• 22_-bauhaus_-erich-consemuller

    Masters on the roof of the Bauhaus building, c.1926. From left to right: Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper, Georg Muche, László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Joost Schmidt, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Gunta Stölzl and Oskar Schlemmer. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin/Centre Pompidou, Paris

Graphic Design

The Barbican's Bauhaus: Art as Life shines a light on design's biggest influencers

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

If you hold what you think you know about Bauhaus up to the very illuminating light of the Barbican’s new exhibition, Bauhaus: Art as Life, the effect is pretty spectacular. Preconceptions in the shape of a yellow triangle, blue circle and red square are split in a contextual kaleidoscope that plays the disciplines and their histories off of each other. The result is broad and one that you could never achieve in a classroom. This is perhaps the crowning achievement of this exhibition – and to put an end to this trite metaphor – it sheds a renewing light on the most influential design movement of the twentieth century so that a whole new generation might experience it first hand.

Since 1933, when the school closed, countless other institutes have sharpened themselves up against the Bauhaus tenets for education, that is to say, a way of life based on doing. The values and principles created by the school – encompassing everything from curation to colour – would present themselves to the show’s designers (A Practice For Everyday Life) and architects (Carmody Groarke) as an exhibition model and, for co-founder of APFEL, Kirsty Carter, a “re-education.”

You see what you would expect to see in an exhibition that promises to be the biggest of its kind in the UK for the last 40 years; like Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel Club Chair, Anni Alber’s textiles, Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings, Oskar Schlemmer’s costumes and Walter Gropius’ buildings. These key pieces sourced from institutes across the globe – in particular from the three cornerstone collections of Bauhaus; Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin and Stiftung Bauhuas Dessau – as well as every area of thought and practice from the school is represented.

  • 2_-bauhaus_-iwao-yamawaki

    Iwao Yamawaki, Bauhaus building, 1930–32. Galerie Berinson, Berlin © Makoto Yamawaki

The show starts where Bauhaus was founded, in Weimar by Walter Gropius in 1919 – the year in which he published what has become known as the Bauhaus manifesto, Programme of the State Bauhaus Weimar. Developed from “romantic socialist and utopian aspirations,” the pamphlet called for artists to return to the crafts.

From impressionistic beginnings to the rational aesthetic that dominates collective memory, the inimitable essence of the education was the experience of living it. “Masters of form” and “workshop masters” would instil formal and theoretical instruction and the technical skills in which to realise them. The products of these workshops would eschew distinction as either art or craft and instead realise something far greater, a term that resonates with today’s multidisciplinary ambitions, to unite the arts in Gesamtkunstwerk or, “total work of art.”

  • 23_-bauhaus_-marcel-breuer

    Marcel Breuer: Club chair, 1925–26 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London © Estate Marcel Breuer

As the name suggests, the masters were an accomplished lot and have a huge presence in the exhibition. Not only their works – though very notable is the extraordinary weaving of the only female master Gunta Stölz and the wild theatre design of Oskar Schlemmer – but photographs, taken by students and the masters’ children (occasionally the same thing). These portraits are both intimate and wonderfully revealing about how they lived, which was essentially in and on everything they made – “friendly relations between masters and students outside of work” was actually in their manifesto and it’s one of the show’s big successes that it is communicated so vividly.

The school that championed “visual analysis, study of nature and materials, and colour and form” would move another two times and be designated an institute of design before it closed.

The fact that the radical vocabulary they devised to make work and live by is the language this exhibition uses is both testament to its legacy and one huge question mark over the inadequacies of education today as even more art schools are crippled by cuts.

  • 20_-bauhaus_-gunta-stolzl

    Gunta Stölzl: Five Choirs, 1928. Die Museen für Kunst und Kultursgeschichte der Hansestadt Lübeck

  • 4_-bauhaus_-gunta-stolz

    Gunta Stölzl: Wall hanging with striped structure, 1923. Copy by Helene Börner 1925 – Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Bestand Museen

  • 7_-bauhaus_-anni-albers

    Anni Albers: Wall hanging WE 493/445, 1926 (remade 1964). Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

  • 24_-bauhaus_-wassily-kandinsky
  • 19_-bauhaus_-lyonel-feininger

    Lyonel Feininger: Cathedral, Title page for the Programme of the State Bauhaus in
    Weimar, 1919. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

  • Bauhaus_barbican_jho_8229

    Bauhaus: Art as Life (3 May–12 Aug 2012) Photo by: Jane Hobson 2012. Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. Tumblr_n4iq1a8swj1qdf776o1_1280

    Anyone you know a downright sourpuss? Treat ‘em to a link to work by Hungarian designer Anna Kövecses. Here at It’s Nice That we give high praise to work that is candy-coloured and cute – as long as it never falls under the tasselled umbrella of “twee.” Anna’s work is a perfect example of that as beneath the childish exterior lies a wealth of design knowledge and style.

  2. List

    In the year-and-a-half since we first featured Belgian designer Vincent Vrints on the site his fortunes have risen with the quality of his work. We were always enamoured with his canny ability to create aesthetically astounding imagery and merge it with equally appealing layouts, but he’s refined his process and embraced some new digital techniques resulting in a portfolio that floats between the retro and the ultra futuristic.

  3. Main8

    Google Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and almost every book cover design that appears either depicts someone hitchhiking or it has the aesthetic of a grotty travel diary of someone who’s been “finding themselves” along a motorway for a month or two too long. Kerouac’s novels don’t even need covers, right? They’re stand-alone pieces of literary genius. Big applause is needed then for Copenhagen designer Torsten Lindsø Andersen who has taken the rulebook of second-rate Kerouac book design and thrown it out the train window on to the track where it belongs. These ambient, sterile designs he’s proposed for the author’s back catalogue are the perfect fit to the words within: weird, unpredictable, drunk and unique.

  4. List

    I am a big believer that every magazine should be able to sum up what it does in a few words. New title The-Art-Form does just that with the pithy statement that it’s “a limited edition publication about art and artists.” Issue one features six artists – Ian Davenport, Peter Liversidge, Rana Begum, Dan Baldwin, Michael Reisch and Paul Insect – and each has been asked 13 questions ranging from why they make art to their favourite place. The answers vary not only in tone and subject matter (as you’d expect) but also in form, so while Ian has provided handwritten answers, Michael, Dan and Rana have created paintings, drawings and sketches in response to the questionnaire.

  5. List

    Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how Shillington College are revolutionising design education through their own model of practically-focused graphic design tuition. We talked to the teachers about how they put together this new kind of course and to those employers who have found the college to be an invaluable resource of young design talent. To round off this series of features, we went along to the London Graduation Show a few weeks ago to chat to some of the students about their experiences, so rather than hear it from us, best hit play and hear it straight from them…

  6. List

    It’s been a couple of years since we headed over to Sweden to celebrate the work of Stockholm studio Research and Development but in that time art directors Daniel Olsson and Jonas Topooco have kept the great work coming. They’re a versatile pair who pride themselves on working closely with their clients to produce design work that plays to their strengths without losing sight of the brief in a blaze of self-indulgence. Anyone who can make a publication for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency look this interesting is always going to get in our good books.

  7. Main9

    Anyone who designs a clock that reminds you to “have a nice day” must be a good person, and it turns out Joe Cole Porter is not just nice, he’s also incredibly good at what he does. His work is the perfect balance of well-informed and actually fun. How many times have you watched through your fingers at corporate brands trying to be fun and ending up just being boring with a healthy dose of wacky? Exactly. They should take a leaf out of Joe’s book and produce design that is cheerful and colourful but intelligent enough to get the job done at the same time – a bit like a friendly builder, or a cheeky plumber. Some of Joe’s most exciting stuff is his record sleeve design, and we hope to see a little more of that in the future.

  8. List

    Five years ago when we first discovered Swiss designer Mathias Schweizer (thanks to Côme de Bouchony) he was an incredibly elusive fellow, with no online presence to speak of and little work to be found anywhere on the internet. Since then he’s been nothing short of prolific, producing exhibition identities, posters, publications, typefaces, solo and group shows as well as out and out experimental pieces. In fact the one thing that seems to define his work is experimentation; with classic design rules broken all over the place in his vast portfolio.

  9. List

    I’m not sure what it is about the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague that means it spews out so much creative talent at such an alarming rate, but it certainly doesn’t show any sign of stopping soon. Here’s an example; Marinus Schepen hasn’t even graduated from his Graphic Design studies there just yet, but the work he’s creating is of such a calibre that we can’t help but share it any how.

  10. Main

    Unless you’ve recently relocated from a teeny tiny little hut atop a snowy, sheep-covered mountain miles from the nearest village, you probably know that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is on. It’s only the world’s biggest arts festival, after all. What you might not know is how it all began. Back in 1947, when corned beef was still a dietary staple and your granny was grateful for her bread and dripping sandwiches, eight rogue theatre troops gatecrashed the Edinburgh International Festival. These unofficial performers staged shows on the outskirts of the festival, and so “the fringe” was born.

  11. List

    This identity that design studio Bleed have created for a new office building called Monier in Oslo, Norway, is heavily founded on the principles of the building itself, as well as the history of the site it has been built on. The idea for the logo is derived from the building’s three different window shapes, the studio explains, which are a key aspect of the building’s cubistic architecture.

  12. List

    With Richard Turley now utilising his skills for the betterment of MTV’s creative offering, Bloomberg Businessweek has been left in the hands of his two former proteges, Rob Vargas and Tracy Ma. Rob’s work is already pretty well known by devotees of the title, but Tracy’s is arguably the most experimental of anyone working for a global publication like Businessweek. Her use of layout and typography is arresting to the point of distraction, but is always used in a manner that serves the story first and foremost. Similarly her aesthetic choices often feel informed by a lifetime spent online, with brash colours, textures and stock imagery proliferating her spreads – which for a title that deals with the politics and economics of the digital age feels impeccably on point.

  13. Main9

    Fantastic work here from Lyon’s boundary-pushing designers Antoine Eckart and Francis Josserand, also know as Alles Gut. How do you say Alles Gut? Here at It’s Nice That we say it as if we’re saying “all’s good” in a funny European accent. Each to their own. Anyway, Alles Gut make the kinds of fliers, posters and small publications that we are totally into – sharp, well-considered colours and well thought-out references come together to make modern printed matter with quick-witted retro aesthetic references. Personal favourites? I’d say the posters for the HASTE parties – they really, really make you want to go to those parties.