From 1919 to 1933, artists headed a revolutionary modernist school in Germany called the Bauhaus. But when Nazi pressures forced the Bauhaus to close its doors ahead of World War II, its many talented students and teachers fled, taking the school’s radical ideas of art, architecture, design and crafts with them to places all over. the world .
Now, Aspen, Colorado is home to a new center that explores the Bauhaus legacy through the lens of one of its most prolific artists, Herbert Bayer.
The new Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies is located on the campus of the Aspen Institute, designed by Bayer after moving to Colorado in the 1940s. The centre’s first exhibition, “Herbert Bayer: An Introduction”, explores the often underestimated body of work of the multifaceted as a painter.
Bayer has left an indelible mark on the mountain town in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and on art, architecture, advertising and design in general. In addition to preserving Bayer’s heritage in Aspen, the facility is meant to be a vital center for new ideas in art and design, just as the Bauhaus was 100 years ago.
“We want to be more than a museum,” says James Merle Thomas, executive director of the center Aspen TimesAndrew Travers, adding that the center will be a “laboratory for thinking about how we define community”.
Born in 1900 in Austria, Bayer began drawing at a young age. After serving in World War I, he apprenticed with architect-designers before enrolling at the Bauhaus in 1921. Founded two years earlier by architect Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus represented a total rethinking of art and design under government provisional of Germany, the Weimar Republic, which was formed in the aftermath of the First World War.
“What Gropius decided to do was so radical: he merged the school of crafts and the school of fine arts into one,” says Lissa Ballinger, art curator of the Aspen Institute. Smithsonian magazine. “He Said there should no longer be a hierarchy in the arts; art should only be considered art “.
The Bauhaus philosophy was “a return to simplicity,” emphasizing practicality, efficiency and accessibility over ornament and frivolity, Ballinger adds. Primary colors, simple shapes, industrial materials and functional shapes were all hallmarks of the Bauhaus style.
When Bayer arrived at the school, he initially studied mural painting with the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. But he quickly expanded his repertoire of him to include typography, design and other art forms, becoming one of the teachers of the Bauhaus in 1925.
While in school, Bayer produced many innovative works, including the official Bauhaus typeface: the simple, mostly lowercase font with letters derived from full circles.
Bayer’s influence also extended to advertising; advertisements at the time were typically “verbose,” written with “very decorative and ornate letters,” says Ballinger. “But Bayer said: ‘I want to be able to communicate a message to someone and I want to be able to communicate clearly. Why should I have decorations on the letters? ‘”
In 1928, Bayer moved to Berlin, where he spent the next ten years working in design. But as political tensions grew around him, he became progressively more unhappy. In 1938 he moved to New York, where he had a fateful meeting with Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke, who had invested heavily in a certain sleepy Colorado town.
“Paepcke knew he had to bring someone here to help direct, promote and decide Aspen’s future,” says Ballinger. “And it’s really interesting that whoever decided to move here wasn’t an urban planner, an engineer or an architect. It was Herbert Bayer, an artist. “
Bayer moved to Aspen in 1946, where he spent the next 30 years working alongside Paepcke to make the city a world-class destination for skiing, art and culture. He created clever advertising campaigns and designed the ski resort’s iconic poplar-leaf logo, a version of which is still in use today. He renovated the city’s historic Wheeler Opera House and the Jerome Hotel, a major local landmark, and built the original Sundeck warming hut atop Aspen Mountain.
But Bayer’s biggest project was to design the grounds of the fledgling Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, founded by Paepcke in 1950 to bring together leaders, scholars, philosophers, writers and artists to solve the world’s most pressing problems.
For 20 years, from 1953 to 1973, Bayer worked meticulously on the 40-acre campus. In keeping with the Bauhaus style, the buildings are simple, with windows arranged to emphasize the natural surroundings. Inside, many of the rooms are hexagonal or octagonal, which Bayer designed to encourage round table discussions, Ballinger says.
“He planned every single aspect of the campus,” he adds. “This is what is considered his gesamtkunstwerk, his total work of art “.
Throughout the time, Bayer has been busy with hundreds of other projects: painting, drawing, sculpture, graphic design, world atlas production and tapestry weaving, among other activities. After suffering a series of heart attacks in 1974, she moved to Montecito, California, where he lived until her death in 1985.
Although he was a prolific creator – the Denver Art Museum alone has more than 8,000 of his works in its permanent collection – Bayer is not as famous as some of his Bauhaus peers. Ballinger attributes this to several factors: Living in Aspen, Bayer was quite far from the New York art scene. Furthermore, he had no financial incentive to pursue gallery exhibitions, as he was always supported by patrons.
Most importantly, Bayer dabbled in nearly every imaginable art form, which made it difficult for historians and critics to rank for, Ballinger says. In Aspen, however, where travelers and locals alike can still find traces of Bayer’s influence throughout the city, his work fits in perfectly.
“Herbert Bayer: an introduction”Is on display at the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies until 3 December.