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bauhaus at 90

At first Gropius had attempted to reinsert a soul into the industrialized era, with his belief in the importance of the trades and his preference for wood as a material which harked back to the builders' huts of the Middle Ages. However, the director quickly shed these initial notions and his idealization of the past. He still condemned pure art as an end unto itself, and he continued to refuse to produce "luxury items for connoisseurs." But he also began to vehemently propagate architecture and product design tailored to the possibilities of industry.

In 1923, he proclaimed the motto: "Art and Technology -- a New Unit." The master of the Bauhaus demanded speed, wanting to overcome "earthly sluggishness." He complained that some Bauhaus members preferred a "return to nature, preferring to shoot with a toy bow instead of a shotgun."

The old belief in the power of the machine from the prewar days had been reawakened. And it triggered a heated debate over what direction the Bauhaus should be going in. One of the skeptics was Bauhaus master Georg Muche, who refused to enter into a "compromising relationship" with the "world of form, devoid of meaning" in the outside world. Kandinsky, the Russian genius who had helped found abstract art, was also troubled by the fact that "the machine" had been elevated "to idolatry."

Form and function, production and marketing: everything was reinvented from the ground up. "New" was the buzzword of the hour: new building, new vision, the New Man.

The concept of "style" was also controversial within the institution, and yet it existed, of course, -- the unmistakable Bauhaus style. Freed of all flourishes, this minimalist vocabulary of form was an intelligent, democratic understatement. Since then, the mythology of modernism has included the flat roof, the functional logic of a chair and the matter-of-factness of a metal teapot.

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