Archive for February, 2019

Books | On The Isokon

Monday, February 25th, 2019

Lawn Road Flats, 1955
Courtesy University
of East Anglia,
Pritchard Papers



Isokon and the
Bauhaus in Britain

By Leyla Daybelge
& Magnus Englund
240 pp hardback,
over 160 illustrations.
Published by Batsford,
7 March 2019



Despite their sensitivity towards the plight of the three prominent Bauhäusler fugitives from Hitler’s Nazi regime – when they turned up on their doorstep, at their invitation – Jack and Molly Pritchard must have felt extremely fortunate.

Modernism – and socialism – had been already thriving in London’s Hampstead, when, in 1929, the Pritchards bought a large plot of land in the leafy, then very reasonably-priced suburb. Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson were living and working close by in the purpose-built Mall Studios and were friends with the aspiring young architect, Wells Coates. The Bauhaus building in Dessau had been completed in 1926 and in 1931, Jack and Coates went to visit it with Serge Chermayeff. Soon after, the Pritchards, commissioned Coates, whose concept for the project would be very much inspired by the co-operative philosophy of the Bauhaus community, to design Lawn Road Flats; an experimental social housing project for middle-class professionals that would be better-known later at the Isokon building. Construction finished just in time for former Bauhaus director, Walter Gropius’s arrival in 1934 when he and his wife immediately moved in.

Jack & Molly in 1928
Courtesy Pritchard
Family Archive



Launch of Lawn
Road Flats in 1934



Marcel Breuer, left,
and Ise and Walter
Gropius, celebrate
Lawn Road Flats’ first
birthday in 1935
Courtesy of University
of East Anglia,
Pritchard Papers



As the English Heritage plaque on the Isokon building unveiled last year reveals, London, as it turned out, having been only a staging post in their journey before each travelled on to the USA, Gropius lived there until 1936; Marcel Breuer, who arrived in 1935, left in 1937, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, enjoyed a brief stay in 1935. The length of the Bauhäuslers’ residence wasn’t important, however; their presence was enough to indicate their approval of the building, immediately giving it iconic status. It also served to establish Britain as an important centre for European modernism. Sadly, Jack Pritchard’s attempts to launch three more, similar schemes in Manchester, Birmingham and Windsor, for which Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry were to be the architects, failed. Meanwhile, both Gropius and Moholy-Nagy seriously considered setting up an English Bauhaus and, in 1935, Gropius applied for the role of Principal of the Royal College of Art but didn’t to get the appointment. Nevertheless, the models that had been established at Dessau were later widely adopted by British art schools. Breuer’s furniture design work and Moholy-Nagy’s projects – from graphic design to retail and film – with a range of prestigious UK clients, enriched the visual landscape and design vocabulary of 1930s Britain.

The Pritchards’
Penthouse flat,
photographed in
2016, furnished
with Isokon designs

Photo courtesy
TheModernHouse.com



Isokon Furniture
Company logo, left,
designed by László
Moholy-Nagy in 1936.
Aluminium Long
Chair, 1933, designed
by Marcel Breuer
for Swiss company
Embru; the direct
inspiration for the
plywood Isokon
Long Chair



Anyone who was lucky enough to be invited to dinner, or just for a drink, in the Isokon’s Breuer-designed Isobar during the mid-30s could easily have rubbed shoulders with the Bauhäuslers, with Hepworth, Moore, Nicholson or Naum Gabo, as well as with visitors from abroad such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Alvar Aalto. Berthold Lubetkin, Erno Goldfinger and Erich Mendelssohn hung out there, as did Nikolaus Pevsner and Agatha Christie. Later, after the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, and the Anschluss in Austria, another former Bauhaus director Mies van der Rohe and former Bauhaus master, Paul Klee, might also have been found at the Isobar, along with Piet Mondrian, who lived in Hampstead from 1938 to 1941. True to the area’s socialist associations, it was also estimated that a total of 32 people involved with Soviet espionage lived in the building, or around Lawn Road, during the 1930s and early 1940s.

In July 1955, when Jack and Molly Pritchard celebrated the Lawn Road Flats’ 21st birthday, their guests included designers Robin and Lucienne Day and architects Alison and Peter Smithson. Reyner Banham was there too, as well as retailer Anthony Heal. Wells Coates, who was now teaching at Harvard, travelled back to attend the event.

The building began its decline in the 1960s after the ageing Pritchards sold it. Until recently, Magnus Englund lived in what was their Isokon penthouse. Englund, one of the founders of the interior design company, Skandium, has championed the building’s revival. He and Leyla Daybelge, former Head of Press for Contemporary and Design at Sotheby’s, who currently writes for the Daily Telegraph, co-authored the forthcoming publication. Jam-packed with fascinating and often unexpected detail – the entire building was painted dark brown during the Blitz to prevent the Luftwaffe from using it as a navigation landmark – the book contains over 160 images encompassing the history of the building’s design as well as the sex, death and espionage that are all part of its dramatic story.

The book has a pale pink cover, which, because most people think that the building is brilliant white, may come as a surprise. In fact, Wells Coates original, 1934 paint specification was 1/8th pink and has been strictly adhered to in the renovation.

Batsford’s Isokon and the Bauhaus in Britain features anecdotes by Zeev Aram, whose gallery is hosting an accompanying exhibition with the same title from 7 > 30 March.

All images courtesy Pavilion Books




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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Djurberg & Berg’s Stop-motion Journey

Friday, February 8th, 2019

We Are Not Two
We Are One
, 2008

Stop-motion animation
video + music, 5:33 mins



Djurberg & Berg
A Journey Through
Mud and Confusion with
Small Glimpses of Air

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
28 February > 26 May 2019



Its-the-Mother, 2008
Stop-motion animation
video + music, 6:00 mins



In the 1950s, American artist, Robert Breer, invited the ageing Marcel Duchamp (1887 > 1968) to his Paris studio. Duchamp’s first reaction to the abstract, animated films Breer showed him was, ‘Very nice, but don’t you think they’re a bit too fast?’

Swedish Contemporary artist Nathalie Djurberg uses the same stop-motion technique as Breer (1926 > 2011). Slow and incredibly laborious, it involves the production of multiple still images that, when run together, create the illusion of movement. But, while Breer’s objective was the least possible feeling of continuity, Djurberg produces dreamlike realities that have the appearance of live-action movies.

The Experiment at
Moderna Museet 2018,
installation view
Photo Åsa Lundén /
Moderna Museet



Djurberg first became known as an artist/filmmaker in 2003. She met fellow-Swede and experimental sound producer Hans Berg the following year; they have since worked together as a duo. Berg’s soundscapes add their own dimension to the intense scenes which Djurberg conjures up, constructs, lights and photographs.

As a student at Malmö Academy, which had no animation course, Djurberg went through a period during which she started to play around with photographing her sculptures and began to question whether what she was producing was art. Her overwhelming compulsion to make it for its own sake would provide the impetus for her to proceed. Sensitive and thoughtful, despite the erotic – even pornographic – content of some of the pair’s work, Djurberg insists that she is non-confrontational; her dearest wish is not to provoke. She relates strongly to the characters she creates, who, ‘may express different characteristics, and oscillate between different emotional states, but are all the same person’.

Dark-Side-of-the-Moon, 2017
Stop-motion animation
video + music, 6:40 mins



Open Window, 2011
Stop-motion animation

video + music, 5:54 mins



By contrast, cool and unemotional, Berg comes across as a total geek. His music is not a post-production addition, however; it is made simultaneously with Djurberg’s creation of sets and her sculptural figures, and with the animation process. Berg also composes techno music, which he performs in live concerts. The techno music, he says, intermingles with his film and animation work and vice-versa. He loves the idea of fusing the two, which he sees as an entirely new approach to creativity.

While, in visual terms, Djurberg and Berg’s creations may have something in common with British animator Nick Park’s stop-motion films featuring Wallis & Gromit, they form part of the multi-faceted genre of kinetic art that includes works as diverse as Alexander Calder’s Mobiles and Bridget Riley’s op-art, as well as Breer’s films. Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1913) sculpture – the first fine art that moved – was almost certainly influenced by early cinema.

A Journey Through Mud and Confusion with Small Glimpses of Air – the title is Djurberg’s description of her and Berg’s journey so far – at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt was first shown in 2018 at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The exhibition includes some forty video and sound works from the past two decades. Early works such as My Name is Mud (2003) and Tiger Licking Girl’s Butt (2004) will be screened alongside large-format installations, including The Parade (2011), The Potato (2008) and The Experiment (2009). Their more recent productions: One Need Not Be a House, The Brain Has Corridors (2018) and Dark Side of the Moon (2017), will be on show together with numerous sculptures and the duo’s first virtual-reality work It Will End in Stars (2018).

All works by Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg.
All images © Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Exhibitions | Perfecting Warhol

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Candy Spelling, 1985,
photographed
at The Factory
Polaroid



Andy Warhol at Casa Perfect
Casa Perfect
Los Angeles | USA
15 February > 22 March



Edie & Kipp
Film still



The Couch
Film still



We feel very honoured. Casa Perfect – which, in our ignorance, The Blog had never heard of, but which somehow has heard of us – has kindly sent us an invitation to a private cocktail party celebrating its first fine art installation, during Frieze Los Angeles, when it is hosting a selling exhibition of ‘never-before-seen’ photographs and films made by Andy Warhol.

Photography was central to Warhol’s oeuvre. In the early 1960s, he began appropriating images of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley. Enticingly, Casa Perfect is located at Presley’s former home – he lived there for six years at the height of his career – in an exclusive area of Beverly Hills. The mid-century property recently became the LA outpost of David Alhadeff’s painstakingly-curated, contemporary furniture and interior accessories outlet, The Future Perfect.

Diana Vreeland, 1983,
photographed
in her infamous red
living room at her
5th Ave apartment
Polaroid



Crosses, 1982,
photographed at
The Factory and
used as source
material to create
prints and paintings
Polaroid



Alhadeff, who founded his company in 2003, and who also has galleries in New York and San Francisco, thinks that shopping has become a chore. Casa Perfect, where visitors are welcome strictly by appointment only, presents gallery-like vignettes in a residential setting. Alhadeff says that it is his way of providing clients with a more intimate, personal experience with important, collectable design and of ‘reawakening the excitement of discovering the new’.

It’s perhaps something of a paradox, however, that Alhadeff, whose business prides itself in presenting short-run, often handmade pieces by named designers – items that are out of reach to the vast majority of people – has chosen to exhibit Andy Warhol’s work at Casa Perfect. Despite the artist’s fixation with wealth, money and fame, he probably did more to democratise art than any artist before him. He was strongly opposed to the noble ideals of the 19th-century British Arts and Crafts movement that espoused a return to craftsmanship and rejected the Industrial Revolution. Famously embracing mass-production, Warhol once declared that he wanted to be a machine.

Lou Reed
Film still




Archie & George
Film still



Andy Warhol at Casa Perfect, featuring images of, among others, Jane Fonda, Lana Turner, Tina Chow, Candy Spelling, Diana Vreeland and Lou Reed, will include photo-booth strips, silver gelatin prints and short films. Apologies: the company refuses to share the prices of its exhibits, and there is no available online link to the show for us to post for you.

All images by Andy Warhol, from the James Hedges Foundation, courtesy Casa Perfect


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design, gardens and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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