Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fourteen Years That Changed the World (The Bauhaus Experiment)

The Bauhaus
ARE 6048 Jonathan Sanchez
The Bauhaus Fourteen Years That Changed the World
The Bauhaus represents a fascinating intersection between an intense search for a new pure design and form of art education and often free experiential learning. Johannes Itten and Paul Klee two Swiss artists and art theoreticians both wrote and approached art as a lifelong spiritual journey. Though Itten imposed his own brand of geometry to present an underlying order in art and color theory, Paul Klee sought to tap into a kind of Jungian intuitive or childlike approach. Somewhere between the two was Wassily Kandinsky both free and expressive and at times rigid an orderly in his works, he seems to embody the paradox that was the early Bauhaus.

(This writing was created for a grad art education program through University of Florida the writing is part research paper part answers to discussion questions poised by the instructor)

1. What is the significance of your chosen person or movement to the field of art education (i.e., What’s worth remembering about this person or trend)?
Many university art programs mirror the approach of the school. An emphasis on handwork mixed with intellectual efforts was key to the 14 year long Bauhaus experiment and is often present in modern art schools today. The early program relied on a mix of Eastern Mysticism, experiential learning, and nothing short of a re-thinking of Western Culture from the bottom up. Like the other movements of the time (De Stijl and the International School) Gropius and his followers were reacting to the vast devastation and demoralizing loss of world war one. Seeking to find new symbols, forms of expression, and to reconnect civilization and industry to art, in an effort to save both.
Johannes Itten and the other instructors at the short lived schools would conceive of color charts and wheels, which have stayed with art training into the digital age and still grace Adobe and other programs.
The free association and spiritual searching through abstraction that Klee and Kandinsky pioneered is another important tool that artists can use stemming from the school. Klee in particular placed an emphasis on the art of children suggesting that children know art and traditional schooling and society stamp art out of them. Kandinsky as well collected the art of children and sought to reconnect with natural and spontaneous creations of children.  
There was present a multi-cultural emphasis that was ahead of its time through literature, art even the food and dance of other cultures, Bauhaus students and faculty were thinking globally long before such a term was coined. There was also an underlying lack of vernacular in the abstract art, design, and architecture, which is part of why Hitler hated the school so much, it didn’t represent his view of Germanic culture and his imagined neo-classical so called Third Reich. Part of the romance with the school is this open minded, exploratory nature that many art instructors still seek to emulate almost a hundred years later.   

2. What important books or articles did your person write? Who is the key person(s) associated with your movement?
There are several notables associated with the Bauhaus experiment. Walter Gropius architect, writer, artist, and founder of the movement seems to have been a charismatic and ambitious leader. He later taught in the US at Yale. Two of the most important painters that have ever painted were instructors Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. A lesser known painter and color theorist was also an instructor, Johannes Itten is worth mentioning. The last director (that tried to keep the school together under National Socialist occupation) would later become one of the biggest names in architecture Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and taught in the US as well.  
The Art of Color from Johannes Itten, is perhaps the most celebrated written work of any Bauhaus artist or instructor. It has been printed and reprinted for several generations and is the seminal work on color theory.
3. What ‘big ideas’ did your person or movement contribute to the field of art education? How did this person’s ideas or movement translate into classroom practice?
The work of the Bauhaus instructors is written large into art history, so they are present in many ways. Most students have copied or created a color wheel nearly identical to that of Itten’s. The ideas of mixing techniques, drawing from diverse sources, collaboration as a kind of workshop or team are all present in many classrooms today and can be traced to Bauhaus experiments in teaching. That there is an interconnectedness to all types of art be it textiles, dance, or architecture, is a contribution of the Bauhaus that still exists on some campuses.

4. What else was happening at the time of this person’s contributions (i.e., in America? in general
education? in the world of Art? in the field of art education)?
Early in the school’s founding the remnants of the Gilded Age an emphasis on a bogus neo-classical mindset were still around. As the Jazz Age gave way to the Great Depression, art transformed in America from lively and hopeful to socialist and message driven. In the thirties and forties deco and streamline looks (based on Bauhaus designs) took hold worldwide. New technologies of faster ships and planes and the radio demanded a new aesthetic.
Denman Waldo Ross an art educator in America, echoed the calls of the Bauhaus to think of art holistically. That is to think of design, dance, and drawing as seeking the same goal (Stankiewicz, 94). Formalist theories the likes of which Itten championed, would come into vogue in the 40’s and 50’s in America. Arthur M. Dow in his writings seems to have expressed some of the Bauhaus ideas, of seeking to create art without regional vernacular, and creativity being an essential human trait not bound to anyone culture or race of people (Stankiewicz,90).
The efforts of Ross, Dow, and Ernest Fenollosa share a commonality and are nearly contemporaneous to the De Stijl and Bauhaus in their search for “pure design.” The rhetoric of these three shares some of the idealistic notions that art can change the world re-build the world tone of Walter Gropius (though there is no evidence of an actual connection and the first Bauhaus in Weimar dates to the early 20’s the time of Dow’s demise).

Paul KleeJohannes Itten

Wassily Kandinsky

Jordy, W (2005) "Symbolic Essence" and Other Writings on Modern Architecture and American, Yale University Press.
Wick, W. Grawe, G. Rainer K. Wick, (2000) Teaching at the Bauhaus, Distributed Art Pub Incorporated.
Weber, N. (2009) The Bauhaus Group, Knopf/Random House.
Duechting, H. (2007) Kandinsky, Taschen.
Stankiewicz, M. (2001) Roots of Art Education Practice, Davis Publication.
Itten, J. (1997) The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color, John Wiley & Sons.


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