– Teppich Konkret / Concrete Rugs
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
26 August > 1 November 2015
Not to be confused with the subject of our previous post, Concrete Buildings – What’s Not to Love Now? – the rugs in this exhibition are certainly not made of concrete. To be clear, the term ‘concrete art’ was first introduced in 1930 by De Stijl founder, Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (1883 > 1931) in his Manifesto of Concrete Art, published in the first and only issue of the magazine Art Concret. While the members of De Stijl envisioned the ideal fusion of form and function, in his manifesto van Doesburg maintained that there was nothing more concrete or more real than a line, a colour, or a plane (a flat area of colour). Gottfried Honegger, aged 97, whose rugs embody the spirit of concrete art as well as those of De Stijl, is a leading artist with a major retrospective on show at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until 14 September, 2015.
It’s fitting that the Honigger’s rug exhibition is being shown in Switzerland, not just because Honegger is Swiss, but because another Swiss artist, former Bauhaus student Max Bill (1908 > 1994), who took up the concrete art (aka concrete-constructivist art) baton, organised the first international exhibition of work by the movement in Basle, in 1944. Bill stated that the aim of concrete art is to create ‘in a visible and tangible form, things which did not previously exist – to represent abstract thoughts in a sensuous and tangible form’. Some years later, Gottfried Honegger would go one stage further, declaring that the primary purpose of art is to change the world. There is a museum of concrete art in Zürich. Somewhat less well known than the great Bill, Gottfried Honneger (aka Gottfried Honegger-Lavater) is nevertheless a prominent figure in the story of concrete art.
During a sojourn in Paris in 1939, he produced a few landscape paintings and some portraits in a cubist style, but the outbreak of war meant he returned to Switzerland, where he created little more that might be called fine art until 1949. He studied window-dressing at the Zurich Kunstgewerbeschule and afterwards became a very successful graphic designer. From 1955 to 1958 he was art director of the Basel-based pharmaceuticals company Geigy, which, as well as being involved in pioneering drugs research, had an in-house packaging and publicity design department. The cutting edge work produced at Geigy was crucial to the development of the globally-influential Swiss Style in graphic design.
On a trip to New York in 1958, where he met several abstract expressionist painters, Honegger decided to become an artist himself, and stayed there. His first exhibition, in which he showed monochrome paintings on surfaces covered by a repetitive pattern of geometric elements in thin card, was held in the city. Relocating to Paris in 1961, he would concentrate on painting, exploring circles and squares, and by 1968 had begun to produce sculpture. One of the first artists based in France to be inspired by the possibilities opened up by computers, in 1970, he produced computer-aided low relief works. His multi-panel paintings with cut-out sections that involve the wall behind in the work, were executed in the 1980s.
In 1990, Honegger and his wife Sybil Albers were instrumental in setting up l’Espace de l’Art Concret, at Mouans-Sartoux, close to Mougins, in the South of France, a museum dedicated to concrete art. Ten years later they donated their personal collections of over 550 works by avant-garde and abstract artists to the French state, with the proviso that they are kept on permanent exhibition in a purpose-built building, designed by Swiss architects, Gigon and Guyer.
The 1990s saw his relief works, freed from the flat plane, transform into sculptures in painted metal, and in 1999, Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) a retrospective of Honegger’s painting and sculpture work was shown at Jean Nouvel-designed Fondation Cartier in Paris – itself a fusion of design and form in steel and glass. Honegger’s more recent work, the Pliages is in the form of white cylinders with foldout cut-away sections.
The rugs on display in the forthcoming Gottfried Honegger – Teppich Konkret exhibition in the Schaudepot at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, are a natural extension of the artist’s relief pieces, simply executed in another medium.
All images courtesy Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
All rugs by Gottfried Honegger © Tisca Tiara
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