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.
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.
Installation View with Eames Shelving Unit (All Photo By Gail)
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.
Following an influential career at The Bauhaus school in Wiemer, Germany (1919 – 33) Josef Albers fled the Nazi regime and emigrated to the United States, where he taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and then at Yale in Connecticut. Beginning in 1949 and continuing over the next twenty-five years, he created his celebrated Homage to the Square series, which is composed of more than a thousand works including paintings, drawings, prints, and tapestries. These works are based on a template of geometric abstraction, a mathematically determined format of several squares overlapping or nesting within one another. These works represent Alber’s experiments with theories of color and spatial relationships, which were informed by his studies of Mexican pyramids and pre-Colombian architectonic principles. Homage to the Square: On Near Sky was painted in 1963.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Tower Furniture for the House with the Little Chinese Girl, Mario Tchou Residence, Milan (All Photos By Gail)
Ettore Sottsass (1917 – 2007) designed the interiors of Mario Tchou’s Milan apartment and named the project for Tchou’s daughter, who captured his heart as she attempted to scale the Tower. The latticework, dowels and cubic proportions suggest the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement, the Wiener Werkstatte, and the Bauhaus.
In Paul Klee’s painting, Around the Fish (1926), a garnished platter of fish is surrounded by a constellation of seemingly disparate elements — a cross, full and crescent moons, an exclamation point, a forked red flag — all hovering against a dark abyss.
Some of Klee’s iconography grew out of his teaching. The arrow, which he initially used as a teaching tool to indicate force and emotion for his students at the Bauhaus, here points confrontationally towards a stylized head, possibly alluding to human consciousness. Although they are often enigmatic, Klee believed his personal hieroglyphs and figurative elements had wider connotations: “The object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge of its inner being, through the knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests.”
Around the Fish is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and is currently on view on the 5th Floor, in Painting and Sculpture I, Gallery 7.
Walter Gropius, German Architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, was born on this day, May 18th, in 1883. I admit to feeling a special sort of insider kinship with the Bauhaus, not only because I love band that took its name from this forward thinking movement of Architecture and Design, but because I once worked for an architectural firm whose founding partners has previously worked with another great Bauhaus architect, Marcel Breuer. Breuer designed those cool chairs that everybody has in their kitchens.