MFA Boston to Celebrate the Bauhaus through Shows of Photography and Prints

Exhibition Announcements

February 10, 2019

Distinguishing itself as a space for some of the most radical practices of the time, Bauhaus was certainly the most important multidisciplinary art school in the interwar period. It was founded in Weimar, Germany in 1919, and it gathered the leading proponents of the avant-garde, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, and others, as lecturers. In 1925 the school moved to Dessau and ultimately Berlin in 1932 when it was closed by the National Socialist German Workers' Party shortly after the seized the power in 1933.

Bauhaus did not just nurture a new generation of prolific artists, it also set the foundations for further development of modern art (even the commercial branches of graphic, interior, and industrial design), so practically the whole post-war production could not be possible without their domains. To be more precise, the interest in geometric abstraction after 1945 was governed by the concepts of discipline, harmony, function, and form proposed by the Bauhaus.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston decided to release two exhibitions by focusing on the significance of the school and the foundations it made for the post-war modern art. The first one will be devoted primarily on the Bauhaus printing production, while the second one is aimed to reveal how the first generation of photographers after the end of WW II was deeply affected by the abstraction so typical for the school.

Piero Vistali - Running
Piero Vistali - Running, about 1959. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Experiments in Synchronicity

Under the title Radical Geometries: Bauhaus Prints, 1919–33, the first exhibition will practically honor the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus by featuring more than sixty works mostly prints but photographs and drawings.

Among the main features will be a selection of ten postcards designed by the students and faculty members in 1923 for the first Bauhaus exhibition at Weimar, as well as twelve prints from Kandinsky’s dynamic portfolio Kleine Welten (Little Worlds), which will be on display for the first time. The majority of the works belong to the museum’s collection and are accompanied by a few loans.

Left Laszlo Moholy Nagy - Untitled Right Right Paul Klee - Tightrope Walker
Left: László Moholy‑Nagy - Untitled, from the portfolio Constructions, 1923. Lithograph. Promised gift of Richard E. Caves. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/ Right: Paul Klee - Tightrope Walker, 1920. Lithograph. Bequest of W. G. Russell Allen. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Post War Abstraction In Photography

The second exhibition, Postwar Visions: European Photography, 1945–60 will focus, as it was already mentioned, on the post-war photography influenced by the Bauhaus abstraction. The leading figure behind these tendencies was Otto Steinert, a German medical doctor, and amateur photographer; he established led a group of artists who used the camera to articulate their inner process through abstraction. They described their practice with the term "Subjective Photography" and were inspired by both natural and urban surrounding and everyday life.

An approximate number of thirty-five works will be on display, the majority of them being assemblages. The exhibition will be divided into four sections - pure abstractions, still life, daily life, and industrial subjects. Besides Steinert’s works, it will feature pictures by Toni Schneiders, Peter Keetman, Sabine Weiss Mario Giacomelli, Nino Migliore, Jean-Pierre Sudre and others.

Otto Steinert - Luminogramm
Otto Steinert - Luminogramm (light drawing), 1952. Photograph, gelatin silver print, ferrotyped. Sophie M. Friedman Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Two Important Shows at the MFA Boston

Both exhibitions will reveal the historical continuity in abstraction, while Radical Geometries is of special importance because it will coincide with several other Bauhaus exhibitions across the country and the globe.

Radical Geometries: Bauhaus Prints, 1919–33 will be on display at Boston's Museom of Fine Arts’s Clementine Brown Gallery, while Postwar Visions: European Photography, 1945–60 will be on display at MFA’s Herb Ritts Gallery, and both will last from 9 February until 23 June 2019.

Featured image: Richard Filipowski - Glasses and Bottles, a Composition in Red, Yellow, and Black, 1945. Opaque watercolor and graphite. The Virginia Herrick Deknatel Purchase Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.