Posts Tagged ‘Bauhaus’

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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Exhibitions | When the Bauhaus went Dutch

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Theo van Doesburg,
Grundbegriffe der neuen
gestaltenden Kunst,
part 6, Bauhausbücher
series. Design
Theo
van Doesburg, 1925

Private collection,
with thanks to DerdaBerli



Netherlands ⇄ Bauhaus
– Pioneers of a New World
Museum Boijmans
Van Beuningen
Rotterdam | Netherlands
9 February > 26 May 2019



Postcard of the
Bauhaus in Weimar,
appended and graffitied
by Theo van Doesburg
with the message
‘before the collapse,
bombed by n’dimensional
style artillery.’

September 1921



The postcard, above, expresses explicit intent. Sent by feisty Dutchman, Theo Van Doesburg, in September 1921, it shows a picture of the Bauhaus building in Weimar that he smothered with pro-De Stijl graffiti. Van Doesburg had meant business when he moved to Weimar earlier that year. Painter, poet, art critic, designer, typographer, architect, performance artist, as well as a founder member and self-appointed ‘ambassador’ of the burgeoning De Stijl group, he was hell-bent on converting the Bauhaus to adopt a new approach. The design school’s director Walter Gropius, however, who allowed him to lecture, decided not to invite him to become a master. Not easily put off, Van Doesburg promptly installed himself in an adjacent building and by June had set up his own course and was poaching Bauhaus students.

Marcel Breuer, four
side tables, c 1926
Nickel-plated metal,
lacquered in four colours.
Collection Büscher



Stemming from cubism and influenced by constructivism, De Stijl – of which Piet Mondrian was also a prominent member – advocated pure abstraction and universality in art, architecture and design. It stripped out everything but the essentials of form and colour, restricting itself to only verticals and horizontals: to black, white and primary colours. While Gropius had objected to Van Doesburg’s dogmatic and aggressive views, younger Bauhaus masters, including, importantly, Mies van Der Rohe, recognising that in order to progress the school needed to break away from its German expressionist roots and open itself up to international influences, were inspired by them. Student, then master, Marcel Breuer, would develop his signature tubular steel furniture based on De Stijl principles.

2019 might be the one-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the legendary design school but what would grow to become universally recognised as Bauhaus style owes much to the Dutch, and the Dutch aren’t going to let anyone forget it.

Jan Buijs, Nacht – when
I’m building, 1917
Mixed media on paper.
Private collection



Walter Gropius (author),
Lyonel Feininger (cover
design), Programm des
Staatlichen Bauhauses
in Weimar, April 1919
Woodcut. Private collection,
with thanks to DerdaBerlin



Netherlands ⇄ Bauhaus – Pioneers of a New World at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is less about the cross-pollination that occurred between The Netherlands and the Bauhaus and more about underlining the fact that Dutch ideas were instrumental in ‘modernising’ it. Less brutal than Van Doesburg’s graffiti, the two small arrows inserted into the title of this exhibition are a subtle hint that ideas flowed, in the first instance, from The Netherlands to the Bauhaus, before anything flowed back.

László Moholy-Nagy,
Prospectus 14,
Bauhausbücher, 1929
Letterpress.
Collection Flip Bool



But the Dutch can’t have it all their own way; the multi-talented Hungarian, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy who arrived at the Bauhaus in 1923, ostensibly to run the foundation course, who, between 1923 and 1928, played a significant part in all aspects of its further modernisation, was also photo editor of the Dutch avant-garde magazine International Revue from 1927 to 1929, which had significant impact on contemporary Dutch photography. When, in 1933, the Nazi regime forced the closure of the Bauhaus, and provoked the modernist diaspora – inadvertently, causing modernist ideas to disseminate more quickly around the globe – Moholy-Nagy relocated to Amsterdam, where he remained for two years, collaborating with De Stijl artists and experimenting with colour film and photography. His 1934 solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, was enormously influential.

All images courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen


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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 | Josef (& Anni) Albers’ Homage to Mexico

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Detail of stonework,
Mitla, c1937
Gelatin silver print.
The Josef and Anni
Albers Foundation



Josef Albers in Mexico
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
3 November 2017
> 18 February 2018



Study for Homage to
the Square: Consent, 1971
Oil on Masonite.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum, New York.
Gift, The Josef
Albers Foundation, Inc,
91.3895



Josef and Anni Albers liked to travel. Between 1927 and 1933 when the Bauhaus – where he was professor of art and design and she taught weaving – was officially closed and their move to the USA, the pair had visited Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Barcelona in Spain, Avignon, Biarritz, and Paris in France, and Geneva and Ascona in Switzerland. No sooner had they arrived in America than they took a trip to Cuba, before, in 1935, they packed their bags for the first of their eventual fourteen visits to Mexico and Latin America.

In truth the German-born duo had known far more about Central and South America than they did about the United States, having fallen in love with the pre-Columbian art they saw in the collections of German museums. Once Josef was established in a teaching post at the newly founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina, they took advantage of their first opportunity – he even learned to drive just so they could make the journey – to go to Mexico.

Untitled (Great Pyramid,
Tenayuca, Mexico), c1940
Gelatin silver print.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum, New York.
Gift, The Josef and
Anni Albers Foundation



Prismatic II, 1936
Oil on wood
composition panel.
The Josef and Anni
Albers Foundation



‘For the Albers, art and the visual had to be everywhere in your life, and in Mexico, art was everywhere,’ Josef & Anni Albers Foundation director Nicholas Fox Weber, who knew the couple, was quoted as saying in a fascinating article on the Artsy website in January of this year, ‘They felt that people there were living with visual flair, even if they were living in simple huts – the jewellery that women wore, the serapes, the blankets, the earthenware pottery. They just felt that it was the most natural thing in the world in Mexico to make the visual environment beautiful, which was the dream of the Bauhaus.’

Over the years, the couple amassed a collection of around 1,400 objects, some dating back as far as 1200 BC, including 16th century Aztec pottery as well as ancient and modern Mexican textiles.

In its forthcoming show the Guggenheim has chosen to focus exclusively on the influence Mexico exerted on Josef Albers’ (1888 > 1976) work.

Variant / Adobe,
Orange Front, 1948–58
Oil on Masonite.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Foundation, Gift,
The Josef and Anni Albers
Foundation in honour
of Philip Rylands for his
continued commitment
to the Peggy Guggenheim
Collection 97.4555



Untitled (Uxmal,
Mexico), c1940
Gelatin silver print.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum, New York,
Gift, The Josef and
Anni Albers Foundation



‘Mexico is truly the promised land of abstract art,’ Josef wrote to his former Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky. Although he never simply appropriated what he saw, the influence Josef derived from pre-Columbian art, objects and architecture is clear in the spirit in which he arranged the geometric shapes in his paintings and also in his photographs. The same can be said of Anni’s fabric and jewellery designs. The colours Josef saw while travelling around Latin America had a big impact on his palette too, just as they did on Anni’s.

Josef Albers in Mexico at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum will feature a selection of rarely seen early paintings from Albers’ Homage to the Square and Variant / Adobe series, as well as a selection of works on paper, photographs and photo-collages, many of which have not been on public display.

All images artwork and photographs by Josef Albers, © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York


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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 | Moholy-Nagy: Future Present Plus

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Photogram, 1926
Gelatin silver photogram
Los Angeles County Museum of Art,
Ralph M Parsons Fund
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA



Moholy-Nagy: Future Present
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
NYC | USA
27 May > September 2016



Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6), 1933 > 34
Oil and incised lines on aluminium
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Generalitat



We were taking a look at the Bauhaus and specifically the work of MOHOLY-NAGY, whose surname our enthusiastic art teacher spelled out for us in large capital letters on the chalkboard – I know now he didn’t know how to pronounce it properly. He’d also dispensed with his subject’s first name, László, which he was probably on similar uncertain terms with. This was in the late 1960s when detailed information on 20th century avant garde art and artists was relatively sparse, and a few years prior to the last major retrospective of László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895 > 1946) work in the United States.

The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, describing their forthcoming Moholy-Nagy: Future Present retrospective, which includes some 300 works by the Hungarian painter, photographer, typographer, film-maker, theorist, Bauhaus professor (1923 > 1928), director of the short-lived New Bauhaus in Chicago, and founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design, gathered from a wide range of international sources, explains that despite his prominence during his lifetime, few previous exhibitions have conveyed the experimental nature of Moholy-Nagy’s work – his enthusiasm for industrial materials, his radical innovations with movement and light. This may be so in the US, but in Germany the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt showed some of the same experimental pieces, albeit a smaller selection, in 2009.

Room of the Present (Raum der Gegenwart),
Constructed in 2009 from plans
and other documentation dated 1930

Mixed media
Installation view: Play Van Abbe – Part 2:
Time Machines,
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven,
April 10 > September 12, 2010
Photo Peter Cox, courtesy Art Resource, New York



B‑10 Space Modulator, 1942
Oil and incised lines on perspex in original frame
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York



Dual Form with Chromium Rods, 1946
Perspex and chrome-plated brass
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Photo Kristopher McKay
© Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York



Exhibitions such as these are important and provide vital opportunities for seeing carefully-curated and well-presented original works in the round and at full scale, and each brings something new that extends our understanding of a particular artist’s oeuvre. Related lectures and films are often presented and extensive catalogues produced that serve to extend the event itself and bring in additional revenue for the venue. It’s also true to say that, since the 1960s, and especially since open-access historical archives have been made available online by many institutions, in recent decades research facilities available to the general public (as well as teachers) have improved beyond measure. As a prelude to visiting a show, or as a post-visit extension of it, whereby we build on our experiences and impressions, each of us – with a little effort – is now in a position to examine complex artists such as Moholy-Nagy – everyone tends only to use his surname and has learn how to pronounce it correctly via the internet – in great detail and with relative ease.

The Moholy-Nagy Foundation was set up in 2003, and has a comprehensive online image database featuring work in every medium he experimented in, as well as dependable biographical details and a photo library. There’s more, too, presented from other viewpoints at Bauhaus Online and elsewhere on the sites of galleries and museums where exhibitions of his have been presented.

By viewing exhibitions, reading publications and looking at website information about the artists who worked before, at the same time, and after the period in which Moholy-Nagy was active, it’s possible to see what influenced him, how he related to and influenced others, and to place him in an accurate and broad historical perspective. For instance, perhaps it was coincidental, but although the Calder Foundation site claims that Alexander Calder, following a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio made his first wholly abstract compositions and invented the kinetic sculpture in 1930, Moholy-Nagy’s kinetic sculpture Light-Space-Modulator, designed in 1922, was exhibited for the first time in Paris, also in 1930. And, while MoMA’s site explains that Man Ray claimed to have invented the photogram (christening it the Rayogram) in Paris in 1921 – although the practice had existed since the earliest days of photography – less than a year later, Moholy-Nagy was making his own photograms. Argentine-born Italian artist Lucio Fontana founded the Spazialismo (spatialism) movement in 1947, stating in its manifesto that art should embrace science and technology, but it’s not difficult for us to discover elsewhere that this principle, had been the cornerstone of Moholy-Nagy’s practice since he drew his first inspiration from the Russian constructivists in 1918.

In the 21st century exhibitions such as Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, once viewed as self-contained events, have come to represent points of both arrival and departure for those wishing to educate themselves about art.

All artworks created by László Moholy-Nagy
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst,
Bonn/Artists Rights
Society (ARS), New York
All images courtesy © Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York


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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 sent 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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Culture | From Bauhaus to Black Mountain

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Hazel Larsen Archer, Merce Cunningham dancing,
contact sheet, c1952-53
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Leap Before You Look:
Black Mountain College 1933-1957

The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | California | USA
21 February > 15 May 2016



Josef Albers, Tenayuca, 1943
Oil on fibreboard
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



Adolph Hitler did modernism a great service. Paradoxically, in trying to stamp out the movement’s philosophies, in particular by systematically harassing the Bauhaus, whose staff eventually decided to close the school rather than compromise with the Third Reich, he guaranteed the international dissemination of modernist teaching.

Some of the key Bauhaus figures passed through London, leaving a legacy of teaching ideas that would be a major influence on institutions such as the Royal College of Art in the postwar period. But sooner or later, the majority of them emigrated to the USA.

When former director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe arrived in Chicago in 1938, where he was appointed head of the architecture school at the Armour Institute of Technology (later, Illinois Institute of Technology/IIT), László Moholy-Nagy had already established the New Bauhaus there the previous year. Walter Gropius, would become a senior professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, while Marcel Breuer taught at Yale. In 1933, the year the Bauhaus had ceased operations, Josef Albers, speaking no English, had also begun teaching at Yale. However, via a recommendation from the Museum of Modern Art, he was soon hired as the first head of Black Mountain College, a new art school in the relative obscurity of Ashville, North Carolina.

Far less well-known internationally than the New Bauhaus – only scant references are made to it via any currently available UK sources – 10 years ago London’s Arnolfini gallery held an exhibition of a limited selection of the school’s works – the Tate website honours it with just 200 words  – by the 1940s, Black Mountain College became the ideal of experimental arts education in America.

Anni Albers and Alexander Reed, Neck Piece, 1940
Aluminium strainer, paper clips, and chain
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society New York.
Photo Tim Nighswander/Imaging 4 Art



Buckminster Fuller, Black Mountain College,
1948/1990, Nancy Newhall

Gelatin silver print
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
©1948, Nancy Newhall, ©2014 The Estate
of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall.
Permission to reproduce courtesy of
Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd, Santa Fe, NM



John Cage, Hazel Larsen Archer
Gelatin silver print
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Conceived by the – by all accounts – brilliant scholar John A Rice, BMC was a completely new type of college based on US philosopher John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. Dewey – reputedly the most significant educational thinker of his era in America – believed that human beings learn through a ‘hands on’ approach and that teachers and students must learn together. Bauhaus students and staff had lived and eaten side by side and embraced a modern lifestyle that included the whole person – body, mind and soul. In the 1919 Bauhaus manifesto Walter Gropius had announced that theatre, lectures, poetry, music, and costume parties, were all part of the programme. The parties promoted contact between the college and the public, an idea that Dewey also endorsed.

Josef Albers, despite his language difficulties, would quickly develop a system that successfully combined both Dewey’s and Bauhaus educational principles, and assemble a board of directors that included Albert Einstein. With great aplomb he put together a formidable and diverse faculty made up of, among others, his talented textile-designer wife Anni Albers, Walter Gropius, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, R Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, and Cy Twombly. Famous alumni would include Robert Rauschenberg, who would describe Albers as having influenced him to do ‘exactly the reverse’ of what he had previously been taught, and John Cage, who staged his first ‘happening’ at the school.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S 272), c1955
Copper and iron wire
Private Collection. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.
Photo Laurence Cuneo



Albers left in 1949. As a result of a shift in trends that saw students and faculty drawn towards the cities of San Francisco and New York, in 1953, BMC, having endured 10 years longer than the Bauhaus, closed. A powerhouse, modern educational establishment, the college’s revolutionary and influential methods and ideas would fundamentally change the way in which the visual arts were taught across America, and leave behind a lasting legacy.

Presenting a broad selection of paintings, sculpture, textiles and photography, and including over 250 objects by nearly 100 artists, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 at The Hammer Museum is the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the school.

All images courtesy The Hammer Museum


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Architecture | Merry VKhUTEMAS

Friday, December 5th, 2014

I Leonidov
Lenin Institute, Vorobyovy Gory, Moscow, 1928
Thesis project, a
rchitectural model
Metal, plastic, plywood, thread
Reconstruction, 1981, I Kuzmin




VKhUTEMAS – A Russian Laboratory of Modernity
Architecture designs 1920 > 1930
Martin-Gropius-Bau
Berlin | Germany
5th December 2014 > 6th April 2015




VKhUTEMAS, often referred to as the ‘Russian Bauhaus’, was a legendary modernist art school established in post-revolution Moskow. It was a hot-house for the creation of designs for the new world that the revolution had opened up for its students to explore and help to build. Their many architectural schemes would not look out of place in 21st century cities.

VKhUTEMAS, or Вхутемас, isn’t an actual Russian word, but is apparently an acronym for Высшие художественно-технические мастерские / Vysshiye Khudozhestvenno-Tekhnicheskiye Masterskiye, which roughly translated, means Higher Art and Technical Studios. Alexander Kudryavtsev, head of the Moskow Architecture Institute – a direct descendant of VKhUTEMAS – has described the school as the ‘boiler where the new art was smelted.’

Having deposed the Tsar and Russia’s wealthy overlords and landowners, and taken over power in 1917, the new Bolshevik government had expressed a desire to divert art training away from the classically-based fine arts toward applied art in industry and manufacturing, with the intention of transforming it into a far more valuable and productive asset to the new communist state. Set up as the result of a decree from Lenin himself, VKhUTEMAS’s brief was ‘to prepare master artists of the highest qualifications for industry, and builders and managers for professional-technical education.’ To this end, the faculties of architecture, painting, and sculpture became art workshops, and were united with the wood- and metalworking, printing, textiles, and ceramics production workshops, as a single autonomous university department.

V Krinsky
Skyscraper VSNKh. Moscow, Lubyanskaya square, 1922 > 1923
Tracing paper, pencil and coloured pencil
Remade, 1966




VKhUTEMAS class, school year 1927 > 1928
Exhibition of student‘s work on ‘Evidence and expression of mass and weight’




V Krinsky
Composition in space, 1921
Experimental-methodic study work in colour and spatial composition
Paper, pencil and gouache




A new curriculum was drawn up, based upon teaching the disciplines: colour, volume, space, and graphic design. The student body, by all accounts, numbered ’several thousands,’ and the 100- strong staff included many who were already revered as leading figures of the Russian avant-garde, as well as others whose names would, on an international level, become synonymous with it. They included El Lissitzky, Naum Gabo, Konstantin Melnikov, Lyubov Popova, Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, Vladimir Tatlin and Wassily Kandinsky, who would later become a Bauhaus master. Under their tutelage the school quickly developed into a centre for experiments in constructivism, rationalism, and suprematism.

A major achievement of VKhUTEMAS was the three-tiered basic course, in which all students, after first developing their art techniques, went on to incorporate them into vocational, specialised industrial or professional education. Augmenting this basic course were chemistry, physics, mathematics, geometry, scientific colour theory, foreign language studies, art history, as well as classes in the Theory of shadows,’ and military training.

A Rodchenko
Spatial construction No 5, 1918
Reconstruction, 1982, A Lavrentiev
Producers: I Terenin, Y Orlov, L Alekseeva,
N Kapustin




M Korzhev
Abstractive exercise to detect the mass and weight, 1921
Paper, ink, watercolour




In 1925 VKhUTEMAS students, alongside their teachers, Melnikov and Rodchenko, exhibited at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris. However, in 1927, as a result of a desire amongst the authorities to steer the school away from the fine art direction it was veering off in, and back towards industrial design and manufacturing, it was renamed VKhUTEIN (Higher Artistic-Technical Institute). That same year a group of students was despatched on a visit to the Bauhaus – founded in 1919 in Dessau, and by now relocated to Weimar – and in 1928 Bauhaus students made a return visit to Moskow.

Plagued by bitter internal disputes and disagreements with the authorities, VKhUTEMAS never achieved the prominence of the Bauhaus and in 1930, the Russian avant-garde side-lined in favour of social realism and empire-style architecture, it was closed down. Nevertheless, as the 250 works on show in VKhUTEMAS – A Russian Laboratory of Modernity, Architecture designs 1920 – 1930 at Martin-Gropius-Bau, the school played an important role in the early development of European modernism.

The exhibition was organised by Moscow’s Shchusev State Museum of Architecture

All images © The Shchusev State Museum of Architecture Moscow




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

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




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Design | Swiss Design Bank

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Blattmann Metallwarenfabrik AG, MEWA, Kettle TECA, 1949 /
Alfred Roth, Aluminium Chair, 1933 / Wilhelm Kienzle, Cactus Watering Can
Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito


100 Years of Swiss Design
Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot
Zürich | Switzerland
27th September 2014 > 8th February 2015


It’s somehow unsurprising to find that, safe in its vaults, Switzerland has the largest collection of Swiss design in the world. While the vast majority of the 800 items in 100 Years of Swiss Design, a new exhibition opening this month at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, are drawn from the bank of 500,000 pieces the museum has built up over its 140-year history, a few items are on loan from elsewhere.

This exhibition will be the first at the Schaudepot (Open Collections) – in the New Toni-Areal, a recently converted former milk processing plant – where the museum’s poster, design, applied arts and graphics archives – previously distributed in separate locations around the Zürich – have come together under one roof. But it’s not only the location which is new. With a total of 26% additional space, the core of the assembled archive is a free-standing, high bay, storage facility – a six-metre-high shelving system – housing chairs, lamps, posters, cupboards and ceramics, which is being opened to the public for daily tours on specific themes, and where they can examine items in the collection at close quarters, for the first time. The museum’s globally-important assets have also been made accessible via the eMuseum site, where the pictures in the database are reproduced as a digital catalogue, exclusively illustrating the collection stock – and the service has been made available free of charge.

While Switzerland is renowned as an expensive country to visit, until the end of September when prices are set to rise, the adult entrance fee at the Museum is only 12 Swiss Francs (CHF) / just under £8, and an annual pass is available for 50 CHF / £33, which is a pretty good deal. There’s no entry fee for children under 12 years.


Sigg AG, Hot Water Bottle with Stopper 1925 + 1968
Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito

Willy Guhl, Beach Chair, 1954
Photo FX Jaggy

Oskar Zieta, Plopp, 2007 / Frédéric Dedelley, Melancholic Diamond, 2007
Photo U Romito

Wisa-Gloria AG, Three Wheeler, 1970,
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection

Photo FX Jaggy + U Romito


In 1949, the multi-talented Swiss architect, artist, painter, typeface designer, industrial designer and graphic designer, who at one time, served on the Zürich City Council, and was later elected to the Swiss National Parliament, Max Bill (1908 > 1994), singled out the Feller company’s light switch, ubiquitous throughout Switzerland, as ‘perhaps the ultimate form for a light switch.’ An image of the switch is being used on the publicity material for the exhibition, overlaid by a photograph of Willy Guhl’s classic Beach chair, for Eternit, 1954. Manufactured by companies like Therma, Embru, Langenthal, Horgen-Glarus, Sigg and Mammut, many more examples of often everyday products, typifying the high quality, functionality and charm of Swiss design, such as Hans Coray’s Landi chair and the USM Haller system are included in the 100 Years of Swiss Design exhibition.

Swiss book design is also one of country’s greatest assets, and later this month, or in early October (German edition. English language edition, probably December) the inimitable Lars Müller Publishers are bringing out 100 Years of Swiss Design, edited by the Müseum für Gestaltung Zürich, Christian Brändle, Renate Menzi and Arthur Rüegg. With 700 pictures and featuring 100 key works from the Museum’s collection, it presents the cream of the country’s design in chronological order – from their regional roots, at the beginning of the 20th century, to those dreamed up and produced for today’s global market. Also from Lars Müller Publishers, 100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design, a companion to the above, is already out in Europe (German and English editions), and will be available in the US and Canada at the end of September, 2014.


Heller drittel, Max Bill,1959 > 69
Auction estimate CHF 25,000 > 30,000 / £16,500 > 20,000


Max Bill, who was a student at the Bauhaus in Dessau between (1927 > 1928) worked closely with masters Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy- Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, as well as his fellow Swiss, Paul Klee. Eminently bankable, his paintings and sculptures are well-represented in Christie’s 30th Swiss Art Auction in Zürich on September 22nd. It was László Moholy-Nagy, who had introduced Bill to the work of the De Stijl group, especially that of Mondrian, whom Bill visited in Paris, but the work of other De Stijl members, Georges Vantongerloo and Theo Doesburg were to make a greater impression upon him. Similarly based on geometric composition, Fritz Glarner, whose work is also included in the sale, owes much to influences drawn from De Stijl.

All products illustrated, except Will Guhl Beach Chair, from Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection. All photos © ZHdK.
Painting image courtesy of Christie’s


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


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Books | The Op-Art of the Invisible

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Singular Point


Poemotion 2
Takahiro Kurashima
Designed by Takahiro Kurashima
Lars Müller Publishers / 2013
64 pp / 30 images / hardback
170 x 230 mm / 6 3/4 x 9 ins
ISBN 978-3-03778-351-1
English text

Red Square


When this beautiful, finely-crafted little book arrived we thought ‘Yes, isn’t it nice,’ but we’ve been looking at op-art since Josef Albers started playing around with it at the Bauhaus, closely followed by Victor Vasarely. In the 1960s and 70s Bridget Riley’s mind-bending compositions made us woozy and weak at the knees. So what’s so special about these images?

Covers of Poemotion 1 and Poemotion 2


Had we seen Japanese advertising art director Takahiro Kurashima’s black and white bestselling Poemotion 1, prequal to the all colour Poemotion 2, we would immediately have realised that something was missing. As it happened, the all important sheet of etched black film – required to make the images interactive – that must be laid over the graphic abstract patterns to create the moiré effects that set them wildly spinning and vibrating, was accidently left out of the package.

Untitled

Penrose Triangle


For all its small proportions and lightness of touch, the concept of Poemotion 2 is based in philosophy. Kurashima quotes Galileo, who in 1623 wrote: ‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language. The letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.’ The design of the book is both minimal and warm, which makes it feel very much of the moment, but Kurashima was strongly influenced by Hans Knuckel and Jurg Nanni’s Seesaw (1994), also produced by Swiss masters of the modern book, Lars Müller Publishers, which he says taught him about the sense of invisibility.

All images © 2014 Takahiro Kurashima & Lars Müller Publishers


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Art | Meret Oppenheim

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Meret Oppenheim Retrospective
Martin-Gropius-Bau
Berlin, Germany
16th August – 1st December, 2013

On a visit to Berlin this spring I went to the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum to see their tremendously well staged Kosmos Farbe exhibition, in which the two Swiss-born Bauhaus masters Johannes Itten and Paul Klee’s work was carefully arranged to allow for comparison and contrast. The same venue will host Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective, the first ever major retrospective of the Berlin-born (1913) artist, brought up in Switzerland.

Oppenheim studied in Basel, where she saw an exhibition of Bauhaus work that included some by Paul Klee that inspired her to produce a series of pen and ink drawings in a school notebook – her own first surrealist work – which proved to be the catalyst for her move to Paris in 1932 to attend the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Meeting André Breton gained her the entré she had sought to the surrealist circle, with whom she would exhibit her own work for the first time the following year; a year which would see Man Ray posing her nude with an etching press, in a famous series of photographs that includes Erotique voilée (1933, above).

Named after Meretlein, a wild child who lives in the woods in Gottfried Keller’s novel Der Grüne Heinrich (The Green Henry), Oppenheim was quickly adopted by the group whose members, including Alberto Giacometti, (Jean) Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia and Dora Maar, identified her as the perfect embodiment of the surrealist woman, the femme-enfant through whose youth, naivety and charm, they believed had direct access to the world of dreams and the unconscious. Produced decades later her self-portrait, Skull and Ornament (1964) – an x-ray image of her head in profile, complete with large, ringed earrings – might be interpreted as the artist allowing us a glimpse of this mythical inner persona.

Oppenheim returned to Basel in 1937, entering a period of personal and artistic crisis, during which she worked sporadically, destroyed much and even went back to art school. When she began working in earnest again in the 1950s, she produced works based mainly on earlier sketches. Her painting Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, (above), produced between 1960 and 1981, is a clear reference to her original inspiration, Paul Klee’s work.

Linking her firmly to her surrealist friends, her humorous treatments of everyday materials in odd combinations, often suggestive of metamorphosis, would become some of the distinctive features of her work. However, Oppenheim wasn’t in it just for laughs. She became well-known for her emancipatory, non-conformist attitude and her critical approach to gender stereotyping, making her a central role model for 20th century women artists. ‘Freedom isn’t given to you – you have to take it’, she said, summing up her stance in 1975. And, right up to her death in Basel in 1985, the artist’s work courted controversy. When the city of Bern, famous for its traditional fountains commissioned her to design her Tour-fontaine (in Waisenhausplatz), inaugurated in 1983, and produced when she was already entering her seventies, residents queued up to sign petitions demanding its removal.

Celebrated by the surrealists as ‘the fairy woman whom all men desire’, much of Meret Oppenheim’s better known pieces are loaded with latent erotic content, which might provide some explanation as to why, when I was at the tender age of 15, in 1970, perhaps unsure of whether he should be showing us it, our very bright and progressive art teacher, closed the door firmly and pulled down the window blinds – it was a winter evening and already dark outside – prior to projecting Oppenheim’s iconic Objet (1936), the fur cup, saucer and spoon, on to a wall, introducing our single sex class to surrealism. Art critic Robert Hughes called it ‘the most intense and abrupt image of lesbian sex in the history of art.’ Years later, when I was studying graphics at London’s Royal College of Art, in a clever and poignant reminder of Objet, my contemporary, the late John Hind – who began working at British Vogue before he’d even finished the course, and would within a few short years become the magazine’s art director – in homage to the artist, made a fur purse as a container for a lipstick, the bright red tip provocatively poking out.

Images from top
Man Ray photograph f
rom the series Erotique voilée  mit handschriftlich
markierten Ausschnitten des Künstlers
, 1933
Galerie 1900–2000, Paris
©Man Ray Trust, Paris / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Pelzhandschuhe, 1936
Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland
Photo Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, 1960–1981
Private collection, Bern
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Margrit Baumann photograph,
M.O. mit Sechs Wolken auf einer Brücke, 1977, Bern 1982
©Photo Margrit Baumann
Archiv Christiane Meyer-Thoss, Frankfurt am Main

Meret Oppenheim, Eichhörnchen, 1969
Private collection, Montagnola
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern

©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Catalogue
Meret Oppenheim. Retrospective
Hatje Cantz Verlag
Editors: Heike Eipeldauer, Ingried Brugger, Gereon Sievernich
312 pages, 364 images
Museum edition €25


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

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Architecture | Collage City in 3D

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Cut ’n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City
Metropolitan Musem of Art
New York City, USA
Until 1st December, 2013

When Pablo Picasso pasted an actual Italian stamp on to a painting of a letter, he really started something. Earlier artists had made occasional use of the technique and it had appeared in popular art, but La lettre (1912) was probably the first deliberate use of collage in fine art.

Dictionaries define collage as an ‘Art form and technique, incorporating the use of pre-existing materials or objects attached as part of a two-dimensional surface’, which is how most of us think of it. This exhibition at MoMA uncovers how the visual language of collage, springing from its early 20th century roots, has come to dominate contemporary architectural representation, and how it has impacted three-dimensional buildings.

Picasso’s cubist colleagues, Juan Gris and George Braque, also experimented with collage, and the next couple of years, leading up to World War I and the Russian Revolution, would see Kazimir Malevich, the Futurist movement and the Dadaists each adopting the technique and using it to suit their own purposes, with very diverse results. The Berlin Dada group – which included Helmut Herzfeld/John Heartfield – with whom the young Mies van der Rohe interacted, used photographs and newspaper cuttings to make raw political, satirical, and socially critical statements. Van der Rohe adapted the technique to function, not just as a tool for expressing his architectural ideas, but also as an aid to exploring and developing them. He placed colour reproduction prints of paintings as well as photographs in his renderings of the new interior spaces made possible by steel and glass construction, not merely as decorative elements, but to represent non-load-bearing walls or divisions. His early painters of choice were Bauhaus artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky: later – the Bauhaus, of which he was the final director, having been closed by the Nazis, his having emigrated to America in 1937 – in Museum for a Small City, Interior Perspective (1942-43) including, perhaps pointedly, Picasso’s Guernica (1937).

From the mid-1950s, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Richard Hamilton, among others associated with pop art, made extensive use of collage. Installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who in the 1970s, and later, in their preparatory drawings for projects often involving large architectural structures, such as Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-95), also sought the immediacy of incorporating collaged elements. Meanwhile, architectural critics Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s book Collage City (1978), which proposed a city of fragments from the past, present and future, taking inspiration from working examples in existing cities; some rational, some disordered, juxtaposing and layering smaller designs into a whole – a post-modern composition – allowing the city to create itself, was an urban manifesto for the medium.

Contemporary architects who have used collage methods to communicate their ideas and architectural landscapes include such luminaries as Zaha Hadid and particularly Rem Koolhaas, whose architecture itself, for example, the interior of the distinctive, futuristic, asymmetrical, faceted form of the Casa da Musica, in Porto, Portugal, incorporates gold wood-grained walls and traditional blue and white tiled areas complete with antique furniture.

The intention of the organisers of Cut ‘n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City is to demonstrate that collage is much more than a continuation of drawing practices and that, via direct evocations of lifestyle or inventive connections to surrounding cultural conditions, as an architectural tool, this wide-ranging medium is capable of mixing high and popular references and offers a dynamic, inventive connection to cultural context, providing the means for architects to draw reality onto their projects from their earliest conception. These days, though, digital technology makes it all so much easier – and, unless you want them, there are no visible joins.

Images from top
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
Convention Hall project, Chicago,
Interior perspective, 1954
Cut-and-pasted reproductions, photograph,
and paper on composite board
Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect
©2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Ralph Schraivogel
Archigram 1961–74
Silkscreen
Museum für Gestaltung, 1995,
Exhibition poster
Gift of the designer

Paul Citroen
Metropolis, 1923
Gelatin silver print
Thomas Walther Collection
Gift of Thomas Walther
©2013 Paul Citroën/Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / PICTORIGHT, Amsterdam


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

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

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