.
Ever since Michael Thonet established Gebrüder in 1819, the brand has been at the forefront of mass producing the now iconic bentwood and tubular steel furniture by designers from the Bauhaus era as well as contemporary designers and architects, as well as Thonet himself, of course. Gebrüder is not only one of the oldest modern design brands and manufacturers, it's also one of the few that are still family owned and managed. The 5th generation of Thonet's (Michael's great-great-grandchildren) currently run the company in Germany, but a few days ago they announced their new partnership with M2L to distribute classics like Mart Stam's chrome-plated cantilevered chair and the Vienna coffee house chair that started it all to the US market. Yes, it's a little crazy to think that a brand like Gebrüder hasn't had direct US distribution in its nearly 200 year history, but better late than never. M2L has a thirty year reputation for distributing the quality craftsmanship and time-honored work of designers like Alvo Aalter, Walter Gropius, Eero Aarino as well as contemporary talents, including Patrick Norguet, Norman Foster and Pearson-Lloyd. Here are a few of our favorites from the Gebrüder T 1819 collection. Marcel Breuer's tubular steel desk (S 285). We want these with the matching cantilever chairs with a wood-framed wicker back and seat (S 32) for our office. Christian Lepper and Roland Schmidt's comfortable yet structured ergonomic lounge chair and ottoman (S 850, S 853) in oak-stained molded plywood and black leather. Naoto Fukasawa's solid wood 130 chair (available in oak, beech or stained, with or without arms) is all grown up yet fun and lively, too.
Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate Milwaukee Art Museum 700 North Art Museum Drive Milwaukee, WI Through January 1 Grete Marks was born in Cologne in 1899 to an artistic Jewish family, and she enrolled in the ceramics program at the Bauhaus School in 1920. In 1923 she left the school to marry a young industrialist with whom she founded the Haël Factory for Artistic Ceramics to produce her designs. These works are composed of simple geometric shapes, glazed with striking colors and patterns in the style of Soviet Constructivist painters and showcasing the Bauhaus ideal of uniting industrial mass-production with Modernist aesthetics. Marks’ legacy as a potter was cut short by the Nazi party when in 1935 they declared her artwork “degenerate,” and her avant-garde pottery career ended with the onset of World War II. This will be the first American exhibition to explore Marks’ work and the circumstances that have prevented her name from entering the list of Bauhaus greats.
Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928–1939 Getty Center 1200 Getty Center Drive Los Angeles, CA Through March 2012 The American-German artist Lyonel Feininger, famous for his urban and landscape paintings, took up photography in 1928. Already a longtime collaborator with Walter Gropius—Feininger taught printmaking at the Bauhaus for almost a decade while Gropius was director—Feininger turned to the “mechanical” medium to explore the effects of light and shadow, reflections, and night imagery. A majority of his photographs have remained in relative obscurity. The exhibit Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928–1939 at the Getty Center is the first U.S. venue to present a comprehensive collection of his photography. Feininger’s photographs center on architecture: the hard geometric forms of the Bauhaus campus at night, and the Dessau railway station, as well as the urban and rural landscapes he encountered during his travels to Paris and the Baltic coast. The exhibit also presents his later work where, after the close of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, he became captivated by the surreally lifelike figures of mannequins in window store displays. Photographs by Feininger’s son, T. Lux—a student at the Bauhaus—are exhibited alongside his father’s, including his photograph of Karla Grosch in “Dance in Metal” at the Bauhaus. Feininger’s images, dominated by multiple exposures and dramatic contrasts, were captured using a Voigtländer Bergheil camera, which is on display along with his photographs. His explorations in photography as a means of creative expression and documentation marked the emergence of the German New Vision school of photography that began on the brink of World War II.
Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Ave. at 75th St. New York, NY 10021 T 212-570-3600 “The ultimate aim of all artistic activity is the building! Let us desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future together. . . [and it] will one day rise towards the heavens from the hands of a million workers as the crystalline symbol of a new and coming faith,” Walter Gropius boldly declared in his 1919 “Bauhaus Manifesto,” laying the foundations for a new architecture and a modern approach to design. Seeking to reunite the artist and artisan together, the founders of the Bauhaus looked to medieval guilds as a model for a new design school that would combine the arts and design under one roof. To illustrate the manifesto, Gropius selected a woodcut by American-born German artist Lyonel Feininger, titled, “Cathedral,” an abstracted depiction of a late Gothic church. This collaboration marked Lyonel Feininger’s first involvement with the Bauhaus—he would be later hired to teach printmaking—that would continue until the school was closed under pressure from the Nazis in 1933. Until October 16th, “Cathedral” is on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the retrospective, Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World. It is the first show in the U.S. to include the full range of Feininger’s work. The exhibit begins with his whimsical street scenes filled with bright, saturated colors; there are also his Chicago Tribune “Kin-der-Kids” comics, his black and white photographs of the Bauhaus, hand-carved miniature buildings, and his prism-like, Cubist inspired portrayals of towns and seascapes. At the Edge of the World captures the expansive diversity of Feininger’s German and American subjects, formal expression, and mediums. The exhibit design is simple and fluid, if conventional for a contemporary retrospective: Feininger’s work is organized chronologically rather than thematically, arranged on white walls, with ample breathing space between pieces. A 1925 Time magazine review of a “Blue Four” exhibition in Manhattan, which included Feininger’s work alongside Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee, straightforwardly declared that in modern art, “Artists should put down lines, lay on colors, with the simple purpose of giving the eyes an adventure.” The Whitney succeeds in conveying the exciting experimentation between art and design, so central to Feininger’s work and the Bauhaus vision.