Monday, July 30, 2012

Bauhaus Art as life

Farkus Molnar, Desing for a single-family house (1922). Barbican. Photo via Bauhaus-Archiv.

At a time when every other major London museum and gallery is presenting something unashamedly British, the Barbican Centre ensembles the biggest Bauhaus exhibition in the UK for over 40 years.
Bringing together more than 400 works, most of which I had only seen in books, real treasures to look at: not just paintings, but prints and photographs, ceramics, sculptures, textiles, furniture,  invitations, costumes, puppets, posters and many other things by Bauhaus masters such as Annie and Josef Albers, Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mies van der Rohe, László Moholy-Nagy, Oscar Schlemmer and Gunta Stölzl.

A film titled, ‘How do we live in a healthy and economic way?’ features the conveniences of the new domestic design, such as bendable lamps and transformative furniture. Interior decoration, furniture, and fixtures to complement the architecture. 

A piece that captured my atention was Moholy-Nagy’s Construction in Enamel 1, 1923, (one of three works Moholy-Nagy actually commissioned from an enamel sign factory dictating the composition over the telephone) I really liked the beautiful and imperfect effect of the enamel finish.

The exhibition celebrates the life and spirit of the Bauhaus – one that is characterised by experimentation, collaboration and play. The willingness to see things in a totally new way, going ahead with a tremendous sense of adventure.


Typographic innovations, such as the use of all small letters, that characterize the shift from early eclecticism to a new style privileging clarity and efficiency of communication. I particularly loved Joseph Albers' letter design, cuts of milk glass mounted on a bright yellow background.

Party invitations, photographs of events and festivities, even gifts shared between students and colleagues are showcased to demonstrate the lively social life. Photographs of costumes for the Metal Party, where students dressed out in costumes made with frying pans, spoons and pots, and wrapped themselves in aluminum foil, highlight the whimsical creative outlet that these parties meant and shows how much fun they must have had at the Bauhaus.
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Rooms full of color theory exercises from Paul Klee and Kandinsky’s preliminary courses and texture studies with folded paper and manipulated mesh wires from Alber's classes give insight onto the student’s training and work.
All the elements are there: the geometric shapes, the love of the grid, the playful but purposeful use of color, the experimentation.
I bought the catalogue, mostly for the texts since no photograph in a book could ever capture the subtle colors and changes of texture within the weavings or the shiny texture of the enamel. I feel very lucky to have seen all of this amazing work together under one roof. One leaves the exhibition feeling invigorated and inspired.

Barbican Art Gallery
Until August 12
Silk Street London

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