Alvar Aalto’s bentwood furniture designs were among the many ground breaking utilitarian items to emerge from the Bauhaus school designers. The Model 41 Bentwood Lounge Chair (1931 – 32), designed for Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium, demonstrates the radical possibilities of bentwood in its graceful, scrolling form, devoid of right angles and sharp geometry.
Founded in 1929, Isokon became one of the most progressive modern furnishings companies in the United Kingdom. Several former members of the Bauhaus were tapped as designers, including Marcel Breuer, whose chase lounge is on view above, and Egon Riss, who designed several zoomorphic pieces for the company, including this molded-ply bookcase (1939) that resembles a Donkey with its upturned ears.
After the Bauhaus closed under political pressure in 1933, Vasily Kandinsky was forced to abandon Germany for a second time, and he settled in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Sein. The artist increasingly experimented with materials and colors, favoring pastels and gold-hues reminiscent of Russian origin. Likewise, Surrealism and the natural sciences clearly inform Kandisky’s compositions from this period. In Dominant Curve (Courbe Dominante – 1936), a schematized pink embryo floats near the upper-right corner while the figures within the green rectangle in the upper left recall microscopic marine animals, These buoyant, biomorphic images suggest a hope for a postwar rebirth and regeneration, despite the worsening political environment.
Photographed in the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.
This painting, Expansion in Four Directions (1961 – 62), shares its lozenge shape and geometric divisions of color with many paintings by Piet Mondrian, whose work Max Bill (1908 – 1994) collected and in whom he was greatly interested. Bill trained at the Bauhaus in the 1920s under Josef Albers and was an architect and graphic designer as well as an artist. In his work, he aimed to transcend personal artistic expression to achieve universal communication, and to this end he used mathematics as a neutralizing compositional device.
The subject of an exhibition at the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo in 1950 and winner of the grands prize for sculpture at the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1951, he helped to introduce a generation of Latin American artists to European geometric abstraction. Bill designed the catalogue for a 1955 Mondrian exhibition at the Zurich Kusthaus and lent to it three Mondrian paintings in his collection.
Photographed at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
This side char was the product of a team research project led by Marcel Breuer (1902 – 1981), a celebrated architect and émigré known for his tubular metal furniture, and designer of the original Whitney Museum Building on Madison Avenue in NYC. Collaborating with the US Forest Products Laboratory, he applied knowledge accumulated over fifteen years of experimentation, as well as new developments in high-frequency gluing, to plywood construction.
The team’s report boasted of the chair’s ability to carry a load of five hundred pounds, and the jury of MoMA’s International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture described the design ad “ingeniously articulated.”
Photographed as Part of The Exhibit The Value of Good Design, on Through June 15th, 2019 at The Museum of Modern Art in NYC.