Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Barry Bergdoll asks What Was the Bauhaus?

Today in an editorial at The New York Times (NYT) the former chief curator of architecture at the Museum of Modern Art, Barry Bergdoll, talks about some of the complexity and mystery that continues to shroud the Bauhaus – the earliest and most notable modern art school, which operated in Germany between 1919 and 1933.  Bergdoll is a professor of art history at Columbia University, and was 10 years ago was one of the key people who supported my campaign to preserve Atlanta’s largest public library from being demolished. 

The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library is of historic importance for numerous reasons, including that it was the last building designed by Marcel Breuer, who was early in his life a student at the Bauhaus, thereafter becoming an instructor, and thereafter a Harvard professor and one of the most renowned architects of the 20th century. 

In 2009, Berdoll and I were interviewed by Metropolis Magazine, which also included interviews with Isabelle Hyman, and John Szabo, who was then director of Atlanta’s public library system, and is now director of Los Angeles’ public library system.

In his article NYT piece, Bergdoll makes some good points about that are frequently misunderstood, pointing out that the misunderstanding comes from the school’s rapid evolution and remaking over a short period of time.   In some respects he’s preaching to the choir, which historians are often guilty of, myself included.

Curiously, also today Google celebrates the life of Ruth Asawa with a Google Doodle.  Asawa was not a part of the Bauhaus, but she was the favorite student of Josef Albers, who taught at the Bauhaus, and later moved to the US where he taught for many years at Black Mountain College before teaching at Yale.   And it was at Black Mountain College where he met Asawa.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Bauhaus Influence in Chicago and Detroit

Foyer of the Bauhaus-University Weimar, with Jugendstil staircase

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, my latest article looks at the school's influence on architecture and urban planning in Chicago, and Detroit.  The piece also examines some lesser known history about key players of the Bauhaus, including some perplexing aspects of the career trajectory of famed architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe.  See images and read more here.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Legacy of Galka Scheyer: The "Maven of Modernism"

In my research for my book, From Bauhaus | To Black Mountain, I'm gaining a more complete picture of the historical evolution of the modernist movement.  There were many facets of modernism growing in tandem in Eastern and Western Europe, in the US, in parts of Africa, and in the Middle East.

So while the Bauhaus served as the educational center of the modernist movement in the first half of the 20th century, the Bauhaus certainly did not exist in a vacuum.

One of the people key to the exportation of Bauhaus ideas from Europe to the US, especially in California, was Galka Scheyer.

Last year the Norton Simon Museum created an exhibition and presentation on Scheyer, which included the following video:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

From Bauhaus | To Black Mountain seeks "Berlin Prize" research award

In addition to a "Summer Stipend" grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities, I'm also applying this year for a "Berlin Prize," which is administered by The American Academy in Berlin, Germany.  This award would enhance my ability to perform additional research for From Bauhaus | To Black Mountain, and another parallel book I'm working on, The Agency of Art: War, Pedagogy and Social Change in the Western World - 1915 to 1965.

The narrative for my "Berlin Prize" project proposal totals 7 pages, and what follows are the first 2 pages:

Proposed Project

20th Century Perspectives: 
Radical Renaissance and Social Change in the Age of Global War

My proposed project is a request for support toward the greater research of 2 parallel book projects, whose titles are From Bauhaus |To Black Mountain: A Transcontinental Renaissance in the Age of Global War, and The Agency of Art: War, Pedagogy and Social Change in the Western World – 1915 to 1965.  Both books deal with historic aspects of the Weimar Republic, and Staatliches Bauhaus (1919 – 1933), a school founded by Walter Gropius that begin in Weimar, moved to Dessau and closed in Berlin.  Both books also examine the impact of some Bauhaus alumnae who migrated to the United States (US) to continue their pioneering social and artistic lives at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina.

By investigating one of the most enduring spans of the 20th century—from 1919 to 1933 and directly thereafter 1933 to 1957—representing the respective years of operation for Staatliches Bauhaus (the Bauhaus) in Germany and Black Mountain College (BMC) in the United States—my proposed book project goes beyond existing tropes and conversations on the subject to provide a captivating narrative on the transatlantic art and education interactions at the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College (BMC); two schools that ultimately produced many of the 20th century’s leading artists, architects, designers and bleeding-edge dramatists.

What began at the Bauhaus—a small, radical, German art school which greatly transformed European thought on visual art and architecture, urban planning, interior aesthetics and design—continued across the Atlantic Ocean to inspire the foundational DNA for yet another small, radical school with a heavy focus on the arts, yet thousands of miles away.  In From Bauhaus |To Black Mountain: A Transcontinental Renaissance in the Age of Global War, there are 9 areas of study – asking and answering:

·         What was the manifesto and core principles supporting the Bauhaus?

·         How were these core principles implemented – what did they look like in practice?

·         In addition to Walter Gropius, who were some of the Bauhaus’ key players?

·         Throughout its changes in leadership and various relocations, how did the Bauhaus remain cohesive?

·         At its end in 1933, how had the Bauhaus impacted the culture-at-large?

·         In 1933 BMC came into being as a result of what culminations?

·         Who were some of the key Bauhaus alumnae that were also at BMC?

·         BMC was similar to and different from the Bauhaus in what ways?

·         By its closure in 1957, how had BMC impacted the culture-at-large?

An expanded historical survey of the mid-20th century is examined in The Agency of Art: War, Pedagogy and Social Change in the Western World – 1915 to 1965, where a total of 5 radical art and liberal arts schools of the 20th century, including the 2 aforementioned, take center stage to speak more directly to the impact of the Two World Wars and the Great Depression, inclusive to the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt, specifically as it relates to the creation of the Works Project Administration (WPA), and as well to how women’s liberation and the emergence of America’s 1950’s and 60’s civil rights movement shaped and colored theses schools, which then shaped and colored the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Perspectives on Jacob Lawrence and Black Mountain College

The relocation of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Centers ushers in a new season of fantastic showings, beginning with an exhibition featuring a large collection of widely-sourced works by Jacob Lawrence.

The show is entitled "Between Form and Content: Perspectives on Jacob Lawrence and Black Mountain College," and a new article by Alli Marshall offers a critique:
When Jeff Arnal stepped into the role of executive director at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center just about two years ago, one of his first initiatives was to apply for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The subsequent $25,000 Art Works award from the NEA, along with $60,000 from the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, was earmarked for the curation of...read more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2 Articles and an Exhibition Highlight the Women of Back Mountain College

"The Spiral Headed Man" sculptural installation by Lorna Blaine Harper (Image: Max Eternity)

Anni Albers is perhaps the best known woman to have passed through Black Mountain College (BMC).  She was one of the original "weavers" at the Bauhaus in Germany, where here husband, Josef Albers, also taught and practiced.  And there are other notable women who graced the halls and grounds of BMC who have received a fair amount of recognition through the years, like photographer Hazel Larsen Archer, and one of my personal favorites, a painter and sculptor named Lorna Blaine Halper whose work was included in a feature article I wrote in 2015 about the Asheville Art Museum.

In recent years, BMC has garnered more attention in the press and the world of art history, in no small part due to the hefty book, Leap Before You Look by Helen Molesworth, and touring exhibition curated by Molesworth and Ruth Erickson, as well as the many years of tireless work carried out at the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center.

And earlier this year, 2 new articles continue the trend of celebrating BMC, of which both highlight the contributions of women.  Appearing this spring at Artsy.net was a piece entitled "8 Pioneering Women Artists of Black Mountain College," and in July at Hyperallergic an article entitled "Revisiting the Legacy of Women at Black Mountain College" speaks to an exhibition in Maine at the Yvette Torres Fine Art, entitled "Women of Black Mountain College: Nevertheless They Persisted."

Monday, September 10, 2018

Shared History: Black Mountain College + Arts Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary


This summer in Asheville, North Carolina, The Black Mountain College +Arts Museum celebrated their 25th Anniversary with an exhibition entitled Shared History.  Having gained funding for a new and larger location a few years ago, the Shared History exhibition will be the last at their present site.

From the BlackMountainCollege.org website:
2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of BMCM+AC. As the last exhibition to be held in our 56 Broadway gallery before the move to 120 College St. on Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville, Shared History highlights not just the museum’s origins, programs, exhibitions, partnerships, {Re}HAPPENINGs, conferences, and notable collection pieces, but the many ways that this organization has created a space for connection and creativity, fulfilling its original promise to BMC alumni to be not merely a museum memorializing the past, but a center geared towards building community in the present and fostering forward-thinking creativity.