Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ArtWorks Magazine: The Bauhaus Effect

The Bauhaus Effect

by Max Eternity


“Every work of art is a child of its age”

Vasily Kandinsky


Originally published in ArtWorks Magazine (December 2009)

This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the Bauhaus school, with a century having passed since one of its former instructors, Kandinsky, wrote that noteworthy quote in his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”. In that single introductory line, Kandinsky reveals the magnanimity of the artistic forest, and the proverbial trees.

A creative zenith of the 20th Century, Kandinsky gave the world great art, great words and many brilliant ideas. So it should come as no surprise that in the decades since his passing, neither he nor the school where he once taught have yet been forgotten. And why should they be? After all, Kandinsky is one of the founding fathers of abstract art, and the German Bauhaus school is the place where the modernist aesthetic was conceived—incubated—cultivated--formed.

Walter Gropius, descendent of two architects sharing the same name—father and great-uncle—Martin Gropius, founded the Bauhaus in 1919. Thereafter, with his expanding portfolio of buildings, Gropius would introduce to the world an elegant simplicity of reductive design, combining minimalistic functionality, tectonic geometry and timeless, aesthetic beauty. Several buildings would be built to house the school, though the Gropius designed Dessau site remains the most recognized of the Bauhaus’ three locales—WeimarDessau--Berlin.

Being co-ed, another specific impact that the school had on design and education was its embrace of women. And though female students were strongly encouraged to work with fabrics and textiles, as opposed to industrial design and buildings, at various points through Bauhaus history, women would make up to 50% of the overall student body. With one of the more notable standouts being Anni Albers, who, after the Bauhaus had closed, along with her husband Josef, migrated to the US at the behest of Phillip Johnson--another towering figure of Modernism.

Mrs. Albers is in-part credited with elevating the craftsmanship of the loom to fine art status, but as Bauhaus alumni go, she is not the only woman of tremendous success and achievement. There’s also Lilly Reich, a collaborator to van der Rohe who in 1930 was the first woman at the Bauhaus to teach interior design, which included furniture design. And then there’s Marianne Brandt, a photographer who, like her male colleague Wilhelm Wagenfeld, is better known for her industrial designs of exquisitely sculpted, household objects--lamps, ashtrays, tea infusers.

Wall hanging "Slit Tapestry Red/Green" by Gunta Stolzl, 1927/28

“The women of the Bauhaus set up a leadership structure of their own…Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl…produced ambitious and exciting textiles that explored different permutations of design” says the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpting, Leah Dickerman. As well, Dickerman says, the women weren’t just following the lead of the men, because “the weavers rejected the idea that their work should solely be expressions of visual art.” Consequentially she says, the Bauhaus women “developed a huge range of textiles.”

Yet in this celebratory year, while many rejoice that historic institution’s worldwide contributions in art and design, others are loathe to bury the memory of Early and Mid-Century Modernism deep into the obscurity of our recent past....

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This article can be read in its entirety, including a selection of rare photos, in the December issue of ArtWorks Magazine. Print version available nationwide at Barnes & Noble bookstores.


About Max Eternity:

Max Eternity, contributing writer to Artworks Magazine and Editor and Publisher to Art Digital Magazine, is a digital-aged Renaissance man who creates innovative print types reflecting the Bauhaus and Mid-Century Modernism. Via a network of informational web portals, Eternity advocates for artistic and social concerns ranging from architectural preservation and digital literacy to government transparency and the Afro-Euro fine art construct. An avid inventor, he currently has over a twenty utilities in various stages of development.