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
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
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
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
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:
"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.
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
In 1930 Hannes Mayer was dismissed
by the Anhalt state government for his Communist sympathies and
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
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
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
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
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Both Klee and Kandinsky were
deeply immersed in music, and it shows in their art.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.