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Kenzo Tange – Osaka’s Pride Shapes The World

” We live in a world where great incompatibles co-exist: the human scale and the superman scale, stability and mobility, permanence and change, identity and anonymity, comprehensibility and universality’’

Born in Osaka, Japan on September 4, 1913, Kenzo Tange was one of the foremost architects of the twenty century.

He was considered a genius for the buildings he designed throughout his prolific career. He designed more buildings in his lifetime than legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Background

Growing up in the small city of Imabari, on Shikoku Island, he became interested in architecture during high school, but he wasn’t the best math student, so he had to work extremely hard to get into a university.

In 1935, he was accepted to the University of Tokyo’s architecture department. Three years after, he got his first job under Kunio Maekawa, a well-known Japanese architect at that time, who had practiced with Le Corbusier in his Paris studio in the late 1920s.

Due to the World War II, his job did not last long, and, to avoid the draft, Tange had continued his postgraduate studies at Tokyo University and became an assistant professor at Tokyo University in 1946.

During his studies, he won an architectural contest, which earned him solid reputation at the university. He set up his own studio, through which such remarkable architects as Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki passed, learned, contributed and flourished.

Postwar Japanese Architecture

He had continued to teach at Tokyo University, becoming a full professor of urban engineering. He retired in 1974 as a professor emeritus, but continued to teach in United States at numerous illustrious colleges and universities.

Postwar architecture in Japan, while widely eclectic and international in scope, has seen its most dramatic achievements in contemporary interpretations of traditional forms.

In general, Japanese architects of the 20th century were fully conversant in Western style and active in developing a meaningful modern style appropriate to Japanese sites.

Before getting his first real break as an architect, Tange worked as an urban planner. In 1949, his first major commission came after he had won an architectural contest for the design of the Hiroshima.

The commission was symbolic: the replanning of the city of Hiroshima after its destruction by Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped by the USAF B-29 Enola Gay on August 6, 1945.

At the heart of the Hiroshima, Tange helped design Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, its peace centre (1950) and museum (1952), they are among his best known early works.

Peace Memorial Park, located at the epicenter of the atomic blast, contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those killed by the explosion.

The cenotaph for victims of the bombing is shaped like an enormous saddle, resembling the small clay saddles placed in ancient Japanese tombs; it contains a stone chest with a scroll listing the names of those killed.

Kenzo Tange designed the museum and cenotaph and two peace bridges at the park were sculpted by the American artist Isamu Noguchi.

The Peace center, raised on stilt-like, Le Corbusier-style columns, faced by a monument that combined ancient forms and the latest structural technology.

The fusion was a symbol of the new Japan; traditional Haniwa tomb and a concrete hyperbolic parabola resolutely looking to the future while proudly recalling the best of its pre-imperial past.

From here, Tange became an integral component in the rebuilding of Japan after the devastation of World War II.

As Le Corbusier long dreamed of rebuilding the centre of Paris, so Tange worked long and hard on a comprehensive and highly contentious, redesign of his country’s capital city.

In the years that followed, he designed an outstanding series of public buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (1957), the Shizuoka Convention Hall (1957), city halls at Kurayoshi (1957) and Kurashiki (1960) and the Kagawa prefectural offices( 1958), latter being considered a particularly fine examples of the blending modern and Japanese traditional architecture.

Most of these early structures were conventional rectangular forms using light steel frames.

Brutalism

Tange’s work during the 1960s took more boldly dramatic forms with the use of reinforced concrete and innovative engineering.

He launched Japanese architectural movement, Metabolist school or Metabolism, with his Boston Harbor Project design (1959), which included two gigantic A-frames hung with ‘shelving’ for homes and other buildings.

Led by Tange, Kikutake Kiyonori, Isozaki Arata and Kurosawa Kisho, the Metabolist focused on structures that combined high-tech imagery, Brutalism and megastructures as multifunctional complexes that verge on self-containment.

Their advocacy of such devices as artificial land platforms above cities, which grew out of a desire for economy of land use, revolutionized architectural thinking.

They believed that cities should be built to account for future changes. The solution was modular, prefabricated capsules that could be attached to the core of a main structure.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo designed by Kisho Kurosawa is the perfect example of this very architectural style.

Tange’s plan for Tokyo from 1960 received worldwide attention. He presented a master plan for a floating city in Tokyo Bay at the 1960 World Design Conference; the plan was unlike anything architects had ever seen before.

In practice, it would have meant projecting the city out over the bay, using man-made islands connected by proliferation of bridges, and characterized not by buildings as such, but by eye-boggling concrete megastructures.

Although never realized on the scale Tange had intended, Tokyo, these great concrete concatenations were influential in Western Europe, especially in Britain, encouraging a generation of architects who preferred sheer scale and raw concrete, and were labeled ‘brutalists’ by the critic Reyner Banham.

For many of them, Tange Kenzo was the godfather of 1960’s Brutalism.

His most successful brutalist design, the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre, was a samurai fortress brought into the late 20th century, as well as a modern concrete megastructure.

Although seems all off a piece, this was a determinedly indeterminate building in the sense that, theoretically at least, its 16 massive cylindrical towers, housing the centre’s services, could be greatly extended, while yawning gaps left between occupied floors could be filled in with future offices and studios as required.

Nowadays, these gaps have been filled in with roof gardens and terraces, adding to the enigmatic and unexpectedly romantic quality of this powerful design.

Yoyogi National Stadium

For the 1964 Olimpic Games in Tokyo, he designed the Yoyogi National Stadium; the two structures featured sweeping curved roofs and an asymmetrical, but balanced design that masterfully assimilated traditional technique.

The structures evoke early agricultural and Shintō architectural forms while retaining refreshing abstraction. Many lauded Tange for the surreal beauty of the stadium.

At the same time, he designed and built the Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo.

International Works

In the last half of his career, Tange designed plenty of buildings in Japan, and fulfilled important overseas commissions.

Outside Japan, Tange was overly modern; he was responsible for the design of some of the most notable buildings including embassies and university buildings in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Iran, Algeria, the Kuwait International Airport, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Singapore’s National Library, Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo, Chicago’s American Medical Association Building, and the master plan for Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia.

In his later structures he built up combinations of smaller geometric forms into an irregular but functionally attentive whole.

Death and Influence

Kenzo Tange died of a heart ailment on March 22, 2005 in Tokyo.

The most significant and influential figure in post-war Japanese architecture, Tange was profoundly influenced by the work of Corbusier.

If Tange began by imitating the late-flowering, sculptural concrete designs of the Swiss-French genius, he gradually went on to create a body of internationally recognized work that was very much his own, fusing the very latest in structural daring with the traditional Japanese forms.

An often profound thinker and respected teacher in Japan, Canada, and the United States, Tange continued working until his last days, although he retired from practice in the 1990s, and imaging how architecture could be convincingly reconciled with the very latest communications and buildings technologies.

He had disliked the willful excesses of postmodern designs in the 1980s, and watched cautiously as a new wave of gratuitous bendy, twisty buildings sprouted from city skylines worldwide in the 1990s.

He was quietly optimistic considering these fashionable affectations to be no more than ‘transitional architectural expressions’, an accusation it would difficult to level at the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre or the National Gymnasium, Tokyo.

Teacher, writer, urban planner and architect, he is revered not only for his own work but also for his influence on younger architects.

Tange’s constant adaptation of his building designs was praised by many, and he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1987. According to the Washington Post, the jury that chose him for the honor ‘’called him a leading theoretician of architecture’’.

 

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Impressionism – Paving the Way for Modern Art

As a first distinctly modern movement in painting, Impressionism emerged in Paris in 1860s, and the end developed chiefly in France during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Gustave Courbet and the Realist movement first confronted the official Parisian art establishment in the middle of the nineteenth century. The French were ruled by oppressive regime and much of the people were in the throes of poverty.

The art of that time concentrated on idealized nudes and glorious depiction of the nature, and other works of realism. Courbet though that art closed its eyes on realities of life.

In his protest, he financed a bold act, an exhibition of his work, right opposite the Universal Exposition in Paris of 1855, which led to the emergence of future artists.

Salon de Refusés

The same year, 1855, Salon de Refusés / Salon of the Refused was formed in order to allow the exhibition of works by artists who had previously been refused entrance to the official Parisian Salon, the annual, state-sponsored exhibition juried by members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

The 1863 Salon de Refusés exhibition caused a scandal, due to the unconventional styles and themes of works such as Manet’s Le déjouner sur l’herbe (1863).

The painting depicts the picnic of two fully clothed men and two nude women, defies the tradition of the idealized female subject of Neoclassicism in the positioning of the woman on the left who gazes frankly out at the viewer.

Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was one of the first and most important innovators who emerged in the art scene in Paris.

By the late 1860s, Manet’s art reflected a new aesthetic – which was to be a guiding force in Impressionist work- in which the importance of the traditional subject matters was downgraded and attention was shifted to the artist’s manipulation of color, tone and texture as ends in themselves.

He incorporated an innovative, looser painting style and brighter palette focusing on images of everyday life, such as scenes in cafés, boudoirs and out in the street.

His anti-academic style and modern subject matters attracted the attention of the artists on the fringes and influenced a new type of painting that would diverge from the standards of the official salon.

Societé Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteures, Graveurs etc.

In 1874, a group of artists known as the “Societé Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteures, Graveurs etc.”/ the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers etc., mounted an alternative exhibition in Paris that would bring about radical break from artistic conventions and launch one of the most popular movement in the history of art.

All the artists had very limited success financially and had few works accepted in the salon exhibitions in Parisian art scene.

Displaying their works in a vacant former artist’s studio, outside the confines of the famous Salon, the Impressionists presented canvases depicting quiet landscapes, scenes of everyday life, full of loose, expressive brushwork to represent fleeting effects of atmosphere and light.
 
In that time, these paintings represented something akin to a revolution in the art world.

 

Radical Shifts

Eschewing both the subject matters and technique of their predecessors, the Impressionists demonstrated that contemporary life required a new language to represent the radical shifts taking place in Parisian society.

The critics responded with both awe and horror; conservative critics denounced the unfinished, sketch-like quality of their paintings, while more progressive ones welcomed their innovative depictions of modern life.

The movement gained its name after the hostile French critic Louise Leroy reviewing the first major exhibition of 1874, seized on the title of Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (1873), and accused the group of painting nothing but impressions.

The moniker was embraced by the group, but they also referred to themselves as the ‘’Independents’’, referring to the submissive principles of the Société des Artistes Indépendents’’ and the group’s efforts to detach itself from academic artistic conventions.

Age of the Impressionists

At that time, there were many ideas of what constituted modernity. Scientific thought was beginning to recognize that what the eye perceived and what the brain understood were two different things.

The Impressionists sought to capture the optical effects of light to convey the passage of time, changes in weather and shifts in atmosphere; a split second of life, a sensory effect of a scene – the impression, an ephemeral moment in time on canvas.
 
Their art did not necessarily rely on realistic depictions.

 

Monet

Probably the most celebrated of the Impressionists, Claude Monet, was renowned for his mastery of natural light, painted at different times of day in order to capture changing conditions.

He tended to paint simple impressions or subtle hints of his subjects using very soft brushstrokes and pure, unmixed colors to create a natural vibrating effect.

His ‘’wet on wet’ technique produced softer edges and blurred boundaries that merely suggested a three-dimensional plain, rather than depicting it realistically.

His Vetheuil in the Fog from 1879 is among his finest works, offering a subtle and distinct impression of a figural form. He applied his brush rather quickly to the canvas in order to capture the exact image he wanted before the sunlight shifted or faded away altogether.

This emphasis on the fleeting changes in the natural world was a central aspect of his oeuvre that captures the ephemerality of nature and preserves it within the picture plane.

Monet’s technique of painting outdoors, known as plein air painting, inherited from the landscape painters of the Barbizon School, was practiced widely among impressionists, leading to innovations in the representation of sunlight and the passage of time, which were two central motifs of Impressionism.

Degas

As a highly skilled draftsman and portraitist, Edgar Degas preferred indoor scenes of modern life such as musicians in an orchestra pit, people sitting in cafés, ballet dancers, delineating his forms with greater clarity using harder lines and thicker brush strokes.

L’Absinthe from 1876, by Degas represents a dour scene of two lonely individuals sitting in a café communicates a sense of isolation, even degradation, as they have nothing better to do in the middle of the day.

Degas heavily handled paint further communicates the emotional burden or intense boredom of his subjects. This painting, as well as his other works, alludes to the oppressive atmosphere of the city and the psychological ennui of its inhabitants.

Renoir

Other artists focused on the figure and the internal psychology of the individual.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir depicted the daily activities of individuals from his neighborhood of Montmartre and portrayed the social pastimes of Parisian life, emphasizing the emotional attributes of his subjects, using vibrant, saturated colors, light and loose brushwork to highlight the human form.

In Girl with a Hoop from 1885, Renoir developed a new style he dubbed ‘’aigre’’ (sour), in which he applied thick, elongated brushstrokes complemented by hard lines to portray the young girl in the foreground.

This painting evokes the distinctly carefree mood of much of his work; he focused on representation of leisure activities and female beauty, asserting his disregard for subjects of an overtly critical nature.

Morisot

Berthe Morisot was the first woman to exhibit with the Impressionists. She made rich compositions that highlighted the internal, personal sphere of feminine society, emphasizing the maternal bond between mother and child in her paintings.

Her work, “In a Park”, from 1874, Morisot combines the elements of figurations with representation of nature in this serene family portrait set in a bucolic garden.

In this quiet image of family life, she centered on the maternal bond between child and mother; her loose handling of pastels, a medium embraced by the Impressionists, and visible application of color and form were central characteristic of her oeuvre.

Together with Marie Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, and Eva Gonzales, she was considered one of the four central female figures of the movement.

Cassatt

Mary Cassatt depicted a private sphere of the home, but also represented the woman in the public spaces of the newly modernized city.

Her work features a number of innovations, including reduction of three-dimensional space and the application of bright, even garish colors in her painting both of which heralded later developments in modern art.

In her work, “At the Opera” from 1880, she depicts the Palais Garnier of the Paris Opera, which was opened in 1875, and served as a focal point for the city’s social life.

The opera, as the painting demonstrates, was not only a site for culture and entertainment, but also for seeing and being seen. The woman’s binoculars are echoed in the man’s binoculars, across the concert hall, directed at her.

Read our in depth article, “Mary Cassatt – Famous Women Artists in History”

Caillebotte

The themes of urbanity are depicted in the work of Gustave Caillebotte, a later proponent of the movement, who focused on panoramic views of the city and the psychology of its citizens.

More realistic in style than other impressionists, Caillebotte’s images depict the artist’s reaction to the changing nature of modern society, showing a flaneur – an idler or lounger who roamed the public spaces of the city in order observe, yet remaining detached from the crowd, in his characteristic black coat and top hat, strolling through the open space of the boulevard while gazing at passersby.

“Paris Street, Rainy Day” from 1877, shows this tendency within his work, through the depiction of the typical urban scene; the panoramic view of the rain-drizzled boulevard presents the newly renovated metropolis, while the anonymous figures in the background emphasize the alienation of the individual within the city.

The painting centers on the apathetic gaze of the male figure, who epitomizes the cool detachment of the flaneur.

Also, his work, as well as the works by Pissaro, emphasized the geometrical arrangement of public space through the careful delineation of trees, buildings, and streets.

By applying crude brushstrokes and impressionistic streaks of color, they evoke the rapid tempo of modern life as a central facet of the late-nineteenth- century urban society.

Unravelling

The Impressionists proved to be a diverse group, but they came together regularly to discuss their work and exhibit. Between 1874 and 1886 the group collaborated on eight exhibitions while slowly beginning to unravel.

Many of the artists felt they had mastered the early, experimental styles that had won them attention and wanted to move on to explore other avenues. Others, anxious about the commercial failure of their works, changed course.

Although the last Impressionist exhibition was held in 1886, the movement remains one of the most popular in the history of Western art.

Considered by many to be the first avant-garde movement of the Modernism, Impressionism served as a springboard for many artistic movements of the twenty century.

Cézanne

If Manet bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism, then Paul Cézanne was the first artist who bridged the gap between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Cézanne learned much from Impressionist technique, but he evolved a more deliberate style of paint handling and a closer attention to the structure of the forms that his broad, repetitive brushstrokes depicted.

He wished to break down objects into their basic geometric constituents and depict their essential building blocks, and this experiment would prove to be highly influential for the development of Cubism and Fauvism.

Conclusion

As Philip Guston once described Abstract Expressionism as a latter-day ‘American Impressionism’; the surface quality, suggestion of light and ‘’all-over’’ treatment of form in Jackson Pollock’s work, all point to the work of Claude Monet.

Although there are many avant-garde movements that did not take stylistic inspiration from the Impressionists, the group’s rejection of an established, state-sponsored style served as a model for similarly independent exhibition groups throughout Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Wienna Secession or Die Brücke in Germany.

 

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Suprematism Art Movement – What Is It?

I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting.

– Alexander Rodchenko

Suprematism still remains one of the most radical projects and movements in modern art, a first one of pure geometrical abstraction in painting.

Its name reflects Malevich’s belief that Suprematist art would lead to the supremacy of pure feeling and perception in the pictorial art and be superior to all art in the past.

The Russian Formalists, highly influential group of literary critics, were strongly opposed to the idea that language is a mere and transparent instrument for communication.

They pointed out that words were not easily linked to the objects they denoted; the art could serve to make the world fresh and strange and could make us observe the world from different perspectives.

Kazimir Malevich came to be intrigued by the search for art’s essentials just as the critics and poets were interested in what constituted literature.

According to his believe, there were only delicate links between signs or words and the objects they denote; from that point he saw the possibilities for an absolute abstract art.

Suprematist’s abstract painting was aimed at doing much the same, by removing the real world entirely.

The Suprematists

The Suprematist’s first hints emerged in background and costume sketches that Malevich designed for a Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun, performed in St. Petersburg in 1913.

The piece was written in the behind-the-mind language of ‘ZAUM’ invented by the poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexi Kruchonyck. Malevich’s contribution was more conservative: costumes for the actors and some cubo-futurist stage settings.

The sketch for the backdrop of Act2, Scene5 named Study for Décor of Victory Over the Sun (1913), foreshadows the development of Suprematism in its use of a geometric motif.

The drawings still had a clear reference to Cubo-Futurism, but the simple shapes, a visual foundation for Suprematism, appeared repeatedly; rich colors were discarded in favor of black and white. Cubist method was joined to ‘relativity’ and a new form brought to life.

Just as Futurism aimed at a total renewal of Russian culture, so Suprematism claimed to supersede all art movements that had gone before it.

This design for opera marked a major break with theatrical convention, since they were neither decorative nor did they illustrate a realistic scenes, such as a room or a landscape.

In 1915, Kazimir Malevich formed the Suprematist group along with artists Ivan Klyun, Mikhail Menkov, Kseniya Boguslavskaya, Ivan Puni and Olga Rozanova who joined him.

The movement was greeted with enthusiasm. It represented the first decisive break with Western painting tradition- a new form for a new revolutionary society.

Developed during the time preceding the Russian Revolution, Suprematism believed art to be capable of a tremendous catalytic power.

The short span of time in which the October Revolution of 1917 also opened up new possibilities for avant-garde experiments in Russian art brought forth a tremendous wealth.

Kazimir Malevich considered realism as a distraction from the transcendental experience that the art was meant to evoke.

Suprematism can be seen as the logical conclusions of Cubism’s multiple perspectives and reduced forms and Futurism’s interest in moving.

The Suprematism’s works feature an array of geometric shapes suspended above a light-colored or white background.

The variety of shapes, angles and sizes creates a sense of depth in these compositions, making these appear to be moving in space.

The Black Square

The Black Square (1915), once described as Malevich’s’ living royal infant’ has usually seen as a major landmark in the history of abstract art, a point of beginning and a point of ending.

Between 1915 and 1930s Malevich’ would paint four versions of it. It is said that the last version was carried behind his coffin during his funeral.

This work, a first version depicts a purely black square against a thin border of white, obscuring any sense of normal perspective or space.

The square- the face of a new art, became a figurehead and represented the birth of a new movement. It rallied artists and critics in support of the new style, but many others accused it of nihilism.

Alexandre Benois, an artist and critic, attacked it as a ‘’sermon of nothingness and destruction’’.

Much of what this work once initiated continues to have repercussions to this day; it stands at the beginning of the twentieth century like the gate that Modernism entered through.

For the first time, a single work of art called forth the idea of the ‘end of the painting’

Kasimir Malevich published the Suprematism’s manifesto ‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism in Art’ in 1915. He claimed to have passed beyond the boundaries of reality into a new awareness.

The motifs in Malevich’s paintings constricted to include only the square, circle and rectangle. Sometimes, critics have interpreted these motifs as references to mystical ideas.

Some of Malevich’s pronouncements seem to offer support for this; he said that he had destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the circle of things, but in fact, he scorned symbolism: the motifs were only building blocks, the most fundamental and archetypal elements in painting- the zero of form.

The progression of Suprematism was devided into three stages: black, colored and white. The black phase was the ‘zero degree’ of painting, marking the beginnings of the movement.

The colored stage, Dynamic Suprematism, focused of the use of shape and color in order to create the sensation of movement in space, pursued in depth by Alexander Rodchenko, Ilya Chasnik and El Lissitzky.

Eight Red Rectangles from 1915 is an example of the second, more dynamic phase, in which primary colors began to be used.

The ambiguous composition-on the one hand the rectangles can be read as floating in space, as if they were suspended on the wall, on the other hand, they can also be read as objects seen from above.

Later, Malevich criticized this more dynamic phase of Suprematist movement as ‘aerial Suprematism’ since its compositions tended to echo pictures of the earth taken from the skies; in this sense, he departed from his ambitions for a totally abstract and non-objective art.

Personality

Olga Rozanova was one of the first artists who applied her own personal interpretation to Suprematism.

Her interest in fabrics led her to focus on textural effects, straying from the primary palette to use more feminine and softer colors.

The piece names Color Painting or Non-Objective Composition from 1917 reveals Rozanova’s ability to employ delicate tonal contrasts; it was a prelude to the style of Mark Rothko.

El Lissitzky’s lithograph Beat Whites with the Red Wedge from 1919/20 is one of his well-known works from his Suprematist phase.

It uses shape, positioning and color in keeping with the Suprematist principles, particularly with the dynamic stage of the movement.

The use of pointillist shading and lettering shows the evolution of his personal style. In addition, the poster reveals propagandistic intension in its representation of the struggle between the conservative ‘white’ and revolutionary ‘reds’ in Russia.

The white stage was the culmination of Suprematism, exhibited by Kazimir Malevich during the Tenth State Exhibition: Non-objective Creation and Suprematism in 1919.

Malevich’s painting named White Square on White (1917-18) can be seen as the final stage of his ‘transformation in the zero of the form’; the form has almost literally been reduced to nothing.

The pure white of the canvas has negated any sense of traditional linear perspective, contemplating its ‘infinite’ space. The picture is bled of color, the pure white making it easier to recognize the signs of the artist’s work in the rich paint texture of the white square.

This masterpiece dispensed with form entirely, representing ‘the idea’; it provoked responses from other artists that led to new ventures such as Alexander Rodchenko’s experimentation and exploration of the roles of specific materials in his Black on Black series from 1919.

The movement’s spiritual undertones increasingly defined it, as time went on.

Although these put it in jeopardy following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the tolerant attitude of the early Communists ensured that its influence continued.

However, the attitudes had changed by the late 1920s, and the movement lost much of its popularity at home, especially after being accursed by the Stalinists.

Between 1919 and 1927 Malevich stopped painting altogether; following a long hiatus, he even returned to representational painting. He devoted himself to his theoretical writings.

Malevich’s esoteric concepts precluded the movement itself from gaining widespread appeal, but their implications have been far-reaching in the field of abstract art.

His desire to create a transcendental art is an aspiration one can trace in much later abstract art; for instance, it is present in the ideas Wassily Kandinsky fundamentals in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912) and the Theosophy-inspired geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian.

Spread

The introduction of Suprematism to the West was well-received (exhibition in Berlin, 1927), sparking interest throughout United States and Europe.

El Lissitzky played a key role in the promotion of Suprematism outside of Russia and also used Suprematist concepts and forms to great effect in architecture and graphic design, which helped to establish the Constructivist movement.

Malevich’s achievement remains enigmatic over ninety years after he drew four lines on a two and a half foot square canvas and filled in the resulting area with black paint.

Suprematism became an important point of departure for the art forms of abstraction and geometric reduction; today its connection to a political position seems just as significant as its formal innovation.

As a story of refusal and of failure, Suprematism also became one of the most important reference points for Moscow’s conceptual art from the eighties on.

 

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Lyrical Metaphora by Marc Chagall

Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love.

Marc Chagall never aligned himself with any single movement, but his influence is as vast as the number of styles he assimilated to create his work.

Many of his peers pursued ambitious experiments that often led to abstraction, but Chagall’s distinction lies in his steady faith in power in figurative art, one that he maintained despite absorbing ideas from many different avant-garde movements.

As a prime example of a modern artist, Chagall mastered multiple media including oil painting, gouache painting, murals, watercolors, etching, ceramics, theater, drawing, stained-glass work and costume design.

Background

He was born on July, 7, 1887 to Feige-Ite and Khatskl Shagal in Liozna, near Vitebsk, in Russian Empire, today Belarus. He was raised in a Hasidic family and attended local Jewish religious school where he studied the Old Testament and Hebrew.

During this time, it was obligatory for Russian Jews since discrimination policies prohibited mixing of different racial and religious groups.

During his early schooling, Chagall adopted the habit of copying and drawing images from book, which developed into an emotional relationship with art, and eventually the choice to pursue it as a life career.

He began to learn the fundamentals of drawing, but more importantly, he absorbed the world around him, storing away the imagery and themes that would feature largely in most of his work.

To continue his studies, in 1906, he moved in St Petersburg and enrolled at the Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting. There, he briefly apprenticed under the artist and set designer, a devout Jew himself, Leon Bakst.

He is believed to have encouraged Marc Chagall to introduce Jewish themes and imagery in his work, a practice that was pretty unpopular at this time in the Russian Empire.

Paris

At the impressionable age of 23, speaking no French, Chagall moved in Paris in 1910. It was the time when Cubism was emerging as the leading avant-garde movement, and young artist aligned himself with the new movement.

Chagall responded to the stimulus by rapidly developing the poetics and seemingly irrational tendencies he had begun to display in Russia.

Under the influence of the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist pictures, he gave up the usually somber palette he had employed at home.

In his early work, Chagall is obviously adopting dynamic composition and the abstract forms that characterized much of Cubism; yet, he came to reject the movement’s academic leanings infusing his work with touches of emotions and cheerful colours.

In the Paris Through the Window (1913) the figure in the bottom right looks both ways, the couple bellow the Eiffel Tower seems to be split apart.

On first glance, the picture may recall one of Robert Delaunay’s many fractured portraits of the Eiffel Tower rendered in the Orphic Cubism style.

But, Chagall has no intention to dissect the view or the subject. Instead, he searches for beauty in details, creating ‘ sur-naturalist’ elements, such as two-faced head and floating human.

The end result is a balanced and visually appealing snapshot of Paris.

In his Parisian period, Chagall often used subject matters from memory in his paintings; subjects included weddings, pastoral village scenes, fiddlers playing on rooftops.

He kept close to his heart his home town of Vitebsk; the figures seem to float freely in the sky- Chagall’s lyrical and melancholic signatures of his far-away home.

Fusing his own personal, a dreamlike imagery with hints of the fauvism and cubism, Chagall created his most lasting work. The four years of his stay in Paris are often considered Chagall’s best phase.

In the piece I and the Village (1911), abstraction is at the heart of this piece, it exists to decorate the picture rather than invite analysis of the image.

This very approach: a blend of the figurative and modern, with a light, whimsical tone, would make the artist influential and famous.

Bella

During one of his visits to Russia Chagall fell in love and became engaged to the writer Bella Rosenfeld. Chagall met Bella, the daughter of a wealthy Russian jeweler, in 1909 in St Petersburg when she was 19 and he, seven years her senior, was attending art school.

In 1914, Chagall enjoyed a well-received exhibition of some 200 works in Berlin, all of which he would never recover. After the show, he returned to Vitebsk with plans to marry Bella.

The same year, the two did marry, but the outbreak of the World War I stopped their plan to move back to Paris. For the next nine years The Chagalls would remain in Russia.

Her wife came to be a subject of many of his paintings. For instance, in the Belle with White Collar (1917) woman figure and her demure face stand over a lush pastoral landscape, larger than life, may have been inspired by the traditional subject, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

This piece, while vibrant and expressive, stands as a lasting example of Chagall’s mastery of more traditional subjects and forms, yet he no less maintains the faintest of sur-naturalist elements throughout.

Few years after the war’s outbreak the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) occurred, an event that obliged Chagall to remain in Russia. He was given the political post of Commissar of Arts for Vitebsk.

In his new post Chagall undertook various projects in the region, including the founding of the Academy of the Fine Arts in 1919. Despite these endeavors, differences among his colleagues eventually disillusioned Chagall.

This teaching position conflicted with his nonpolitical nature; his overall work ethic and pace lessened due to the tense climate. In 1920, he relinquished the position and moved his family to Moscow, the post-revolution capital of Russia.

In Moscow, he was commissioned to create costumes and sets for various productions at the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre, where he would paint a series of murals titled Introduction to the Jewish Theater.

Paris Pt. 2

By the 1922, however, Chagall found that his art had fallen out of favor, and seeking new horizons he left Russia for good. And, the next year, after years of scraping by in Moscow, Vitebsk and other towns, Chagall and Bella moved back to Paris.

In the heart of the Green Violinist (1923-24) is nostalgia for the artist’s rustic village. Fiddlers on rooftops were a popular motif of Chagall’s, stemming from his memories of Vitebsk.

This very motif also reflects the artist’s deep devotion to his Jewish cultural roots; his subject who may represent the prophet Elijah is an extension of the rooftop, indicated by geometric shapes in his pant legs and by windows.

In the coming years of World War II, Europe was occupied; Hitler’s Third Reich reigned over a large portion of the continent, including Vichy France where Chagall and his family were living.

It is said that Joseph Goebbels personally ordered the artist’s paintings to be burned. Singled out during the cultural ‘’cleansing’’, undertaken by the Nazis, Chagall’s work was ordered removed from museums throughout the country.

Several pieces were subsequently burned, and others were featured in a 1937 exhibition of ‘’degenerate art’’ held in Munich.

Chagall is well known for his religious and Biblical motifs and subjects, but Christian symbolism present in White Crucifixion (1938) is surprising given Chagall’s devout Orthodox Jewish background.

In this piece, Jesus wears a Jewish prayer shawl, and whilst he suffers on the cross, Jewish figures on all sides of him suffer as well fleeing from marauding invaders who burn a synagogue.

This work is a clear indication of Chagall’s faith and his response to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe at this time.

In that difficult time in which many artists were forced to seek refuge in the United States, in 1941, thanks to Chagall’s daughter Ida and some people from the art world, Chagall’s name was added to a list of European artists whose lives were at risk and in need of asylum.

In June, 1941 Bella and Chagall arrived in United States.

Just before the war in Europe was about to close, Bella Chagall died from a viral infection, and Chagall’s hometown Vitebsk had been razed during the German invasion of Russia.

Devastated and crippled with grief, Chagall’s work lessened dramatically.

The Real Notebook

After his wife’s death, Chagall kept her notebook, which he illustrated for the next 20 years, sketching on the blank pages and surrounding Bella’s writings with colourful posthumous portraits of her and the two of them together.

In one sketch Bella is depicted in a patterned dress with a bowl of fruit, while another drawing shows her with dark circles around her eyes, possibly depicting her final illness.

In probably the most moving image, Chagall, with a blue face and melancholy expression, is settled at his easel, contemplating a red painting of himself and Bella, on hand reaching out to touch the canvas with his other hand to his heart.

The 85-page notebook, which Chagall illustrated between 1944 and 1965 while he spent time living in New York and the south of France, also includes several self-portraits.

Described as ‘’unique’’ by art experts, the intact collection is extremely rare as Chagall dismantled most of his sketchbooks and sold drawings individually.

Chagall never truly made New York his home, consequently, in 1947 the widower returned to France and settled in the southern city of Vence. After few years, he remarried to Valentine ‘Vava’ Brodsky in 1952.

Later Life

He continued making artworks, but his later canvases are remarkably different than his better-known earlier works.

His subjects and colors appear more melancholy, his brushwork became increasingly lyrical and abstract, almost reverting back in time to Post-Impressionist motifs.

The crowning achievements of the last two decades of his life were a series of large-scale commissions; in 1960, it was stained-glass windows that represented twelve tribes of Israel, these were installed at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, than memorial window Piece for the United Nations in 1964, The America Windows installed at the Chicago Institute for Art, 1977.

Chagall’s commissions for murals also defined his late career; ceiling of the Paris Opera House in 1963, as well as The Sources of Music and The Triumphs of Music for the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1966.

Marc Chagall passed away on March, 28, 1985 in Saint-Paul, France, at the age of 97.

Chagall’s legacy reveals an artistic style that is both entirely his own and a rich amalgam of prevailing Modern art disciplines.

His repertory of images, including melancholy, clowns, massive bouquets, flying lovers, biblical prophets, fantastic animals and fiddlers on roofs, helped to make him on of the most popular major innovators of the 20th century School of Paris.

He presented dreamlike subject matter in rich colors and in a fluent, painterly style that, while reflecting an awareness of artistic movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism and even abstraction, remained invariably personal.

Although critics sometimes complained of facile sentiments, uneven quality, and an excessive repetition of motifs in the artist’s total output, there is agreement that at its best it reached a level of visual metaphor seldom attempted in modern art.

 

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Arte Povera – The Movement, The Message

The birth of an artistic movement is preceded by a mysterious evolution that is made up of a set of ideas that are refined and expressed by actions and works.

Arte Povera, one of the most influential avant-garde movements, emerged in Europe in the 1960s. In its general sense Arte Povera, an Italian term meaning impoverished, poor art, allegedly derived from the poor theatre of the Polish film director Jerzy Grotowski.

More specifically, it refers to a group of avant-garde painters and sculptors based in Genoa, Turin, Milan and Rome from the mid-1960s onwards who produced a provocative fusion of Assemblage, Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Performance Art.

The movement grouped the work of Italian artists whose most distinctly recognizable trait was their use of ’found objects’ including simple, commonplace materials, such as soil, bits of wood, clothing, rocks, rope, paper.

While avoiding a signature style and promoting diversity as a positive value, these artists produced works mainly consisting of photography, sculptures and installations.

In addition, the diversity of the creations of these artists made this movement recognize that no one’s method sustains all projects, and for this reason, an unrestrained creativity formed the common ground between Arte Povera artists.

Arte Povera

In 1967, the art critic and curator, Germano Celant coined the name ‘Arte Povera’ and curated the movement’s first exhibition which was staged at Galleria La Bertesca in Genoa.

The same year, he published a manifesto for the movement: Arte Povera: Notes for a Gerilla War. He proposed a guerilla warfare art against the rich world that he considered to be represented by certain contemporary trends such as Nouveau realism.

Gradually, he would abandon this political dimension in order to transform this movement in some kind of conceptual-minimal art.

In the same manifesto he also wrote about ‘a desire to escape the bounds of a social system that rewards conformity and limits experience, and argued that this system forces artists into producing bourgeois objects for an art market that requires the stability of the assembly line’.

With this declaration, Celant associated the Italians (and himself) with a new movement in art and put forth definition of Arte Povera. These and other pioneering texts and shows created a collective identity for Arte Povera, and promoted it as a revolutionary genre, liberated from convention and the market place.

Raw and Real

Arte Povera artists employed a vast array of raw materials, such as rags, coal, hessian sacks, wood , soil, seeds and vegetables, as well as manufactured items, glass and metal.

These materials were framed, hung or applied to walls, metal sheets or various surfaces. Artists made no attempt to change the natural colors of the materials.

Their work was a reaction against the modernist abstract painting that had dominated European art in the 1950s. In addition, the group rejected American Minimalism, particularly, what they perceived as its enthusiasm for technology and its scientific rationalism.

By contrast, they presented absurd and comical juxtapositions, often of the old and the new, or the highly processed and the pre-industrial. They conjured a world of myth whose mysteries could not be explained in an easy way.

Although Arte Povera is most notable for its use of found object and everyday materials, materials which contrasted with the apparently industrial sensibility of American Minimal Art, the movement employed subversive avant-garde tactics – performance and installations- unconventional approaches to sculpture.

In order to reconnect art with life, the Italian Arte Povera strove to evoke an individual response in each of their art pieces, stressing an interaction between object and viewer that was purely original.

Germano Celant and the Arte Povera Artists

Germano Celant was a key figure in the formation and success of Arte Povera, and in this respect Arte Povera is typical of avant-garde groups that have been given momentum and cohesion by a single voice.

Celant’s interpretations of the artists associated with the movement have remained prominent and important, and he stressed the Italians’ interest in individual subjectivity.

For instance, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work often dealt with relationships. His early mirror works, which confronted image and self, explored concepts of identity.

His The Minis Objects series was developed around the idea of art that was only completed through the addition of human interaction. In the piece, Structure for Talking While Standing / Minus Objects (1965-66) it can be seen how the structure connects to the viewer, allowing for a place to rest the arms and feet.

Also, a dialogue was a concern to the artist; Celant once described his related work, the simple metal construction ‘Structure for Standing While Talking’, from 1965-66, as a medium to create a personal dialogue between art and viewer, free from any preconceived notion.

Giovani Anselmo’s early work relied on human interaction to fully experience the art, which was loosely constructed in order to react to the slightest touch. He worked as graphic designer and began to experiment with the arts in his free time.

His Untitled (1968), sometimes referred to as Eating Structure, comprises a small block of granite attached to a larger, plinth-like block by means of a head of lettuce and a length of wire.

If the lettuce is allowed to dry out, the smaller block will fall, therefore, the sculpture has to be ‘’fed’’ with lettuce to maintain its structure.

Its concern with gravity and balance echoes some of the interests of American Post-Minimal Art through its comic tone, and its use of such mundane materials, is typical of Arte Povera’s evocation of rural and poor life.

Pino Pascali’s 32 Square Meters of Sea, from 1967, brings together the artificial and natural. Containers hold quantities of dyed water that replicate the variegated tints of the ocean, alluding to the effects of light and motion.

The industrial materials and geometric shapes used to produce the sculpture echo American Minimalist sculpture, through artist’s use of a simple natural materials, the water in this case, betrays its origins in the concerns of Arte Povera.

Although Piero Manzoni was not considered a true member of the Arte Povera group, his work reflects the principles of the movement,

His Artist’s Shit, no.4, from 1961, supposedly containing 30 grams of excrement, reprises such famous avant-garde provocations as Marcel Duchamp’s presentation of a urinal as a work of art (Fountain, 1917).

Ninety cans were produced, labeled and canned in an identical manner, mocking the practices of mass production and consumption, satirizing the reverence usually accorded to artist’s work.

Celant’s most dramatic pronouncement, and probably reflected his hopes for the implications of Art Povera was saved for the igloos of Mario Merz.

He said that he performed a constant sacrifice of the banal, everyday object, as though it were a newfound Christ. Having found his nail, Merz became the system’s philistine and crucified the world.

Mario Merz, the oldest of the Arte Povera artists, was a painter in an Abstract Expressionist style, but with the new movement he was given the opportunity to start his career anew.

In the Giap’s Igloo (1968) the first of his signature igloos, Merz uses a phrase, taken from a Vietnamese military general: ‘Se il nemico si concentra perde terreno se il disperde perde forza’/ If the enemy masses his forces, he loses ground; if he scatters, he loses strength.

Merz’s igloos provide a focus for his preoccupation with the necessities of life- food, shelter, warmth-though, as here, they contain neon tubes that suggest more modern and sophisticated experiences, such as advertising and consumption.

Arte Povera and Radicalism

Arte Povera was closely linked to the political radicalism emerging across Europe, which eventually culminated in the street protests of 1968. In order to understand better the real purpose of such movement, one must analyses the cultural context of Italy in the 1950s and 1960s.

The country was going to a period of industrialization as the Miracolo Italiano/ the Italian miracle. The consumerism was finding its way into Italian society and advanced technologies were rapidly being introduced.

The optimism for this progressive wave was then suddenly interrupted in the mid 1960s when the economy recession set in.

Workers and students were continuously protesting in all Europe and America and this brought other social and cultural movements and beliefs such as a hippie counter-culture and a new sexual liberation.

In that context, Arte Povera was no longer referring to the use of ‘poor’ materials, nor to a critique of a consumer society, but to the concept of ‘impoverishing’ each person’s experience of life freeing oneself from layers of ideologies and preconceptions.

Thus, the main principles of Arte Povera were few, but very clear: a work of art is attitude transformed into form, thanks to a wide range of materials; the art should be a way of achieving truth and authenticity; any medium, location or technique can be used since everything can potentially become a work of art; finally it should engage with social concerns and also reject the ideology of a consumer society.

A Brief Unity

Despite growing popularity the Arte Povera movement dissolved in the mid 1970s as the individual styles of the Italian artists continued to grow in different directions following their own paths. However, their brief unity had already made its mark on the history of art.

Germano Celent succeeded in carving out a place for Art Povera within the neo-avant-garde.

By illustrating a relationship to Italian classicism, Futurism and to more contemporary styles such as Land Art, he lent the movement a place in what could be seen as a living tradition.

Over forty years later, the works of the Arte Povera are more alive than ever since they still attract the interest of many since their meaning is still relevant.

In the case of Pop Art, to stay contemporary, artworks seem to be inevitably aged, such as the Worhol’s paintings, particularly those of the myths of the 60s like Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles, that now seem to be a piece of history.

On the contrary, Arte Povera may just be one of the few things of the Twenty Century that managed to survive until now. The reason might be the fact that Arte Povera is not just an avant-garde movement, but it is something complete in itself.

In addition, it continues to be central to the idea of art as an experience, prior the knowledge and this might well be the reason why ordinary people who are not so much interested in art, can also feel the simplistic experience of this movement.

 

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Mersad Berber – The Famous Bosnian Artist and his Sacred Themes

Mersad Berber, one of the greatest and most distinctive Bosnian painters and graphic artists, was born on January, 1, 1940 in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in western Bosnia in former Yugoslavia.

Few months after his birth, due to the large massacre in Petrovac in the 1940s, the Berber family arrived to Banja Luka as refugees to escape the fighting as the World War II spilled over into the Balkans.

Background

Berber’s father had a hair salon for women in the centre of Banja Luka, and his mother was a gifted weaver, one of the greatest in Bosnia.

She worked in the tradition of Bosnian carpets, which have deep Anatolian roots, and she established school for carpet weavers at the end of her life.

The young Berber inherited his mother’s artistic talent; his skills as a draftsman became apparent from a young age- from his early adolescence he was producing remarkable drawings and painting on paper.

In 1959, Mersad Berber began his formal art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

According to his own word, he owed permanent gratitude to several of his professors; Bozidar Jakac, a classic of Slovenian graphic art, and Zoran Krizisnik, a brilliant curator and founder of the famous Ljubljana International Biennale.

Krizisnik included him in the Yugoslavian selection when he was a second year student, and his etching master Bozidar Jakac, with whom he learned etching privately, alongside his studies at the Academy.

In 1961, his works were exhibited at the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale, one of the prestigious art events of the period, along with works by the leading graphic artists from all over the world.

Berber’s early drawing and prints demonstrated the influence of the academy in terms of technique, and, in the other hand, his interest in expressing cultural traditions using a modern visual expression in terms of subject matter.

He received the prestigious Prešern Award for his work.

Post Graduate

In 1963, the young artist started a postgraduate course in graphic arts in professor Rika Debeljak’s class. His choice of that very technique was to significantly mark his entire opus.

Since 1965 and his first solo exhibition at the City Gallery of Ljubljana, the career of this remarkable artist has been on sharp rise.

The artistic scene in former Yugoslavia, also in that of Tito’s successor Slobodan Milosevic, had been characterized not by anything resembling Soviet Socialist Realism but by a tepid adherence to middle-of-the-road modernist styles.

Very few artists managed to create reputations for themselves outside their own region. Berber’s success in breaking out of this situation was altogether exceptional.

In 1978, Berber received a teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, and set a a studio there. By that time, he had already achieved considerable international recognition, mainly as a graphic artist.

War

This comfortable existence and professional career was abruptly torn apart by the wars that broke out Yugoslavia in 1990’s, just over a decade after the death of Marshal Tito, who had held that region together.

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995, Berber’s house and studio were destroyed.

The Berber family escaped in Croatia on a UN transport plane. In order to rebuild his life, he created a new studio in Zagreb, and another one in Dubrovnik. However, memories of the war continued to haunt him, but provided material for his art.

A wide array of Berbers’s works range from the deep, opaque whites influenced by his travels to Bosnia’s fairy-tale landscapes to the dark and terrible pits of Srebrenica.

His inspiration mostly originates from the mystical world of Bosnia, its Ottoman past, and the tragic venture of its people.

Inspired by the masters of European fine arts from the Renaissance to Art Nouveau, with the artists such as Velazquez, Ingres or Klimt, as well as Yugoslavian painters Vlaho Bukovac and Gabrijel Jurkic, Berber’s work infuses intricate talent and expressive powers.

Berber’s work gives a good idea of the breadth of his cultural interests, but the frequent fragmentation of the images also makes it clear that these are the product of an extremely contemporary sensibility.

His paintings, etchings and prints include elegant female portraits, based on High Renaissance prototypes, with which he challenged the 16th century masters of the Venetian school; painting of horses which recall his love for the peasant life of the Bosnian countryside; paraphrases of Velazquez, which express his profound admiration for the great Spanish master.

Homage, Horses, and Suffering

Throughout his career, he made cycles of paintings which chronicle homages, events and dedications. His works are characterized by the intermingling of ancient motifs with a modern and contemporary commentary.

He employed a very wide variety of artistic techniques, from the most traditional to the most contemporary.

For instance, he made a couple of small animated films, and was fascinated by the possibilities offered by new techniques of digital printing, sometimes producing prints of enormous size.

In most of the Berber’s works, the central metaphor is the horse figure, a key symbolic animal which has many different representations and meanings in various cultures.

In Berber’s own words, this figure is not that of an impressive horse, it is a toiling packhorse from the mountains of Bosnia, having deep ties to all aspects of life, signifying hard labor and marriages, wars and funerals.

The expressive capacity of this horse, its suffering and its imperfect beauty represent the biography of Bosnian people.

Innovator, Cultural Historian

Berber is known for his mixed technique large canvases, but he differs from the European masters from whom he derived his inspiration by virtue of innovative approach to composition and his unique themes.

His paintings frequently do not deal with single image but with conjunctions of images, in some cases places side by side, but in others layered one on the top of the other.

He felt a strong allegiance to the values of Italian Renaissance art, because of its resemblance to the art of the Italian Pittura Colta movement, which derived from the later work of Giorgio de Chirico.

Yet, Berber’s paraphrases of elegant images of classical nudes, some of them are direct quotations from the work of David or Ingres, and of Renaissance portraits, were often interspersed with figures in old-fashioned Balkan dress.

His religious and literary references were also strong and complex. Some of his most impressive works offer directly Christian images, for instance the figure of Christ being taken from the Cross.

Others were inspired by the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most important Jewish medieval manuscripts in existence and now the chief treasure of the restored Sarajevo National Museum (Zemaljski Muzej).

In his work he reflects the full scale of the complexity of his country’s multi-layered cultural history as the pioneer of the generation of young graphic artists who opened up the local art scene to global trends.

Depicting Tragedy

Towards the close of his life, Mersad Berber made an impressive series devoted to the brutal massacre at Srebrenica, the genocide and the worst crime of the Balkan wars, in which over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mostly boys and men, were slaughtered by units from the Army of Republika Srpska, under the command of general Ratko Mladic.

The artist regarded the tragedy at Srebrenica as the “big, ancient, sacred theme of hymns” and laboured for years to depict it in his works, collecting forensic reports, newspaper photographs, video recordings, documents and books, and visiting Potocari and Srebrenica countless times.

These series became elegies not only for those who had died, but also for the death of multiculturalism, which had survived in the Balkans for centuries despite all ethnic and religious animosities.

Death

Mersad Berber died from heart attack on October 7, 2012 in his home in Zagreb.

Nearly forty years of his artistic activity Berber spent as a true Homo Universalis. As an excellent drawer and illustrator, Mersad Berber was occupied with graphic art, painting, graphic and poetic maps, tapestry, illustrations.

He also worked in theatre scenography, created movie posters for movies, such as those by Kusturica; his costume and scenography design came to life in theatres in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Washington.

He exhibited all over the world, from London to Madrid, New York to Moscow, Jakarta and New Delhi, and received approximately 50 awards. Some scholars and experts consider him to be one of the greatest post-Classic artists in the world.

Ethical Identity

Today, Mersad Berber is one of the most famous graphic artists in the world, who was also included in the Tate Gallery Collection in 1984, makes the aesthetic and ethical identity of his homeland recognized to the million of people.

He deserved his celebrity reputation because he made heroic efforts to get with the history of the region he was born and lived in with his own personal relationship to that history.

With his unique talent that lets him forge connections between different cultures and tradition, and his intelligence that penetrates the depths of historical experience, Berber brought together styles spanning the range from antiquity to the contemporary era in a manner that was very much his own.

 

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Yugoslav Monuments – An Essay on Art and the Rhetoric of Power

A monument is namely a public phenomenon; the public is the commission which reasoned it and which it is dedicated. The physical open space in which a monument exists is technically the only possible medium of the socio-psychological sphere which the monument is intended for: the spiritual reality of its milieu.
 
Publicness is the monument’s true nature; this is where the monument grows, stands or fails: in publicness lies all the magnificence or nothingness of the monument. If it lacks this public dimension, the monument is just a mass, sometimes a good sculpture or something else but always a misunderstanding that disappears with the monument’s removal
.

Eugen Frankovic, The Publicness of Monuments

A French historian Pierre Nora writes that memory attaches itself to sites. Monuments and memorials are indeed such sites. When we try to rewrite today the art history of Yugoslav sites of remembrance, we are facing a depressing fact: such a history has actually never been written.
 
The absence of valuable art historical and theoretical texts about political and cultural monuments erected on former Yugoslav territories does not mirror the absence of monuments.

Both the first (1918-1941) and the second Yugoslav state (1945-1991/1992) manifested a real greed for commemorations and genuine passion for spatialization of collective memories. Any such project, however, necessitated the implementation of a particular politics of remembrance and these politics are depended on what is imagined as ‘collective identity’ of a community, a nation, or a state.
 
American historian John R.Gillis stresses that both memories and identities are often attributed the status of unchangeable ‘material objects’.

He dismantles this conception, states that we need to be reminded that memories and identities are not fixed things, but representations or constructions of reality, subjective rather than objective phenomena. Therefore, we are constantly revising our memories to suit our current identities.

Public monuments, both those dedicated to political figures and men of culture, are instrumental in these revisions: those which do not suit to ‘’new identities’’ must be removed in order to make place for new monuments which now spatialize newly constructed identities.

A discourse about political memorials, or any other public monument, we can establish today, radically differs from the usual comprehension of monuments traditionally discredited as “art on command” or “art on commission’”. As artworks commissioned by public agency – a national community, a veteran organization or even a state, monuments are believed to be in ‘service of’ a given power, which they should ‘illustrate’.

However, when examining monuments as visual representations, we (should) understand the monument as the site in which power becomes constituted. American art historian David Summers argued that ‘’substitutive images’’ (the representation of rulers) and the space in which they are used, are ipso facto realization of power, not expression of power, but actual form taken by power in one or another place and time.
 
Monuments, like other types of visual representations we encounter in the public sphere, such as posters, documentary and feature films, postage stamps and press photographs, play, thus, a constitutive and nor merely a reflexive, after-the-fact-role.

A discourse on memorial sites in two Yugoslav states is not unique. It does not differ much from other countries: since the least the French Revolution, the treatment of public monuments point to the fact that image-making is as old as image-breaking.
 
Making and breaking are also characteristic of the Yugoslav memorial productions, whereby it should not be forgotten that both Yugoslav states and many of the post-Yugoslav ones were founded after wars.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians known as the ‘’ three-name nation’’ (troimeni narod) was founded in 1918 after the First World War. Newly built monuments were meant to establish public memory of war heroism and suffering, but this memory, alas, could be instituted only in some parts of the freshly reunited state, actually composed of war winners and war losers.
 
When this state became a ‘one-name nation’ (jednoimeni narod) and was accordingly renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1924-41), it started to promote the ideology of unitary Yugoslavism, which was constituted not only by dictatorship but also via monuments to Yugoslav kings of Sebian Karadjordjevic dynasty: Peter I ‘’the Liberator’’ (died at 1921) and Aleksandar ‘’the Great Unifier’’( assassinated in 1934).

Between 1923 and 1940, some 215 monuments or memorial marks dedicated to the deceased rulers had been erected all over the Yugoslav kingdom. None of these monuments survived, but the sculptors who designed them ( Ivan Mestrovic, Lojze Dolinar, Frano Krsinic, Antun Augustincic and Sreten Stojanovic) did.
 
All of them would again become engaged in the production of memorials in ‘new’ Yugoslavia.

 

The Second Yuguslav State

The second Yugoslav state, proclaimed on 29, November 1943, was also a state born of war. After 1945, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia indulged yet again in a statue-mania, which now spatialized the memory of a just war and victory over fascism.
 
Gained by transnational and multi-ethnic partisans’ forces, it fostered ‘’brotherhood and unity’’ of all Yugoslav people/nations. Thus emerged new memorial sites populated with numberless monuments which, as any such public objects in the world, replayed a collective memory that, since 1945, became institutionalized as ‘their’ history: this was the history of the winners, and winners are keen on selective memories.
 
In spatializing this memory-as-history, Yugoslav monuments exploited various regimes of representation.

Around 1952-55, the battle between Socialist (mainly academic) Realism and modernism in Socialist Yugoslavia ended with the victory of modernism. Hence, as of the 1960s, the major Yugoslav memorials commemorating ‘’fallen soldiers’’ and ‘’victims of fascism’’ obtained abstract, i.e, modernist shapes; however, parallel to these productions initiated and founded by the Association of Veterans of the People’s Liberation War (Savez Boraca Narodnooslobodilackog rata), monuments based on figurative representation continued to be built all over Yugoslavia till the late 1980s, and often supported by local veterans organizations.
 
Even if those monuments based on iconic or realistic representations of human bodies (as a rule male bodies) may appear to offer an easier identification and reception by ‘’people’’ , abstractly shaped memorials continue to connote the same ideology: a lack of humanism (understood as the absence of bodily representations) brought about the presence of huge abstract sculptures called organic bodies ( as a rule based on phallic shapes such as obelisks, cylinders, erected forms) which connoted again a rhetoric of power, and last but not least –militarism.

A thematic shift occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas ‘’revolutionary sculptures’’ produced till then restaged the war victory and defeat of fascism, later modernist memorial productions, built on the ‘’sites of the Revolution’’ tended to incept the memory of war as socialist revolution: this happened some thirty years after the war, when memories of it started to fade and meant little to younger generations.
 
In additions, memorial complexes, designed by artists and/or architects such as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Dusan Dzamonja, Miodrag Zivkovic, and erected on the natural sites where partisan’s victories took place, imply yet another aspect: they suggest revolution to be a natural process.
 
Therefore, one should abandon a traditional dualism between representational/ figurative and non-representational/abstract procedures. Instead, one should ask in which ways monuments actively performed a spatialization of Communist ideology, whereby the division between iconic and non-iconic representation hardly plays a role.

Since the rise of nationalist ideologies in Yugoslavia of the late 1980s, the antifascist tradition became exposed to collective amnesia, and in most, if not all, post-Yugoslav states it is almost completely negated, if not totally erased.
 
The devastation and destruction of Yugoslav ‘communist’ monuments occurred not only during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, but also later. New monuments erected, or re-erected, in post-Yugoslav sovereign states commemorate heroes and victims of war (1991-1999), but not only them.
 
Each nation-state built its own monuments which now constitute nationalist ideology viewed through the eyes of victimization and national suffering under ‘’foreign power’’ (as a rule neighboring nation/state), under ‘’communists’’ and even under the international community.

Memories re-enacted in political monuments and memorials put up on Yugoslav territories in the twentieth century are generally memories of violence and, linked to it, militarism. However, it would be historically wrong to assume that representation of and reference to violence is specific for monuments erected in bellicose and brutal Balkan region.
 
In addition, as in other parts of the world, monuments themselves are as often as not exposed to violence.

American art historian W.J.T. Mitchell, in his article The Violence of Public Art, differentiates two types of violence directed against monuments and other public works of art. One is ‘’the official’’ violence of police, juridical or legislative power, as was the case of the post-1989 removal of the ‘’Communist Pantheon’’, which was in the main based on parliamentary decisions.
 
The other is ‘’unofficial’’ violence performed by angry masses. He asked several questions: Is public art inherently violent, or is it a provocation to violence? Is violence built into the monument in its own very conception?
 
Is violence simply an accident that befalls some monuments, a matter of the fortunes of history? In this context, he reminds us that monumental productions are generally dedicated to one theme: Much of the world’s public art-memorials, monuments, triumphal arches, obelisks, columns, and statues-has a rather direct reference to violence in the form of war or conquest.
 
From Ozymandias to Caesar to Napoleon and Hitler, public art served as a kind of monumentalizing of violence, and never more powerfully than when it pre
sents the conqueror as a man of peace, imposing a Napoleonic code or a Pax Romana on the world.

Hungarian art historian, Katalin Sinkó, who discusses the removal of the monuments undertaken by the Communist regime in her native country, stresses probably the most significant aspect of the monuments’ disfigurement: The destruction of statues as a ritual act proves significant only in an environment which understands and acknowledges the meaning of such symbolic acts.
 
Accordingly, in the early days of the Yugoslav Kingdom, all signs of Austro-Hungarian monarchy were removed; those monuments to the Karadjordjevic dynasty which did not fall under occupying forces in the Second World War were promptly defaced after the 1945 by the communist authorities; after the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia, the emerging nation-states started to acquire their new identity by revising (nationalist) memories, engaging thus in a ‘’ memory work’’ which is as Gills points out, like any other kind of physical labor , embedded in complex class, gender and power relations that determine what is remembered/ or forgotten , by whom, and for what end.

The main question is still here: Are there elements of reconciliation in today’s culture of monuments in the Western Balkan? Whereas it appears somehow logical to built Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2006, in Berlin, the question is where it would be ‘’logical’’ to erect a memorial to the victims in Srebrenica.
 
In Belgrade, of course. But, who would (date to) built it there? Monuments, cannot offer reconciliation, but people, sometimes can.. In a public performance held in Sarajevo 1998, the Croatian artist Slaven Tolj drank for some 20 minutes Bosnian sljivovica and Croatian grappa, mixing them.
 
The subtitle of his performance read: ‘’Waiting for Willy Brandt’’.

We keep waiting…

SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF MONUMENTS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Following the Second World War and the victorious National Liberation War over fascism, the myth of both revolutionary justice and the true will of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to determine the course of history have been legitimized.

The victory also underlined the prospects of small nations, such as South Slavs, to decide their own future, to create a state and to be triumphant over a much stronger enemy. The victory, thus reconciled two myths: the myth of uprising and the myth of revolution.
 
The National Liberation War signified a conquest over invaders, and therefore, the victory substantiated the ability of South Slavs to constitute a state rooted in principles of ‘’ brotherhood and unity ‘’. The war also signified the effort to create a new society and a new class consciousness.
 
For that very reason, socialist realist art in former Yugoslavia, through ‘’ sacral places’’ such as monuments, sought to create the myth that would become underline the idea of revolution, the idea of creating a new man.
 
The monuments were used mostly commemorated fallen soldiers. They were also used to articulate a spirit of optimism and collective will directed towards a utopian classless society. The spirit of the deceased ought to inspire both those who have survived the war and new post-war generations to further pursue revolutionary accomplishments in peace.

The common practice was to build monuments dedicated to national heroes-such as a monument to the boy –fighter Bosko Buha who was portrayed standing over an open book, holding a gun in one hand, and a bomb in the other.
 
Totalitarian regimes often insist on youth mobilization as it stands for a new perspective. The official ideology, thus, particularly focused on the heroic death of a minor in order to establish the myth of a new generation that through death and suffering is building a new tomorrow.
 
The bomb in his hand and the rifle on his shoulder embody the young fighter’s will to create a new future in which radical fighting against the enemy symbolizes the realization of an utopian truth and universal justice for all South Slavic people.
 
The open book over which he stands symbolizes awareness of collective solidarity and a new future built through labor, combat and knowledge. The monument was set up at the Jabuka Mountain close to Prijepolje in western Serbia, the place where he was killed.
 
The spirit of the place and the worship of fallen fighters represent one of the most distinct rituals among Balkan nations: the cult of the ancestor. It denotes a static timeless past for which the living must repay the dead, whereas the fallen fighter symbolizes a new future and a new utopian reality which the survivors need to build.

Close to the monument of Bosko Buha stands another one commemorating soldiers who fell during First World War I. in the 1900s, Serbian nationalists, with the intention of deconstructing and devaluating the communist myth of the fighter, built right next to it a monument dedicated to Serbian soldiers who were sympathetic to fascist forces and killed by Partisans.
 
This highlights a grotesque union of Balkan ideologies of the 20
th century that aimed to attain legitimacy through blood and sacrifice. Despite seeming grossly incompatible, they held one common trait: a symbolic representation of the eternal spirit of ‘’our fallen fighters’’ through monuments which regenerate ‘’ political truth and justice’’.
 
Here, not only different ideologies but also borders of newly created states succeeding Yugoslavia meet: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. Consequently, the political body and the ‘’ brotherhood and unity’’ between the people and the South Slavic state community, all of which Bosko Buha had fought and died for, has fallen apart.
 
Even though his sculpture has fortunately not been torn down, it has been stripped of its symbolic meaning; a political assassination took place!

In the context of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the symbolical presentation of the National Liberation War had a great significance because its main battles and offensives were fought on the country’s territory: also, in 1943, the new Yugoslavia was established in the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) in the northern Bosnia town of Jajce.
 
The multiethnic life in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone seemed to reflect a ‘’miniaturized Yugoslavia’’, even the geographic centre of Yugoslavia, marked by a stone sculpture, was located near Sarajevo and Zenica cities.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, rising ethno-nationalistic fantasies have focused on ‘’under-mining communism’’. The reason why people massively adopted these ethno-nationalistic fantasies was primarily the political emptiness, a vacuum created by the fall of communism.
 
In this period, monuments that embodied communist tradition were often demolished. This destruction in itself had a double meaning: it sought to erase the communist past in order to make room for new identities and, at the same time, it marked the return to a pure ‘’ancient tradition’’.

However, while condemning communism as a utopian construction, nationalists turned towards an even greater illusion: a utopia that is no longer bound to the future but to the past. Thus the myth of creating a utopian future during communism has been replaced with the ethno-nationalistic myth of returning to the past.

Precisely because of the Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a representation of a ‘’miniature Yugoslavia’’, the consequences following the collapse of the social system and the Yugoslav idea of ‘’brotherhood and unity’’ were more tragic there.
 
One of the reasons why the war between the ‘fraternal’ nations was so blood-soaked is that the community began to fall apart internally, and the ideology which people believed in socialism with a human face-was abandoned.
 
This inner decay gave rise to ethno-nationalistic fantasies and identities that were based on exclusion and the denunciation of once ‘fraternal’ nations as hostile, criminal ones. Neighboring nations started to disown their own past and began finding an enemy within themselves.
 
Thus ‘brotherhood and unity’ between fraternal national turned into fratricide: the murder of the brother.

In this inextricable web of transition processes during 1990s, monuments and citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina seemed to share a common fate: monuments were demolished and, at the same time, citizens were killed and imprisoned in concentration camps.
 
The demolition of monuments signified the collapse of the old political community while the emergence of new monuments pointed to the creation of a new political imagination and a new identity. Thus the transition from socialism to ethno-nationalism was reflected in the symbolic power of monuments and it was also reproduced in them.

In the winds of war that swept over Bosnia in the 1900s, not only were communist monuments destroyed in the name of ethno-national policies, but also any cultural heritage that now represented an enemy in ‘our nation’ was removed: the Old Bridge and Orthodox cathedral in Mostar, Ivo Andric sculpture in Visegrad, Aladza Mosque in Foca, Ferhadija in Banjaluka, John the Baptist Church near Jajce… The perpetrators of these acts were running away from themselves, from their own past, seeking refuge in a mythical past of holy kings and ancestors, who they believed would protect and renew their own national identities.

Even though the fate of Yugoslavia’s disintegration with all its tragic consequences, became fully visible during the war in Bosnia and was perhaps most notably woven into monuments in the country, not all of the monuments were expressions to constitute political authority in times of war.
 
On the contrary, they also symbolize a manifold tradition of diverse cultures that did not form in opposition to each other, but through subtle intertwining and constant interaction which had characterized the way of life in Bosnia for centuries.
 
The famous Old Bridge in Mostar, which was destroyed during fighting in 1993, did not simply represent the identity of the nation, but it rather opened a place for everyday encounters of manifold, intertwining identities from diverse nations.

Ultimately, the question arises as to how trauma experienced by the victims during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be expressed through monuments? In which way can a sculpture commemorate the innocents that perished in the past without fostering the impression that crimes ate the only paradigms to be embedded within the collective memory?
 
Nowadays, no great ideology exists that could give meaning to the victims as part of a vision of future progress and improvement. Hence monuments that could form a new political consciousness are not built anymore.

However, a need of the people- of those who survived and feel remorse- still exists to express closeness to those who have perished. A rare example is the memorial cemetery in Potocari, close to Srebrenica.
 
Through the simplicity of its smooth stone and the names of the deceased written onto it, reflects some sort of relation of the living towards the dead. It does not emphasize the lament over the Srebrenica genocide but rather expresses an overwhelming pain that in its ineffability exceeds rational imagination and understanding.
 
In this way, the monument eludes any narcissistic awareness of collective victimization, the kind of which, unfortunately, is all too often part of the ritualized and populist discourse of the political and religious elite in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The current socio-political climate is marked by the Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 that ended, or better froze, the war and represents an intersection of contradictory processes that are reflected by newly built monuments.
 
On the one hand, national aspirations exist regarding the separation of territories and their annexation to neighbouring countries, namely Serbia and Croatia. Thus, in the south-western Bosnian town of Tomislavgrad, stands a monument showing the medieval Croatian King Tomislav.
 
The monument embodies a mythical past aimed at legitimizing national sovereignty over a certain territory as well as state autonomy. Therefore, the medieval king represents neither elitism that rises above the working class, nor does he embody any aristocratic or divine nobility.
 
Instead he illuminates the origin of exclusive national will, the power of national unity and harmony. On the other hand, the general commercialization of society stultifies the meaning of public good, leading to the arbitrary placement of cheap symbols and superficial memorial inscriptions.
 
An example is the sculpture Multi-Ethnic Man, a donation from Italy that was placed in the Svjetlost Park in central Sarajevo. In its banality and impersonality, the sculpture seems to deny the very idea of multi-ethnicity.

In order to create a new political community, or a new unity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is necessary to consider all lines of separation and the symbolical power that has divided people and which is expressed by monuments and sculptures.
 
Then, finally, it may be able to let out the cathartic cry of liberation from the bloody past and thereby at the same time embody the sense for new multi-ethnic unity.

 

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What Is Installation Art? Description, History, and Prominent Artists

An art installation is a three-dimensional visual artwork, often created for a specific place (in situ) and designed to change the perception of space. The term “installation”, which appeared in the 1970’s, generally applies to works created for interior spaces (gallery, museum); outdoor works are more often referred to as public art, land art or artistic intervention.

The installation is most often expressed in a three-dimensional setting: the artist includes the environment as part of the work, or other factors, which distinguish his work from simple hanging. The work is put into a situation and makes use of the off-field, a dimension that is not immediately visible to the person who is watching: the mere fact of including it as a “spectator” calls for notions of participation, immersion and theatricality.

The space of the installation can be closed (eg limited to a waiting room, a kitchen, etc.) or open (for example a bridge, a wheat field, a square, a street, a city etc.): thus, Land art tends today to be redefined by the yardstick of the concept of installation.

Finally, an installation can be either:

  • mobile (or re-mountable);
  • permanent (or fixed);
  • ephemeral (or temporary).

The installation can most often be assimilated to a sculpture but it can not be reduced to it. One speaks of hybridization and mutations.

It also makes it possible to explode the notion of volume: the installation can be understood as an object of reduced size to a very large space (eg. Monumenta).

Specificity: Some installations are designed for (and depending on) a particular exhibition location.

Interaction: in some cases, the public is led to interact with the installation or even the artist himself. The distance between the public and the work is more or less abolished; in some cases there is participation, the public penetrates within the perimeter proper to the work, engendering new types of relations between creation, creator and viewer.

The scenography: some works invite a course, a path and propose different stages or sensorial sequences.


 

History of Installation Art

The term “installation” is relatively new in its use and in its definition as an artistic concept.

In 1958, the artist Allan Kaprow spoke of the “environment” to describe his productions, which consisted of the creation of a room requiring the intervention or the situation of the spectator and the place in a sort of happening, later described as ” performance.”
 
In the same year, French artist Yves Klein invited the public to visit the Iris Clert gallery space in Paris to present his latest work, the “Exposition du vide”: floor, ceiling and walls painted white, all lit by a bluish light.
 
Playful, participative and mobile dimensions are already present in these avant garde works.

In retrospect, contemporary artists themselves are part of a genealogy, which, at the turn of the 1920’s, saw the appearance of certain artists (alone or in groups) capable of organizing, presenting and staging their productions in a non-conformist way, and which art theorists situate in the wake of currents such as Dadaism and Surrealism: for example, Marcel Duchamp, who is the designer of the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, or the Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters, two artists who, however, worked in the secret of their workshops.

In 1969 the public discovers Given, Duchamp’s last work, begun in 1946 and completed in 1968: the artist described it as a “demountable approximation” and is accompanied by ” a specification, which makes it, in theory, “remountable”.

The first “ephemeral” installation, designed to be destroyed after a brief exhibition, was realized in 1956 in Barcelona by the Catalan poet Joan Brossa. In Japan, the Gutai group was expressing itself through neo-dadaist performances and forms of installations.

In 1958, Wolf Vostell realized an installation, The Black Room ( Das schwarze Zimmer ), and exhibited in 1963 at the Smolin Gallery of New York an installation called 6 TV De-coll / age.

Incorporating all Medias

Depending on their fashions and arrangements, in a setting that has its own dynamics, the installations use traditional media such as painting , sculpture , photography , but more often more recent media such as projections (film, video), sound, lighting.

An artist like Nam June Paik was the first to use a mixed technique, combining television, video, sounds and lights in Exposition of Music – Electronic Television at the Parnass Gallery in Wuppertal in 1963.

Artists of the Fluxus and Lettrist group also expressed themselves through temporary installations, more or less provocative.

In the early 198’0s, interactive visual and sound installations appeared, using analogue and digital means, such as Jean-Robert Sédano and Solveig de Ory .

Beginning in the 1990s, the installations use computer tools either to drive the effects or to form the main medium, with artists like Perry Hoberman, David Rokeby, or digital and immersive with Jeffrey Shaw or Maurice Benayoun.



 

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The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus, a German art and design school, was one of the most significant and influential modernist art schools, one of whose approach to understanding art’s relationship to technology and society and its teaching methods had a major impact in United States and Europe, long after it closed.

The motivation behind the origination of the Bauhaus lay in anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing in the 19th century, and in fears about art’s loss of purpose in industrial society. Emerged in the mid-1920’s, the Bauhaus was shaped by the late 19th and early 20th movements and trends, which had sought to level the distinction between applied and fine arts and to reunite manufacturing and creativity.
 
This fact is reflected in the sentimental romantic medievalism of the school’s early years, but in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design; it was ultimately proved to be its most important and original achievement.

In 1919, Walter Gropius, an architect and demobilized World War I officer was appointed director of The Art and Crafts School in the city of Weimar. He renamed school to Bauhaus, a unique, memorable name, which is the transliteration for building house, and according to the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, it stands for an eagerness to experiment, creativity, openness, a close link to industrial practice and inter-nationality.

Radical Steps Towards Modernism

The Bauhaus movement was considered a radical step towards modernism and its core objective was a radical concept: to re-imagine the material world to reflect the unity of all arts. During the 14 years of its existence, Bauhaus was operational in three separate locations in Germany: Weimar, 1919-1925, Dessau, 1925- 1932, and Berlin, 1932-33.

The Bauhaus had a unique curriculum, described by Gropius in the manner of a wheel diagram. The outer ring representing a six-month preliminary course- the vorkurs, which immersed the students, who came from a diverse range of educational and social backgrounds, in the study of materials, color theory and the formal relationships in preparation for more specialized studies; the two middle rings as two three-years courses, focused on problems related to form- the formlehre, and a practical workshop that emphasized functionalism and technical craft skills through simplified, geometric forms- the werklehre. Following their immersion in Bauhaus theory, students entered specialized workshops, including cabinetmaking, weaving, pottery, metalworking, wall painting, textilworking, and typography.
 
At the center of the wheel- curriculum were courses specialized in building construction that led students to seek necessity and practicality through technological reproduction, with an emphasis on workmanship and craft that was lost in manufacturing.
 
In addition, the general pedagogical approach was to eliminate competitive tendencies and to foster a sense of community and a personal creative potential.

Think Haus

The Gropius’s Bauhaus attracted the fabulously talented faculties, the creators of the school’s program. Many of the most talented designers of the twentieth century taught or studied there: Marcel Breuer in furniture, Bayer in graphics, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in architecture, Anni Albers and Gunta Stӧlzl in textiles, Oskar Schlemmer in theater design, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in film; the great artists, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were working alongside them.

There were social and political problems from the beginning. Women students protested against being confined to the ceramics workshop and weaving; the locals objected to the students’ bohemian habits, and more seriously, the Weimar Nazis saw the Bauhaus as a fertile ground for Bolshevism, despite Gropius’s ban on political activities.
 
Walter Gropius favored the rationalism of the Russian Constructivism and the emerging Modern movements, believed in integration of their principles into everyday life, by applying them to industrial products and buildings.

Move to Dessau

When the Nazis came to power in Weimar in 1925, Bauhaus moved to Dessau, the German industrial town. Gropius negotiated a deal to build a new school in Dessau. In this period, the Bauhaus enjoyed a few productive years there, those years was a manifesto for the new spirit of the Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius’s building complex for the Bauhaus, represented a landmark in functionalist design of the modern era; the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is divided from the next, but on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives.
 
The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and to protect against the weather. A glass curtain wall, a feature that would become a typical of modernist architecture, allows in ample quantities of light.
 
Also, Gropius created three wings, arranged asymmetrically, in order to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school.

The cabinetmaking workshop was one of the most significant in the Bauhaus. This workshop studio reconceived the essence of furniture, seeking to dematerialize conventional forms such as chairs to their minimal existence.

The innovative use of materials and the sleek design in Marcel Breuer’s The Wassily Chair are typical of the groundbreaking developments in design that made the Bauhaus famous. Its components are arranged with a clarity that makes its structure immediately legible.
 
The designer constructed the chair using recently developed seamless-steel bent tubing that could endure physical tension without faltering. Although Wassily Kandinsky was interested in geometric abstraction at the time he was teaching at the Bauhaus, this piece came to be popularly associated with him decades later, and by accident when it was promoted as the Wassily Chair by an Italian manufacturer.

Studio Spaces and Instructors

The textile workshop, particularly under the direction of designer and weaver Gunta Stӧlzl, created abstract textiles which were used in Bauhaus environments. Students studies technical aspects of weaving, color theory and design. A head of the workshop, Stӧlzl encouraged experimentation with unorthodox materials such as fiberglass, metal, cellophane.
 
The architectural wall painting along with studio’s textiles decorated the interiors of Bauhaus buildings, providing polychromatic yet abstract visual interest to these somewhat sever spaces. While the weaving studio was primarily comprised for women, this was in part due to the fact that they were discouraged from participating in other areas.

Metalworking studio along with the cabinetmaking workshop was the most successful in developing design prototypes for mass production. In this studio were created modern items such as tableware and lightning fixtures; these objects were used in the Bauhaus campus itself.
 
Interestingly, Marianne Brandt was the first woman to attend the metalworking studio and replaced Maholy-Nagy as studio director in 1928. Many of her designs and works became iconic expressions of the Bauhaus aesthetic; her sculptural and geometric silver and ebony teapot, while never mass-produced reflects the Bauhaus emphasis on industrial forms and the influence of her mentor Maholy-Nagy.

Uniting the artist’s enthusiasm for material innovation and for the look of machines, the Light Prop/Light Space Modulator by Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (pictured above), 1930 is one of the most famous early examples of kinetic art.
 
It went on to be presented in many different ways: as a device for experimental theatre, as a freestanding immobile sculpture or as the protagonist of a short experimental film, in which it is shot from different vantage points.
 
The film captures the reflections and shadows created by the spinning sculpture, at times giving the impression of a functioning machine, a factory or even an urban landscape.

The typography studio, initially not a priority of the Bauhaus, became especially important under graphic designer Herbert Bayer. Many German designers attempted to encourage changes in national customs of printing during the 1920s. The most popular German typefaces, Hitherto, had been influenced by medieval script, and artists such as Herbert Bayer tried to supplant them with more classical designs.
 
His design employs a minimal, sans-serf typeface. Instead of having two alphabets, the uppercase and the lowercase, Bayer reduced the typeface to only lowercase letters, believing that the uppercase was redundant, since the distinction between lower and upper case conveyed no phonetic difference.

In 1923, a first poster was made for the school that intrigued others to notice the unique design and typeset. The main focus in designing was the effective visual communication with vibrant colors, a balanced layout, harmony, geometric shapes, strong bars, bold and universal type.
 
It was conceived as both an artistic expression and an empirical means of communication with visual clarity stressed above all. Bauhaus typography became connected to advertising and corporate identity. Since then, his typeface has become synonymous with the Bauhaus.

 

Serving Color

The piece Dissolving /Vanishing, 1951 is part of Josef Albers’s famous series Homage to the Square, described by his own words as ‘platters to serve color’. He began working on this series in 1949 and worked on it until his death in 1976.
 
This very piece demonstrates his systematic approach to investigating the optical effects of colors; he explored how colors change depending on their placement within the composition. Although the series was created several years after the Bauhaus movement, the work is typical of the experimental, modernist approach to color and form that underpinned Bauhaus teaching.
 
Teachers in the school believed that colors and forms could be reduced to essentials and analyzed as separate components; that analysis would yield understanding about the character and effects of these components, and that understanding would result in better design.

However, with Nazism in the ascent, political pressure mounted and in 1928, Walter Gropius was worn down by his work and by increasing battles with the school critics, and he stood down. Both of his successors Meyer and van der Rohe, spent their directorships mired in political strife.

Germany’s Loss of Influencers

By 1928, Meyer, a head of the architecture department was an active communist who incorporated his Marxist ideals through classroom programs and student organizations. However, the school continued to build in strength but criticism of Meyer’s Marxism grew, and eventually, in 1930, he was dismissed as director.
 
After local election brought the Nazis to power in 1932, the Bauhaus school in Dessau was closed.

The same year, 1932, the school moved to Berlin, under the new direction of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He struggled with far poorer resources and a faculty that had lost some of its brightest stars; he tried to remove politics from the school’s ethos, but after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the school was closed indefinitely.

During the turbulent and dangerous years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generation of young designers and architects.

In 1934, Walter Gropius left Germany, and in 1937 he arrived in the United States to become professor of architecture at Harvard University. He also helped fellow Bauhaüslers to find teaching jobs in America.
 
Together, they imbued generations of Americans with Bauhaus principles, while Gropius imprinted the technocratic vision of its mid- 1920s heyday on design history.

The Bauhaus effectively levelled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as painting and sculpture, paving the path for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late twenty century.

 

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Le Corbusier – The Picasso of Architecture and his Radiant Cities

Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light; light and shade reveal these forms; cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms which light reveals to advantage; the image of these is distinct and tangible within us without ambiguity.
 
It is for this reason that these are beautiful forms, the most beautiful forms. Everybody is agreed to that, the child, the savage and the metaphysician.

A Swiss-born France architect, Le Corbusier, belonged to the first generation of the so-called International school of architecture. His designs combine the functionalism with of the modern movement with a bold, sculptural expressionism; highly polemical designer hailed from obscurity in the Swiss Jura Mountains to become the most influential architect and urban planner of the twentieth century.
 
His ideas about rationalized, immense, zoned and industrially-constructed cities, seduced, but also shocked a global audience, while they never come to fruition as a cohesive vision, his disciples put many of their pieces into place around the world during and after his life.

Background

Charles Édouard-Jeanneret was born on October, 6, in 1887, in the small industrial town La Chaux-de-Fonds, known for its renowned watchmaking industry, in the section of the Alps in Switzerland, just across the border from France.
 
His mother was a music teacher, and his father worked as watch engraver and enameller.

The parents encouraged their son to study decorative arts in the hope that he would also become an engraver of watchcases like his father. Accordingly, Jeanneret entered the Advanced Decorative Arts Course at the Art School in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in 1904, but he left the school at the age of 13.

The course on decoration there was taught by the painter Charles L’Eplattenier (pictured below). He would exert a strong influence on the young Jeanneret, whom he called ‘my master’ and later referred to him as his only teacher.
 
L’Eplattenier taught Jeanneret drawing, art history and a naturalist aesthetics of Art Nouveau, and he insisted that his pupil also study architecture, and he arranged for his first commissions working on local projects.

Travels

Starting in 1907, Jeanneret began his life’s extensive travels, first encountering classical architecture on a visit to Italy. In the following next years, he visited many European cities, including Paris, where he worked in the studio of architect Auguste Perret (1908-10); moved on to Berlin, between 1910 and 1911, where he worked in the office of Peter Behrens, the most important architect in Germany at that time.
 
Afterwards, Jeanneret embarked on a trip to Eastern Europe visiting cities: Prague, Athens, Istanbul, Budapest, Bucharest, and making extensive drawings that would later be compiled in his book Journey to the East (1966).

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These trips played a crucial role in Jeanneret’s education, providing him three major architectural discoveries; he witnessed and absorbed the importance of the contrast between large collective spaces and individual compartmentalized spaces, an observation that formed the basis for his vision of residential buildings, classic proportions via Renaissance architecture and geometric forms and the use of landscapes as an architectural tool.

L’Espirite Nouveau, Purism, Reinvention

Back to home in La Chaux-de-Fonds, he began to teach architecture, interior design, and began working on his own studies of reinforced concrete. Around 1914/15, he developed and applied for a patent for his ’Dom-ino’ House system of construction, which consisted of slab floors of concrete raised slightly above grade, supported on thin reinforced pillars set back from the edges, so as to free up the entire facade and the interior floor space.
 
It was a first step towards Le Corbusier’s new theory of modern architecture.

In 1917, at the age of 30, Jeanneret moved to Paris and opened his own studio. In this period, he met cubist painters Georges Braque, Picasso, Juan Gris and Amédée Ozenfant, who introduced him to sophisticated contemporary art.
 
With Ozenfant he developed a new movement in painting called Purism, which took its name from the purity of the geometric forms of objects depicted in their still-life works. The following year, the two exhibited their painting in Paris, accompanied by the manifesto Après le Cubisme, After Cubism, a critique of Cubism and Futurism.

As a artistic movement, Purism gained strength in 1920, with the launch of the magazine L’Esprit Nouveau, in whose first issue Jeanneret adopted his professional pseudonym Le Corbusier an alteration of his grandfather’s name, Lecorbesier, to reflect his belief that anyone could reinvent himself.
 
In addition, adopting a single name to represent oneself artistically was especially en vogue at the time, and Le Corbusier wanted to create a persona that could keep separate his critical writing from his work as architect and painter.
 
In this period, he focused primarily on painting and published his ideas on architecture and art in this very magazine.

Purism intended to represent objects as pure, simple forms stripped of detail, to provide a timeless quality to industrial subject matter. The painting Still Life with a Stack of Plates, from 1920, is one of the best examples of Purism, shows an ideological celebration of industrial civilization and exhibiting the ready-made lexicon of everyday life as an aesthetic discourse.

In this piece, Le Corbusier depicted the naked forms in paint, historically the format that promised to elevate its subject matter to a new level of respect worthy of discussion. The solidity and wholeness of the chosen objects, the composition that creates new form represents Purism’s faith in modernity and its commitment to moving civilization forward.
 
The pure forms comprise a critique of Futurism and Cubism, the movements that glorified the fragmentation or destruction of the objects, destruction of the world and the field of vision, akin to the modern destruction caused by World War I.

The years from 1922 to 1940 were as extremely rich in city planning projects in architecture. As was always to be the case with Le Corbusier, inbuilt projects, as soon as they were published, created as much stir as did the finished buildings.

In 1922, Le Corbusier formed a partnership with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, which lasted until 1940. One of their first projects was a new studio for Ozenfant in Paris; it revealed Le Corbusier’s dedication to the new industrial aesthetic: using large expanses of glass set into reinforced concrete structure raised on point-support piers called pilotis, the roof employed a sawtooth configuration of skylights, like industrial buildings, as if to indicate that the studio was a factory for art.

The same year, at the Salon d’Automne Le Corbusier exhibited two projects that expressed his idea of social and public environment and contained the essence of all works of this period. The first project, Citrohan House, displays his conception of modern architecture; pillars supporting the structure, freeing the ground beneath the building, a roof-terrace, transformable into a garden and an essential part of the house, an open floor plan: a clear facade free of ornamentation, and windows in strips that affirm the independence of the structural frame.

maisson citrohan 19220 stuttgart germany le corbusier

The second project was his first urban scheme, the Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants, whose propositions were very shocking: cruciform-plan, a grid of sixty-story, naked glass-and-steel skyscrapers set amongst a web of highways and streets, surrounded by a low-rise complex of apartment buildings set within a park-like green space.
 
In the center a massive multilevel transit hub rose amongst the skyscrapers, with a landing strip for airplanes on the roof-a highly imaginative feature that probably was not workable.

In 1923, Le Corbusier published Vers une architecture/ Toward the Architecture, which consists of his collated and edited polemical articles from L’Espirite Nouveau magazine. The text lays out his principles of a modern architecture the essential precepts of what would become the so-called International Style.
 
Le Corbusier’s polemical articles proposed a new architecture that would satisfy the demands of industry, functionalism and the abiding concerns of architectural form, as defined over generations.

 

Five Points of a New Architecture

In this very book Le Corbusier termed the Five Points of a New Architecture; the foundation of the Five Points was the use of pilotis, which enabled the second point, the free plan, by allowing for maximum flexibility in floor space; as well as the third point, a free façade, since the point supports meant that there was no need for load-bearing exterior walls.
 
Le Corbusier preferred to blur the boundary between interior and exterior, so the fourth point of his system emphasized the use of ribbon windows, or a curtain wall; to highlight the building’s link to nature, a roof terrace constituted the fifth point.
 
The best illustrations of his system can be seen in the numerous villas he constructed around Paris in the 1920s.

In 1925s, Le Corbusier revealed these concepts for the general public in his own Espirit Nouveau pavilion at the world’s fair, the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, that eventually produced the term Art Deco.

The pavilion functioned as a manifesto of Le Corbusier’s ideas and illustrated his belief that industry, through standardization required for mass-production, could create the buildings necessary for modern living. He aimed to show the radical transformation and structural liberties reinforced concrete and steel allow us to envisage in urban housing.
 
Also, he aimed to demonstrate that the comfortable and elegant units of habitation could be agglomerated in long, lofty blocks of villa-flats. Le Corbusier’s insistence on the utility of his model, thereby exposing the crass commercialization of the rest of the fair, no doubt contributed to the exposition’s directors’ attempts to cordon off his pavilion behind a barrier until an injunction from the Ministry of Culture lifted it.

By the late 1920s, Le Corbusier’s stature as one of the founders of the new architecture was secured.

In 1927, Le Corbusier took part in the competition set by the League of Nations for its design of its new centre in Geneva. His projects with its wall of insulating and heating glass, is one of the finest examples of functional analysis.
 
He proposed an office building for a political organization that was not a neoclassical temple,(for the first time anywhere), but corresponded in its structure and design to a strict analysis of function. This very plan was to become the prototype of all future United Nations buildings.
 
His project verily would have shared a first prize but was eliminated on the grounds of not having been drawn up in india ink as the rules of the competition specified. This disqualification, which was certainly the result of conspiracy on the part of conservative members of the jury, embittered Le Corbusier in his attitude toward official architectural circles.
 
However, the elimination of his project gave him needed publicity by identifying him with modern avant-garde architecture.

Radiant Cities

In this period, Le Corbusier began traveling as his services were in demand internationally. In 1929, he visited South America, lecturing in Argentina, Brazil and Urugvay. He also visited the Soviet Union and won the contract for the government office building, the Centrosoyuz, in Moscow, 1933, which would turn out to be his first and only building in USSR.

In 1935, Le Corbusier was invited back in Brazil at the behest of Lúcio Costa, an admirer, who with a team of architects had been given the commission to design the new Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro.
 
Le Corbusier’s design took his Five Points to literally new heights as he led the design team to craft a skyscraper on pilotis whose massive curtain-wall facade was articulated by external brise-soleil, sunbreaker shades, due to the hot tropical climate.

During the 1930s Le Corbusier’s commissions in France began to decline (due to the Great Depression) but, he continued to write hoping to get his urban plans adopted by the governmental authorities. At the same time, his politics began to take a dangerous turn; an enthusiast of capitalism and the major industrialists, he flirted with Communism, beginning with his visit to the USSR, dropped much of his support for capitalism after the stock market crash in 1929.
 
Also, having fallen out of Stalin’s favor in the early 1930s due to the adoption of Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union, Le Corbusier began to sympathize Fascism. In his urban plans, particularly in the publication of Radiant City, from 1930, he described the cities he imagined as ruled by an ‘architect-dictator’.
 
In addition, Le Corbusier accepted invitation from Mussolini to lecture in Rome in 1934; in 1940, when Vichy regime came to power in France, he offered his services to Marshal Philippe Petain’s pro-Nazi government, but was rebuffed.
 
Eventually, he abandoned hopes of collaboration in 1942.

Around the final stage of World War II, Le Corbusier created the Modulor, a proportional system based on the Golden Section and scaled to the human figure. From 1945 onwards, all of his projects would be based on this system of proportions; the outline of a muscular man with his left hand arm raised above his head can be seen in most of his drawings or imprinted in the walls of windows of some of his iconic buildings.

Picasso of Architecture

Given the fact to which Western nations tried to erase all traces of Fascism after the war, it remains astonishing that Le Corbusier’s attempts at collaborations did not definitively sink his career. In addition, by the time the war ended, Le Corbusier had welded the attacks launched against him by representatives of traditional architecture into a myth, for the public, he had become the Picasso of architecture, and for architecture students, the symbol of modernity.

In 1945, Le Corbusier was given the chance to build the first large-scale housing block, the Unité d’Habitation, in Marseilles. The Unité, the first of several that Le Corbusier built around Europe in the 1940s and 1950s; its conception was a long time in making and can be traced back to the blocks of apartments he developed for his housing scheme of the 1930s.

The Unité represents the most complete realization of Corbusier’s idea of communal housing, very often described as a ‘city within a city. The 337 apartment units in the building are divided into 23 types in order to accommodate different family arrangements- from a bachelor to a family with eight children.
 
Halfway up the building, along the interior road of floors seven and eight, essential services are provided such as bakery, dairy, seafood shop, vegetable and fruit shop, butcher, drugstore, laundry, post office, cleaning service, hotel, restaurant etc.
 
In addition, on the 17
th floor, it can be found a nursery and a kindergarten; a ramp leads to the rooftop, which contains indoor and outdoor athletics facilities, swimming pool and a snack bar.

 

Notre-Damme-du-Haut

Le Corbusier’s buildings from his late period offered a more conscious homage to nature and exposed primordial materials; stone in combination with concrete. This rough aesthetic formed the basis of some of Corbusier’s most organic, sculptural works, as the chapel Notre-Damme-du-Haut (1950-55), near Ronchamp in eastern France.

Perched on atop o the hill, the church is atypical among Le Corbusier’s works. Its highly organic and sculptural forms use virtually no right angles and make no reference to his prismatic clarity. The inclined walls appear almost to be collapsing inwards under the weight of the massive brown concrete roof.
 
Only when the visitor enters the small and dark sanctuary, pierced by small shards of light, does he discover the thickness and solidity of these walls that firmly enfold the space, creating a solemn atmosphere with meditative tranquility.
 
The scholars and critics have traced Le Corbusier’s inspirations for this chapel to the Athenian Acropolis, Mediterranean sources, the Hebrew temple and Bronze Age crypts.

 

Chandigarh

In 1951, he was awarded the commission for designing a new provincial Indian capital of Chandigarh, which had to be created from a blank slate due to the territorial partitions between India and Pakistan.
 
For him, this job was the chance to show the Western powers what they had missed in refusing to implement his urban plans. For the next ten years, he was occupied with intensive work on this project.

Chandigarh was planned to house 300,000 inhabitants, spread over 47 numbered sectors organized on a grid; each sector consist of a self-sufficient unit with basic services, such as shops, health center, school, areas for worship and recreations.
 
As in his other projects, Le Corbusier prioritized the automobile connecting the sectors through wide boulevards. In order to confirm the modern ideas of efficiency and functionality, the city was zoned according to its different uses: a commercial center, residential buildings, university complex, recreation area, medical complex, and central park around a large artificial lake.

He also designed the famed Capitol Complex which included the Legislative Assembly, the High Court buildings, the Secretariat; it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2016.

Their impressive scale boldly displays the architect’s affinity for rough cast-concrete, punctuated by long rows of bays articulated by prominent brise-soleil to provide relief from the hot desert sun. Chandigarh’s success might be gauged from recent polls that reveal it to be the happiest city of India, most likely due to the calm and order resulting from its unique design.

Corbusier Death (Bon Voyage)

Le Corbusier died on August, 27, 1965 of an apparent heart attack while swimming in the Mediterranean. In spite of the many times in which the state had rejected his services, he was given a funeral in the courtyard of the Louvre on September, 1st 1965.

Le Corbusier’s six decade career reshaped cities from India to South America. He disseminated his ideas through his forty books and hundreds of published essays and worked on over four hundred architectural projects and the extensive practice established him as one of the most controversial and most influential artists of the twenty century.
 
However, many of his ideas were too utopian and idealistic to be put in practice, especially the ones reflecting his desire for a sort of order of society and extreme control.

Le Corbusier’s perspectives and interpretations of the world and its interaction with architecture often changed and remain difficult to trap down. Even today, his work continues to be studied, reinterpreted and criticized gaining new meanings over and over again, inspiring generations to come.