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Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

November 8, 2009 to January 25, 2010

Imagining A New and Better World

"Aufsteig und Ruhepunkt" by Itten

"Aufsteig und Ruhepunkt (Ascent and resting point)," by Johannes Itten, 1919, oil on canvas, 90 9/16 by 45 1/4 inches, 1919, Kuntshaus Zurich

By Michele Leight

At the press preview of "Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity," at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, co-curator Barry Bergdoll said of the current exhibit: "This is a more complex Bauhaus, not the one hardened into cliches."

Sponsored by Hundai Card, the show is on view from November 8, 2009 to January 25, 2010, and it is the first comprehensive overview of the Bauhaus at MoMA since their 1938 exhibition titled "Bauhaus 1919-1928," organized by Walter Gropius, the founder and first director of the school, and designed by former Bauhaus student and teacher Herbert Bayer.

However, that exhibition did not include the final five years of the school under Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Therefore, as Bergdoll was quick to point out, much that was really important was left out of the original catalogue, which was the definitive text for students of Bauhaus art, architecture and design in the ensuing years.

The present show is co-curated by Mr. Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, and Leah Dickerman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with a cross-departmental group of MoMA colleagues, emulating the spirit of the Bauhaus.

The dates of this exhibit are 1919-1933, and coincide with the end of World War 1 and Hitler's rise to power, culminating in World War II in 1939. The idealism of the Bauhaus was in stark contrast to the menacing times in which this now legendary school took root and sought to flourish, but ultimately could not in a rapidly changing Germany:

"In memos from members of the Bauhaus, what comes across is the keen sense of the ground shifting under them," said co-curator Leah Dickerman at the press preview.

The beauty and idealism apparent at this show makes it all the more difficult to swallow the harsh reality of the regime that was building up around such humane and brilliant trailblazers as they worked quietly in their studios, that we, with hindsight, can play back from the history books. Innocent of what was to come, they could never have imagined such horrors. Fortunately, they escaped Hitler's Germany before it was too late, and many came to America.

This show gives an unprecedented view of an extraordinary concentration of talent and genius that quite literally "worked" together at the Bauhaus over a short period of time that has been hugely important to the history of art. Sadly, this talent was soon to be dispersed as the Third Reich cast its shadow on all the creative avant-garde, and they wasted no time letting free thinkers and artists know their modus operandi would not be tolerated. Cliches or no cliches, this made their contribution to Modern art as we know it even more monumental.

Glenn Lowry, the director of MoMA, said in his opening remarks at the press preview that no museum has been more influenced by the Bauhaus than MoMA, calling it "an almost mythic school:" "From the outset, MoMA embraced not just architecture and design, but photography and film," he said, and referenced the impact of the school on the founding director of MoMA, Alfred H. Barr: "I regard the three days which I spent at the Bauhaus in 1928 as one of the most important incidents in my own education," wrote Barr in a letter to Walter Gropius.

Of the 400 works on view, over 80 are from MoMA's own collection, while 150 come from the three German Bauhaus collections representing the three cities that housed the school over its short lifespan - Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau and Klassik Stiftung Weimar.

Other major loans come from The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Centre Pompidou, Musee national d'art moderne/Centre de creation industrielle, the Harvard Art Museum/Busch-Reisinger Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other public and private collections in America and Europe.

All three directors of the Bauhaus were architects, which makes the blatant "backseat" position of architecture at the present show all the more unexpected - without any loss of importance - while also demonstrating how incredibly influential the architects and their concepts from the school became, and remain, in America and globally.

The lifespan of the school represented three very different directorships, beginning in Berlin with its founding director, Walter Gropius, (1919-1928), who issued a call for artists in all media to rally around a new, constructive purpose, both aesthetic and social: "The arts have become isolated in the modern age, and the school must forge a new unity," he wrote in 1919.

Walter Gropius then took the radical step of placing fine art, architecture and design on an equal footing, and replacing traditional professors with "masters" who taught in workshops rather than studios. His goal was to foster creativity that reflected innovations in technological media, industrialized production and expanding consumerism.

Instruction at the Bauhaus was initially provided in sculpture (stone, wood, ceramics and plaster), metalwork, cabinetry, painting and decorating (walls, glass and panels), printmaking and weaving. The pairing of workshops led by a master craftsperson and a fine artist spoke to Gropius's desire that technical knowledge should be complemented by aesthetic ambition.

Small wood altar by Marcks and Partikel

"Altarchen (small altar)," by Gerhard Marcks with paiting by Alfred Partikel, painted wood 16 1/8 by 17 5/16 inches, 1920, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen

A luminous Delaunay-esque oil by Johannes Itten, "Aufsteig and Ruhepunkt (Ascent and resting point)," by Johannes Itten that dominates the first gallery (illustrated at the top of the story), is exhibited with works by Lionel Feininger, Paul Klee, and a triptych by Gerhard Marcks "Altarchen (Small altar), among others. Johannes Itten, initiated a class in what has now become his legendary color theory, a mandatory preliminary course for all students, irrespective of their medium, that familiarized them with issues affecting color, form, and material considered fundamental to all visual expression.

The wall text in the second gallery gives poignant context to a baby's cradle, and children's furniture, both illustrated here:

"Cradfe" by Keller

"Cradle," by Peter Keller, wood, colored lacquer, rope work, circular supports, 36 1/8 inches in diameter, 1922, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bauhaus-Museum. right

"The desire by many artists and designers after World War I to create a new and better world led to a strong interest in products for children at the Bauhaus. Bold colors distinguishing functional and structural components bear the influence of the De Still movement whose spokesperson, Theo Van Doesberg, taught private classes in Weimar to Bauhaus students. Moreover, adding paint to inexpensive wood kept production costs down. Designs for children by Breuer and others were the most commercially successful of all the furniture produced at the school. In a precursor to industrial mass production, 250 chairs and 50 tables were made (from these designs) ....."

Gropius' first faculty appointees read like the Who's Who of the avant garde: Vasily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Gerhard Marcks (German, 1889-1961), Oscar Schlemmer, Lothar Schreyer and other new teachers that were members of the circle around Herwarth Walden's "Der Sturm" (The Storm), a magazine and gallery that was a center for German Expressionism and international modernist art in Berlin.

"Eiserne Wendeltreppe" by Bayer"E

iserne Wendeltreppe (Iron winding stair)," by Herbert Bayer, gelatin silver printm, 13 7/8 by 9 5/8 inches, 1938, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Thomas Walther Collection, Gift of Thomas Walther

Hannes Mayer became director when Walter Gropius left the school to pursue his private practice, and the school moved to Dessau (1928-1930). Marcel Breuer, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer left with him, and although Mayer was the chosen successor of Gropius, he was critical of the years preceding him, his directorship was far more stark, reflected in the only "colorless" gallery in the present show. While one can admire the functionality and practicality of the spartan foldaway table and other utilitarian objects, this viewer could not wait to return to the mind-blowing paintings, luscious rugs, puppets and gorgeous silver tea sets of the previous and ensuing Bauhaus directorships, a creative landscape so fertile it makes you want to go home instantly and "make."

Hannes Mayer was allied with the rhetoric of radical class politics, and attacked luxury and the "aesthetic" (i.e. the beautiful) as forms of elitism. Design was highly rationalized for him, and geared to promoting the development of well-designed, cheap objects for mass production to equip "the people's apartment." In this he was the exact opposite of Mies Van Der Rohe, who promoted beautiful fabrics, sensuous and tactile materials, like luminous glass walls in his interiors.

In 1930 Hannes Mayer was dismissed by the Anhalt state government for his Communist sympathies and connections.

Perhaps the best known member of the Bauhaus in America is Mies Van Der Rohe, the school's third and final director, (from 1930-1933), who was also recommended by Walter Gropius. After 1933, Nazi political pressure soon forced Mies to close the government-financed school. He left Germany in 1937 as he saw his opportunity for any future building commissions vanish, accepting a residential commission in Wyoming and then an offer to head the architecture school at Chicago's Armour Institute of Technology (later renamed Illinois Institute of Technology - IIT). One of the benefits of taking this position was that he would be commissioned to design the new buildings and master plan for the campus. Mies also designed the spectacular Seagram Building on Park Avenue in New York, that rises up from a sweeping plaza like something out of Stanley Kubrick's 2001.

As might be expected under Mies's directorship, architecture and interior design became the Bauhaus's primary focus. Students were allowed to bypass the preliminary course to enter specialized instruction in one of five areas - building and interior furnishings, advertising, photography, weaving and fine art. This created a more traditional separation of mediums in the school's curriculum, and despite the option of fine art specialization, the role of the painter was limited to teaching in the non-obligatory preliminary course and outside the workshop curriculum. Paul Klee and Oscar Schlemmer left the school.

The National Socialists, who dominated the Dessau city legislature, discharged the Bauhaus faculty on August 22, 1932. After several difficult months spent trying to save the school, and under increasing financial and political pressure, the faculty unanimously voted to dissolve the Bauhaus in July 1933.

The present show at MoMA opens 80 years after the founding of The Museum of Modern Art, and 90 years after the establishment of the Bauhaus in Weimar. It is an eye-opener to say the least for those expecting wall-to-wall chrome and tubular steel furniture and architects renderings and models. Instead, they are greeted with a dazzling array of art and especially design that offers new insight into the most famous and influential school of art, architecture and design in the 20th century - "minus the cliches."

The Bauhaus changed locations three times - Weimar, Dessau and Berlin - but eventually most of the artists whose work is featured in this show, and many that are not, left Germany by the time Hitler came to power.

While iconic works by the rock stars of the Bauhaus movement are represented - notably Walter Gropius, Mies Van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer - as they must be for any show encompassing the title "Bauhaus" to have heft and validity, there is far more emphasis on the "group," on the Bauhaus movement itself at this show, rather than specific individuals.

Amazingly, there are no renderings of or references to Mies Van Der Rohe's Seagram Building, presumably because it was executed after the lifespan of this show and the Bauhaus itself

"Bauhaus Stairway" by Schlemmer

"Bauhaus Stairway," by Oskar Schlemmer, oil on canvas, 63 7/8 by 45 inches, 1932, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Philip Johnson

Gropius' enormous talent and vision is enhanced, not diminished, when renderings of his domestic or workaday buildings together with photographs of his fully realized "Torten Housing Estate, Dessau " including stunning interiors, are juxtaposed with puppets, babies cradles, toys, tea sets, lamps, rugs and utilitarian objects created by his students and other "masters." These now world famous architects more than meet their match however when their renderings keep company with paintings by Klee, Kandinsky, Lionel Feininger and Oscar Schlemmer.

"The Figural Cabinet" by Schlemmer

"The Figural Cabinet," by Oskar Schlemmer, watercolor, pencil, and ink on tracing paper, 12 1/8 by 17 3/4 inches, 1922, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection

I felt relieved that I would see many of my favorite works of art return to the permanent collection of MoMA, their original home, including Oscar Schlemmer's well-known "Staircase" which has a special significance for this exhibition. The wall text says it best, so I will not tamper with it:

"Grotesk I" by Schlemmer

"Grotesk I," by Oskar Schlemmer, walnut and ivory with metal shaft, 22 1/16 inches high, 1923, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin

"Figures in architectural spaces were a common motif for Schlemmer, but rarely is the architecture identifiable. Here the unornamented staircase flooded with light through a wall of ...glass is the unmistakable interior of the Bauhaus building in Dessau. Schlemmer made this painting two years after he left the school, in the weeks following the closing of the Dessau Bauhaus by National Socialists on August 22, 1932. In its integration of rationalized bodies into a modern architectural space, the work is both a celebration of and a memorial to a certain vision of modernism then under threat."

"Big-eared Clown" by Klee

"Big-eared Clown," left, by Paul Klee, head made of papier-maché, painted, three different fabrics, 2003-6 (reconstruction of 1925 original), left; "Untitled (Crowned Poet), by Klee, puppet, plaster with metal ornamentation and fabric, 13 3/4 inches hjigh, 2006-8 (reconstruction of 1919 original), right, both in the collection of Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

Fortunately for us, the "masters" that taught at the Bauhaus had a chance to experiment and "play" too, and these images give some idea of the magic that transpired when Paul Klee turned his creative energies to puppets, Joseph Albers to stained glass and Wasilly Kandinsky to a pragmatic studio space, as in "One of three designs for a ceramic-tiled music room at the Deutsche Bauausstellung (German Building exhibition), Berlin. Right Wall" that loses nothing in translation to a utilitarian purpose.

"Relief study for preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten" by Lutz

"Relief study for preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten," by Rudolf Lutz, plaster with wood frame, 9 1/16 by 7 7/8 inches, 1920-1, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

The strong emphasis on Johannes Itten at this show is important, as were his theories on color, which influenced all members of the Bauhaus, and is most evident in the work of sophisticated colorists like Paul Klee and Wasilly Kandinsky. However, no one at the school was untouched by Itten's genius. His color theory class was mandatory for all students and the impact on them all, whether they were famous or not, is the binding force of this show, which quite literally explodes with color in every possible medium and art form. The quiet, subtle color exercises of the students are masterpieces. One of the exhibition's most striking sculptures is a plaster relief with wood frame by Rudolf Lutz (German, 1895-1966) that is entitled "Relief study for preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten. The work, which measures 9 1/16 by 7 7/8 inches, was created in 1920-1 and is in the collection of Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin. It looks very much like some masterpieces by Isamu Noguchi.

Model of Bauhaus at Dessau

"Model (scale 1:100) of the Bauhaus Building, Desau, designed by Walter Gropius, model realized artist unknown 1999 (after building of 1925-6), wood, plexiglass, pasteboard adhesive, 53 9/16 by 53 1/8 by 12 5/8 inches, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Even Walter Gropius' designs for exteriors of buildings include color, which was beyond radical then, and is still considered radical today because so few people use it, even though anyone with artistic sensibilities would think nothing of bringing a little drama in deep blues and reds to the outside of a structure.

Torten housing estate by Gropius

"Torten housing estate, Dessau, isometric," by Walter Gropius, 1928, ink, spatter paint and gouache on paperboard, 34 15/16 by 42 1/4 inches, Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Walter Gropius

Johannes Itten was the head of his own art school in Vienna before he became a teacher at the Bauhaus, where he designed his now famous color theory course that encouraged students to explore color, rhythm, form and contrast. It is clear from the many color studies by students - and masters - at this show, that Itten had a profound influence on Paul Klee and Wasily Kandinsky. Itten expanded the color wheel to include 12 colors, and while the scientific components are obvious, it was his interest in the spirituality of color that is the grounding force of his theories.

"Farbenkugel in 7 Lichtstufen und 12 Tonen" by Itten

"Farbenkugel in 7 Lichtstufen und 12 Tonen (Color Sphere in 7 light values and 12 tones)," by Johannes Itten, lithograph on paper, 18 5/8 by 12 11/16 inches, 1921, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

The underpinnings of Itten's scientific knowledge and perception of color is demonstrated in "Farbenkugel in 7 Lichstufen und 12 Tonen (Color sphere in 7 light values and 12 tones," and his profound influence can be seen in the work and color studies of students and faculty alike, including Anni and Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Lucia Moholy, Lilly Reich, Oskar Schlemmer, Gunta Stolzl, and other less well known but incredibly talented artists.

"Study in color intensity" by Hirschfeld-Mack

"Study in color intensity; twelve-part color circle with 120 colors," by Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, gouache and cut-and-pasted paper on paper, 20 3/16 by 25 3/8 inches, 1923, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

There are beautiful, austere color "exercises" that vibrate harmoniously, like "Color Gradation," and "Study in Color Intensity: twelve part color circle with 120 colors," circa 1922-23, both by Ludwig Hirschfield-Mack, and monochromatic "Untitled (Geometric Forms in Space)" by Alexander (Sandor) Bortnyik.

Design for a carpet by Stolzl

"Design for a carpet," by Gunta Stolzl (1897-1983), watercolor on graph paper, 10 9/16 by 7 7/8 inches, 1927, The Board of Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Whether in shades of gray and black spiked with tangerine in Walter Gropius' interiors, or his daring exteriors shot with red, as shown here, Johannes Itten leaves his mystical imprint in so many works at this show that clearly draw from his color theory classes taught at the school. The man was as enigmatic as his theories were precise, grueling, and transcendent. As the color theory exercises here demonstrate, he was a hard taskmaster.

Glass works by Albers

Glass, wire, metal works by Josef Albers (1888-1976), The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Conn.

It is color that is probably the greatest revelation of this show, because most people might associate "Bauhaus" with a few primary colors and black lines, or monochromatic steel or wood and leather Breuer chairs.

Color was important at the Bauhaus and highlighted at this show by many beautiful color charts and color studies by teachers and students who are so famous there is no need to cite them here. The studies on view were based on the "theory of color," a class taught by Johannes Itten that was mandatory for all students. Perhaps more than anything, these reflective, meticulously executed exercises in color theory give an insight into the inner workings of the Bauhaus, and of abstract art itself. By any standards they were not easy classes, but they are the underpinnings of some of the most gloriously "colored" art in history - by Paul Klee and Vasilly Kandinsky, both geniuses, to name only two, who were a huge influence on "Der Blau Rider," the "Fauves," and one of the supreme colorists of all time, Henri Matisse.

Matisse said black was the queen of colors, and perhaps the most striking thing about the Seagram Building is its "blackness," as original today as it must have seemed when it was designed and created, soaring up from among the buildings around it that were made of brick, when construction in glass and steel were also uncommon. "Imaginings" of this kind enrich life. Hopefully this show will inspire more of it.

Opposed to the Bauhaus producing commercial work, a longstanding conflict with Gropius led Itten to resign in 1923, when Moholy-Nagy took over his position.

"Mystical ceramic in manner of still life" by Klee

"Mystisch-Karamisch (I.D. Art eines Stillebens)(Mystical ceramic in the manner of a still life)," by Paul Klee, oil on black ground on thin board with original strip frame, 13 by 18 3/4 inches, 1925, courtesy Neue Gallerie, New York

"Mask of Fear" by Klee

"Maske Furcht (Mask of Fear)," by Paul Klee, oil on burlap, 39 5/8 by 22 1/2 inches, 1932, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund

Thinking out of the box was second nature to Itten, but he also understood the rigorous science of color mixing and application....Viewing paintings by some of Itten's students - Klee and Kandinsky - border on religious experiences, and many literally evoke a strong emotional reaction. He believed that musical notes and colors were interconnected.

"Schwarze Form" by Kandinsky

"Scharze Form (Black form)," by Vasily Kandinsky, oil on canvas, 43 5/16 by 38 3/16 inches, 1923, Private collection, courtesy Neue Gallerie New York

Both Klee and Kandinsky were deeply immersed in music, and it shows in their art.

"Design for ceramic-tiled music room" by Kandinsky

"One of three designs for a ceramic-tiled music room at the Deutsche Bauausstellung (German building exhibition), Berlin, right wall, by Vasily Kandinsky, oil on board, 17 15/16 by 29 1/2 inches, 1931, Musée d'art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg, gift of Societé L'Oréal

Design for a ceramic-tiled music room by Kandinsky

"Design for a ceramic-tiled music room at the Deutsche Bauausstellung (German building exhibition), Berlin, Center wall, oil on board, 17 11/16 by 39 3/8 inches, 1931, Musée d'art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg, gift of Societé L'Oréal

"Massive Building" by Kandinsky

"Massiver Bau (Massive Building)," by Vasily Kandinsky, gouache on brown paper, mounted on cardboard, 13 by 19 3/16 inches, 1932, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett

Wall hanging possibly by Else Mogelin

"Wall hanging," top center, by unknown weaver possibly Else Mogelin, linen, rayon and wool, 55 7/8 by 112 3/16 inches, circa 1923, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bauhaus-Museum

"Form and color corgan with moving color tones" by Schmidt

"Form und Farbogel mit bewegenden Farbklangen (Form and color organ with moving color tones)," by Kurt Schmidt, oil and tempera with varnish on wood, 40 3/16 inches square and 2 15/16 inch deep, 1923, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bauhaus-Museum

Club chair by Breuer and wall hanging by Anni Albers

Club chair, lower left, by Marcel Breuer, tubular steel, originally nickel plated and later chromed, and Eisengarn (metallized yarn) fabric, 27 3/4 by 31 7/8 by 27 3/8 inches, 1925, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau; wall hanging, rear upper right, by Anni Albers, silk, 70 3/8 by 46 3/8 inches, 1926, Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Association Fund

Glass-fronted cabinet by Breuer

Glass-fronted cabinet, rear left, by Marcel Breuer, 1926, Designsammlung Ludewig, Berlin; set of stacking tables, by Josef Albers, circa 1927, right foreground

"Tablecloth Fabric Sample," rear center, mercerized cotton, by Anni Albers, 23 2/8 by 28 1/2 inches, 1930, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Purchase Fund; folding tabole, right, by Gustav Hassenpflug, birch veneer on plywood, 1928, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

Opposed to the Bauhaus producing commercial work, a longstanding conflict with Gropius led Itten to resign in 1923, when Moholy-Nagy took over his position.

"A 18" by Moholy-Nagy

"A 18," by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy," oil on canvas, 37 3/8 by 29 3/4 inches, 1927, Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Museum purchase

The revelation of this show is Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, whose compositions lean far more towards the angular geometry and primary colors of the Russian Supremacists- a huge influence on him - which, no matter how magnificent they are, could never approach the visual poetry and musicality of the compositions of Klee and Kandinsky. It is rare to see much besides his stunning oblique angled photographs.

"Light prop for an electric stage" by Moholy-Nagy

"Lichtrequisit einer Elekrischen Buhne (Light prop for an electric stage), exhibition replica constructed throught the courtesy of Hattula Moholy-Nagy, by Laszlo oyholy-Nagyk 2006 (after 1930 original), metal , plastics, glass, p[aint and wood with electri motor, 59 1.2 by 27 1/2 by 27 1/2 inches, Harvard Art Museum,k Musch-Reisinger Museum, Hildegard von Gontard Bequest Fund

His paintings are superb, more "constructivist" than any of the others, echoing architecture and the ideas...flat planes of color etc. He was the head of the metal workshops at the Bauhaus, from which the superb examples of tea sets sprouted.

"Z VIII" by Moholy-Nagy

"Z VIII," by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, tempera on unprimed canvas, 44 7/8 by 51 15/16 inches, 1924, Staaliche Museen zu Berlin, Neue Natinalgalerie, Berlin

It is humbling to see what the lesser-known geniuses of this famous school created and invented. While we are familiar with Moholy Nagy's photographs, this show reveals what a wonderful painter he was. It is a show full of surprises, definitely a fresh new look at a legendary, historic art movement.

"Vocal Fabric of the Singer Rosa Silber" by Klee

"Vocal Fabric of the Singer Rosa Silber," by Paul Klee, watercolor and ink on plastered fabric mounted on board, with watercolor and ink borders, 24 1/2 by 20 1/2 inches, 1922, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Resor

Admirers of Paul Klee will be delighted to find rich, rare and fantastical works by him. Works of this quality by Klee - who had a consistently high standard despite how prolific he was - are not often to be seen, and are a highlight of the show.

In the lush imagination of Paul Klee, such color "exercises" become sublime reflections like "Scheidung Abends (Separation in the Evening)," or Wasilly Kandinsky's "Massiver Bau (Massive Building)," among other superb paintings by the artists at this show.

Coffee and tea set, silver and ebony, lid of sugar bowl made of glass, by Marianne Brandt, 1914, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin

While the "design objects" are pure sculpture - lamps and silver tea sets by Marianne Brandt (1893-1983) - the overall impression of the show is of color.

"Partial model for the Martgefallenen-Denkmal" by Gropius

"Partial model for the Marzgefallenen-Denkmal (Monument to the March dead)," by Walter Gropius, tinted plaster, 1921, 17 15/16 by 30 11/16 by 20 11/16 inc hes, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bauhaus-Museum

On the wall behind the Itten - a deliberate "separation" - the viewer is confronted with architectural renderings, and atmospheric photographs of Sommerfeld House (designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer) and a stunning war memorial "Partial Model for the Marzgefallenen-Denkmal (Monument to the March dead, 1921)," also by Walter Gropius. Compared with the explosion of color in the rest of the show, the "architectural" exhibits offer a restful interlude for the eyes, and the brilliance hits home even harder as a result. It is the simplicity of the architectural concepts that resonate.

This duality of architecture juxtaposed with art and design sets the tone for the rest of this show, and works by lesser known students and masters only serves to stabilize, not water down, the impact of Walter Gropius not just in his day, but now, as well as other, more famous names associated with The Bauhaus, like Mies Van Der Rohe.

400 works in the exhibition are organized and displayed roughly chronologically over the three tenures in three different cities of Walter Gropius (Weimar, 1919-25), Hannes Mayer (Dessau, 1925-32) and Mies Van der Rohe (1930-33), representing the entire, short-lived, lifespan of the Bauhaus itself, due to the volatile political and economic climate of the Weimar Republic. The Nazis would not tolerate such a "free thinking" art school, no matter how innovative and geared to the common man and woman its philosophy, and many members of the school left Germany to take up positions at important educational institutions in America, including Gropius (Harvard) and Mies Van Der Rohe.

Each gallery offers works in various disciplines reflecting the curriculum of the school, which did not award the "fine arts" top spot at the expense of other disciplines as was customary at art schools at the time. Even more cutting edge, photography, graphic or "commercial" design and even film were an integral part of the curriculum. There is a delightful film made by students.

Galleries bursting with color and incredibly innovative art, architecture and design highlight the impact this now historic collaboration and cross-fertilization of personalities and artistic disciplines had on each other and on subsequent generations of artists, architects and designers, not just in Europe and America, but internationally. Just looking around the city today reveals their legacy. However, this show is the perfect antidote for those who might think: "Is there anything new to say about the Bauhaus?"

"Yes there is," said Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, co-curator of this show with Leah Dickerman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, who then quoted a famous line whose author I, sadly, forget:

"Everything has already been said, but not by everybody."

"Everybody" at the Bauhaus: include weavers of rugs so exquisite they look like works of art, furniture and toy designers - Marcel Breuer as you have never seen him before - metalworkers, photographers, filmmakers and of course the artists and architects. All have their moment of glory, not just the rock stars, and Walter Gropius would heartily approve, because he was an architect with an artist's heart, as the exquisite renderings and models by him and his students during his tenure as director of the Bauhaus in its early days in Weimar are proof.

The Bauhaus turned convention on its head, pulled down the barricades between art and design and their influence is felt just about everywhere today, in coffee pots and tea cups, fabrics and furniture, public housing to state of the art architectural icons like the Seagram Building on Park Avenue in New York, designed by student then director of the Bauhaus (put forward by Gropius himself) Mies Van Der Rohe.

It is a rare treat to see and literally feel the cradle in which the Bauhaus began. There is a baby's crib, or cradle, together with superb puppets for children of all ages, toys, and brightly colored children's furniture and rugs. They are so much a part of our world now it is impossible to imagine how innovative they must have looked besides the frilled and flounced cribs that children back then occupied.

Untitled pillar with cosmic visions by Muller-Hummel

"Untitled (pillar with cosmic visions)" by Theobald Emil Muller-Hummel (1893-1991), carved and painted wood (almost certainoly a propeller blade, with brass mountsings, 36 by 6 7/16 by 3/3/8 inches, 1920, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bauhaus-Museum, on loan from Prof. J. A. Muller

This show has a wonderfully organic quality; a keen sense of "making art," which is what art and design are all about. There are stained glass windows and wall hangings so beautiful they could pass for paintings. There is a wood sculpture wrought from the propeller of a plane - was it so long ago that this innovative school took root, that planes had wooden propellers?

Was it that long ago that these artists were at work, when, as a curator remarked: "How fresh, contemporary and immediate the work looks today!"

"Process" is very evident at this show: one can imagine the watercolors being absorbed into paper, the hand dyed, silk, cotton, wool - and even innovative metal thread - being woven by eager fingers on looms. One can feel the excitement in designing the posters and programs for Bauhaus performances and student and faculty shows; there is a childlike spirit of fun and adventure underscored by formidable creative genius. This is how art would always be in an ideal world, a workshop; a collaboration for the common good.

The student and faculty designs for public housing, and modest private homes are far better than a lot of what we see today even in ritzy neighborhoods - the ho-hum structures of mediocre imaginations. What Walter Gropius envisioned as homes for the masses are sadly only elite private residences today. He was the visionary. It was us that could not deliver on what proved to be an extraordinary ideal.

However, even watered down versions of Gropius' formidable architectural designs - not just for individual houses but for entire communities - are better than much of what we call "housing" today, most of it made with the cheapest possible products, denying structures in which we live the quality and integrity Gropius would have required as an absolute necessity. The renderings for "tract" housing, and for the Bauhaus itself show just how enlightened he was - far, far ahead of his time. We have yet to catch up.

The exterior and interior photographs of Gropius designs would pass for upwardly mobile, affluent dwellings today. The quality was extremely high, but his idea was to bring this good design to the masses - he felt all were worthy of it, not just the affluent. In sharp contrast, the furniture of the third director is far more "packing crate" and utilitarian, envisioning a far less ideal and quality driven product for the masses than Gropius.

Mies van der Rohe continued Gropius' legacy, which is evident in his designs and renderings. We are fortunate to have one of his creations right here in Manhattan - The Seagram Building. Mies van der Rohe also revolutionized architecture by incorporating a previously absent ingredient into his structures - light - with widespread use of glass. Plate glass was still in primitive form back then - unlike the huge slabs used for contemporary structures like the Apple stores today - but he used it to maximum effect.

It is a pity this show did not include a rendering of Mies van der Rohe's famous glistening "towers" of glass apartment blocks all clumped together, that shocked his contemporaries, that were designed and imagined at a time when most people expected to live in a single family home. Today, those futuristic renderings look like parts of Manhattan and other global metropolis.' The contrast would not have diminished the "cozy Bauhaus" atmosphere projected by show, it would have enhanced it.

This is very much a "design" show, in the best sense of the word - where the line between art and design blurr into each other, another Bauhaus forerunner of current trends in art and design. The idea of the "design object," originated in the Bauhaus - why should a coffee pot be less worthy as an art object than sculpture? If we were to super-size many of the utilitarian objects at this show, they would qualify as sculpture. While the Bauhaus sought to play down the distinctions between the various artistic disciplines after Walter Gropius left - Paul Klee left as a result - it produced towering figures in the "fine arts" that have become household words, giants like Kandinsky, Klee, and Lionel Feininger.

The results of the various teaching workshops are absolutely wonderful, and the most important aspect of this show.

Many of the artists, architects and designers of the Bauhaus knew what was coming, but they did not stop creating - some came to America, others fled elsewhere. Their legacy bears the hallmark of the dispersed and dispossessed that must leave behind all they have ever known, except the unstoppable force within them - their creativity - which only intensified and became a legacy we inherited, in a humble lamp, chair or tea cup manufactured today, the original created a long time ago in the Bauhaus workshops.

Perhaps it is the sense of impending displacement that hangs over the children's toys, cradles and furniture, the rugs, curtains, tea sets and lamps, the trappings of domesticity, that strike a chord in all of us - with their yearning for permanence, stability, of something good lasting. We know now, as we smile at the puppets and toys exhibited in crisp glass cases, that their creators had no idea that Germany would soon undergo a transformation no one, least of all history, could have predicted.

Sadly, stability was not on the cards for members of the Bauhaus, but the dispersion of talent and genius from this school has become what one curator called "an international shorthand," a powerful and lasting legacy that is deeply felt at MoMA, which Glen Lowry called "a workshop of modernism." Looking around the show and the museum itself, it is clear that the spirit of the Bauhaus is alive and well. In his remarks Glenn Lowry referenced the word "workshop," which he said is included in the title of this exhibition: "Alfred H. Barr said that MoMA was to be a laboratory of learning in which the public would participate."

Whether humble, utilitarian or important, the work on view at this show bears the mark of inspired teaching of especially gifted students who worked on equal footing at a "laboratory of learning" whose name has become synonomous with visionary and cutting edge excellence across the globe. There was no "them and us" at the Bauhaus. The results are stunning, even today.

The iconic and important mingle with the unknown and unexpected, like Lothar Schreyer's design for a coffin - as upbeat as they come, a far cry from grim wood chests lined in creepy satin - or a twirling metal sculpture by Lazlo Moholy Nagy - think Edward Scissorhands incorporating every gadget and gizmo in life - that is so incredible in motion it is "light prop for an electric stage, or a sculpture devised from an old wooden propeller.

While the utilitarian objects designed by students and masters of this famous school have entered the vernacular of our daily lives, it is the unexpected artworks and artifacts that are the charm and the "new-ness" of this show about the Bauhaus. Before departing from the show, I took one last look at a sumptuous Klee still life, the uplifting Itten and Lionel Feininger's in the first gallery.

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