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Lena Bergner: From the Bauhaus to Mexico

Lena Bergner, Weaving Technique: J ( Loom Detail), 1943, © President
and Fellows of Harvard College Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum,
Gift of Markus Michalke in honor of Timotheus R. Pohl, 2007.200, © Heirs of Lena Bergner.

The story of Lena Bergner is relevant to the history of architecture and design on account of her career passing through different ideological and cultural contexts. Here we will discuss her life and work, focusing on her training in the Bauhaus, her time in the USSR and her time in Mexico, where, along with her husband the architect Hannes Meyer, over a ten-year period she undertook cultural projects of great importance.

Lena Bergner was born in Coburg, Germany in 1906 to a family of Slavic and German origin. She grew up surrounded by both cultures. Bergner subsequently studied at the Professional School of Applied Arts in Coburg, and at the Bauhaus in Dessau between 1926 and 1929. At the age of 19 she started studying in the Bauhaus textile workshop, where, under the tutelage of Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky and Joost Schmidt, she began to accrue her practical and artistic knowledge.1 However, it was during the courses on the theory of color given by Paul Klee2 that she encountered a way of approaching art that would significantly impact her professional work.3 With reference to the Klee course, Bergner wrote:

“On his courses, he focused on the law of the surface itself, as well as the relationships between form and color … in addition to formal instruction, the weavers got together for occasional meetings during which they critically analyzed the fabrics, under Klee’s guidance.”4

Lena Bergner working at her loom, from: Arquitectura y Decoración, no. 16, 1939.

In 1927 she worked in the graphic design department, and in 1929 at the school’s weaving workshop under the management of Gunta Stölz,5 who arrived at the Bauhaus shortly after it first opened in 1919.6 At the school, “Bauhäusler” women were not only individual practitioners but also theorists who engaged in a continuous dialogue through their material and formal mastery, thereby expressing the intention of the workshop to create a space of recognition.7 The textiles made by the designers speak to us of the search for a meeting between human manufacture and the machine—a pairing that dominated the idea of labor in the early 20th century. They also recognized their collective responsibility, due in part to the fact that artisanal weaving practices required these women to work within and for the objectives of the school as opposed to their own objectives.8 The textile workshop of the Bauhaus posed a series of questions to the collective relating to the technique and the functions of the loom “… textile yarn was at that time the most industrialized technique and the technique that could be best exploited by the Bauhaus.”9

Lena Bergner was no exception to such questions; throughout her public life, she published various texts in which she set out the concerns she developed while at the Bauhaus. She remarked how, with the standard of textiles as a vehicle for communicating the social, the German-speaking producers had begun to consider raw materials, colors and ligaments10 as the means of expression for textile designers, the basis for illustrating social themes based on their own experience. Bergner also observed that textile design and the range of colors used in an object demonstrated the state of the chemical industry in a country, or the dependence of a national industry on other, more advanced countries, since “occasional fluctuations in the economic life of certain countries prevents the use of certain materials, [meaning that] substitutes appear and influence the structure of the textiles.”11

In the context of the time, Bergner’s ideas infer that every day more was demanded of the designer, reiterating the importance of the useful object as a substitute for the ornament12 and the Bauhaus’s controversial combining of arts and craft. According to Bergner, the social aspects that influenced art and industry related to a society’s “modus vivendi”— consumption needs, procedures, prevailing ideologies and thinking, and the general political context.

Bergner appears to have understood the brief of the textile designer as that of a creator of the objective world.13 She identified the designer as a supplier of a “total configuration,” who, by fulfilling or satisfying categories such as utility, aesthetics and the social, could establish a new reality by addressing the relationship between subject and object. Accordingly, the most important attribute of the individual would be that of builder.14

Bergner took into account the idea that architecture forms a whole and that textile design is a fundamental part of this whole: in a world constructed by people’s industry—the architectural structures and urban networks that comprise the built environment—individuals come to feel at home in the world through the artifacts that enable them to make such structures their own. For Bergner, textiles had an influence on the inhabitants of a building. In the fabric used for furniture, upholstery color is determined in conjunction with the intended position of a piece of furniture, creating virtual states of coolness or warmth. Fabrics for work rooms, in her opinion, should be different from fabrics for resting rooms. Thinking about the use of fabrics opens up a whole range of considerations, with implications for the most modest to the most luxurious of contexts.15

The designer considered three elements as the basis for producing fabrics: materials, with all of the specific structural details thereof; ligaments, with the compositional variety they enable; and colors, in natural and artificial tones. The two main objectives of textile design (utility and decoration) are derived from these three plastic elements, and these objects serve the biological needs of people.16

Lena Bergner, Carpet Rhombe, 1938, from: Arquitectura y Decoración, no. 16, 1939.

Lena Bergner, Weaving Technique: C ( Loom Detail), 1943, © President and Fellows of Harvard College Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Markus Michalke in honor of Timotheus R. Pohl, 2007.193, © Heirs of Lena Bergner.

Color was essential to Bergner’s work, not simply because they provide different ways to articulate a medium, but also because they strengthen the work in a plastic sense. If painting had been spurned by Constructivists and the Bauhaus as an art form that did not speak of reality and lacked social commitment, color—as an aspect of light—continued to be considered approvingly by both vanguards. In terms of perception, aesthetic enjoyment is not only formed by the weave, there is also something innate in color that triggers sensations.17 For Bergner, as one of the oldest fields of human activity, textile demonstrated the fundamental law of all plastic creation.18

After a six-month stay at the University College of Dyeing in Sorau,19 where she studied dyeing processes, on 6 October 1930 Bergner received her diploma from the Bauhaus, which she complimented with a professional examination as a weaver in the city of Glauchau in Saxony.20 She later became the manager of a manual textile factory in Königsberg, East Prussia, where she had previously lived for a time.

In 1937 she married Hannes Meyer, having become close to him during her trip to the Soviet Union. During her time in time there she developed fabrics for furniture factories, primarily in Moscow. In 1935, the first station in the Moscow metro was opened. Bergner had participated in the work along with the so-called Bauhaus Brigade, who arrived in the Soviet Union some time in 1931. The Brigade, led by Hannes Meyer, consisted of eight colleagues and students. The team focused on urban planning for cities, including Moscow,21 conceived of as a construction discipline and following the tenets of social realist architecture. Bergner developed her work between 1931 and 1936 in the Decorativtkan textile factory, which had some 650 workers and an annual production of 3.5 million meters of fabric intended for furniture, curtains and the like. Here she created more than forty drawings22 contributing to the needs of the Soviet government’s various five-year plans.23

When Lena Bergner first arrived in Moscow, it was in the middle of the government’s first Five-Year Plan (1928–1932). Artistic and cultural production was focused on abstraction, constructivist theory and propaganda work, to which Bergner responded with pictorial designs and themes based on the socialist city, the radio and the new metro system. However, for the second Five-Year Plan (1933–1937) there was a clear shift in her designs from geometric abstraction to folkloric themes, since the government’s plans in this period focused on propaganda exalting the socialist lifestyle, a theme demanding decorative elements incorporating oral and folkloric motifs.24 Bergner enthusiastically assumed an ideological commitment to the USSR and it was here that she made what are largely considered her most important and innovative fabrics.

Lena Bergner, Weaving Technique: F ( Loom Detail), 1943.

From Theory to Object: Metro

Representations of architecture in photography, cinema and painting have been one source for the creation of modernist imagery, and comprise an enduring theme in theory, the history of architecture and urbanism. Some of the works of Lena Bergner, including notably Metro, established fabric design as a medium requiring analysis, especially with regards to the way this body of work created a dialogue between architecture, urbanism and design.

Jacquard textile made of cotton, 1935, from: Arquitectura y Decoración, no. 16, 1939.

Metro25 dates from 1932, and was produced in the Soviet Union—a time and place where artworks were seen as a matter of general interest and not merely objects for collectors, or the privileged gaze of a given individual. Metro was also produced at a time when the reorganization of the West required a transformation in the means of communication.26 For this fabric, Bergner carried out an exercise in axonometry—a graphical procedure belonging to descriptive geometry, which generates a planar image from a three-dimensional object—with isometric projection: in other words, the work shows the volumes of objects without using linear perspective.27 The architectural image provided is isometric because all its angles are regular, creating forms that can be conceived by the human eye as everyday objects—trains, buildings, steps, windows and so on. This type of exercise was also used by the De Stijl movement. For example, Theo van Doesburg used them for the first time with his private house and artist’s house models, exhibited in October 1923 in Paris at the Effort Moderne Gallery, creating a spatiality intended to express atemporal universality.28

Curtain textile made of cotton and artificial silk, 1935, from: Arquitectura y Decoración, no. 16, 1939.

A close observation of the Metro fabric reveals a set of four buildings rising vertically from the horizontal plane, which is simultaneously both a floor and the roof of an underground building containing a train station. Eight rectangles arranged horizontally give form to this space, the highest building is formed by four rectangles on the front face and another long narrow rectangle on its side face, while the next building is formed by four and a half rectangles, another by four rectangles, and the last one by three. These forms represent the abstraction of the idea of international architecture that was predominant at this time. The buildings are rendered in green, red and beige; black is used to delineate and give volume—a function shared by Bergner’s use of the color white. The threads are arranged as follows: the weft is black and white; the warp red, green and beige.

Subsequently, the observer’s gaze is drawn to a formal set of stairs rendered in stepped shapes, comprising twelve rectangles in which the colors green and white alternate, triggering a sensation of volume and the appearance of six steps. To provide spatiality, Bergner used the perpendicular lines in conjunction with verticals of the weave. The vertical lines are made of green, red and beige thread, and the perpendiculars of black and white lines. We can see here one of the textile ideas held by Lena Bergner, who thought that …

“… coloring different materials with different tones or the same material with different colors brings about other very impressive characteristics in the same design. This process opens the way to more multiform and multicolor expressions, which demonstrates the plastic importance of color as an artistic element.”29

Finally, the eye is drawn towards the schematized metro station and train, the latter consisting of two subway cars. The floor of the station is articulated through rhombuses delineated in red and filled in using a combination of black and beige. The entrance to the tunnel is curved—the only curve in the entire composition—and the metro tracks are made out of thick red and black lines. The metro cars are formed by a series of green and white squares that simulate windows and are delineated by both thick and thin black lines. In general, the front face of the fabric is full of volumes that give the impression of a top view. These volumes are oriented towards a hypothetical spectator, creating a sensation of depth accentuated by the composition’s powerful black lines. The representation of the buildings, the stepped shapes and the cars of the metro train serve as dynamic elements, a metaphor30 for the incessant process of appropriating public space in the Soviet metropolis, and a form of social control that tended towards rationalization in the name of the future and progress.31

We can allude to four key aspects of the Metro fabric to explain its relationship with its creator and the objective world: the technique used (weaving), the materials, the colors and finally the representation of the chronotope.32 Understanding the weft of the thread is fundamental because it provides the shapes of the composition and speaks to us of the dialogue previously mentioned between human manufacture and the machine.

Lena Bergner, Design for "Metro" Textile, 1932, Gouache, graphite, and crayon on paper, bpk | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Heirs of Lena Bergner.

Metro is what Lena Bergner classified as a “strong” fabric. Like all fabrics used for furniture and carpets, it was compact, easy to maintain, agreeable to the touch, and light resistant. Under the direction of Hannes Meyer at the Bauhaus (1928 to 1930), the useful and material became a primary argument for the introduction of new social ideas as well as intensifying scientific-systematic experimentation. Around 1929, Meyer compared the Bauhaus to a factory, proposing the field of art contribute to generating new social possibilities:

“Do we want to be guided by the needs of the world that surrounds us, do we want to help to form new ways of life, or do we want to be an island?”33

The scientific nature of modern art’s materials also led to an emphasis on the field of colors, referencing the industry and chemistry of the time. The qualities of pigment, whether artificial or natural, opened the way for forms of multi-form and multicolor expression, revealing the importance of the pedagogical approach Paul Klee took in his Theory of color class.34 In the second part of Klee’s course,35 the students were taught the psychic properties of colors, as well as specific techniques using watercolor transparencies. Bauhaus students, including Bergner, also attended dyeing schools, where they learned to paint textiles and fibers using both natural colors and chemical dyes. By becoming familiar with the three elements of textile production mentioned above (weaves, materials and color), designers were able to fully acquaint themselves with the entire industrial process involved in making fabric.36

Metro was produced using cotton thread on a Jacquard loom, since the designer believed that:

“…(T)he easiest way to draw with textiles remains the line, which is used on the foot or in the weft, or in both simultaneously. These crossed lines draw squares. A complicated drawing that does not result directly from the basic weave requires a more complicated technique: the Jacquard loom. This enables a wide range of possibilities in the weave, in the composition of different materials and in the range of color tones.”37

The shapes in Metro are formed by crossing the threads in horizontal lines38 to produce squares that, as mentioned previously, give form to what is observed as repeated and superposed groups of buildings, and a floor leading to stairways and an underground level where we find the metro station. These images not only make visual sense because of the crossing of the warp and weft threads, but are defined by the use of color: green, red, bone, white and black—all of which were chemical dyes. Its subject is notable for illustrating an urban, or social, theme unusual in media of this type, suggesting that the architectural concepts taught at the Bauhaus, as well as the urbanist notions of the Brigade, were transferred by Bergner to the sphere of textiles. This craft understood cultural production as including both biological and psychological processes that satisfied social needs in the body and mind.39 Textile was seen as a social work that departed from the distance between art and the public.40

Lena Bergner, "Metro" Fabric Sample, 1932, Cotton and linen, bpk | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, © Heirs of Lena Bergner.

On this point it is worth noting that, as of 1932, the first underground transport station in Moscow had not yet opened. Nonetheless, the artist was already displaying the theoretical specifications that would be used in the station and other undertakings in the Soviet Union in accordance with the five-year plans. In Metro‘s design we find a correspondence between Bergner’s imagery of the collective and the artistic production of the time, one reaffirming the political, economic and social qualities of a new socialist reality, such that the designer-artist-engineer—as she was identified in a biography published in the journal Arquitectura y Decoración—is close to the concept of the proletarian artist. This conception of the artist differs from the bourgeois artist, as the latter confronts the multitude or masses as an alien element, while the proletarian artist is not alienated from the general public, or the urban surroundings in which they reside.41

We can see a process to build the idea of textile design as a reflection of the society in which it occurs.42 The forms arising from Metro relate to a propaganda-based meaning placed on an everyday life that was becoming increasingly frenetic:43 the interweaving of light and shade in Metro causes the observer to see architectonic volumes arising from the cloth, emphasizing the relationship between textile and architecture, a form of plastic rhetoric, allowing the appearance of a world transfigured from sketch to threaded weave. This textile provides a social discourse through artistic means, and began its journey—like architecture itself—in a sketch and culminated in an articulation of the concept of inhabiting space within a modern mass society.

In this sketch we can appreciate Bergner’s training at the Bauhaus and how it affected her work, such as her technological analysis,44 application of geometry and mechanics (balance and movement) to find the function of the artifact rather than staying on the level of appearances.45 For German-speaking designers, the importance of process took precedence over the final product, since the formal resolution of a design problem was observed as a movement where the end (the outcome) was death and the process itself was life.46 The colors Bergner used in the sketch are red and black, with some coffee tones. She used a white sheet hand-squared with graphite pencil to create the configurations, starting with the set of vertical buildings. Variations between what she imagined while executing her sketch and the final material result are clearly visible. We can find changes in the number of buildings, in the length of the cars of the metro train, and the number of stepped forms. The drawing also shows us details of the textile configuration that are not obvious at first sight. The sketch reaffirms, as suggested by Ernst Gombrich, that:

“… (T)here is a tendency in our minds and manner to perceive in terms of simple configurations. Lines, circles and simple shapes are more likely than other formations to be perceived randomly in our meeting with the outside world.”47

It appears that the world that the designer wanted to create was one of geometric shapes, which stand apart from natural shapes and appear disordered before our eyes.48 This work by Lena Bergner is a good example of the Soviet policy of inculcating a positive picture of socialist mass society to the masses through architecture and, in particular, design.

Bergner in Mexico: Ten Years of Design and Graphics

Following ideological conflicts between the Bauhauslers and the Soviet authorities, the Bauhaus Brigade left the Soviet Union. Bergner accompanied Meyer to Switzerland in 1936, where she focused on designing and making textiles,49 specializing in hand weaving.50 However, the rise of fascism in Europe led her to leave the continent, and in 1939, together with her now-husband Hannes Meyer and daughter Lilo, she emigrated to Mexico, settling in the country’s capital. Her Mexican identity card listed her profession as teacher and artist.51

Bergner arrived in Mexico at a time when a specific education in the Bauhaus style was being developed, complemented by knowledge of the textile industry.52 Her ideas, disseminated in articles written for Arquitectura y Decoración, opened up a space for Mexican architects and designers to reflect on the range of aesthetic experiences viewers might have when they observed in the textile object not just the formal qualities of a work of art, but a concrete image of what individuals represented socially.

In general, Mexican society in the early twentieth century viewed textile design as a craft product. This thinking was shared by the Mexican artists who were Bergner’s contemporaries, who, in line with the cultural policy of the time, were also developing a profile as educators and industrial designers supportive of the revolution. In their work and teaching they also strove to design politically, highlighting the social concerns that would facilitate post-revolutionary unification.53 Their work aimed to achieve an integrative effect,54 employing an anthropological vision that sought to merge “the different cultural identities in Mexico, the effect of which was an about-turn in the perception of manual and ethnic industry.”55 The growing dialogue between urban and rural regions led art critics to idealize artists as workers, producing work and object to support community progress.56 It was in this context that the designs presented by Lena Bergner to the journal Arquitectura y Decoración were seen as dialectic works,57 taking into account the importance of social conditions in a given historical period.

From the time she first arrived in Mexico, Bergner worked on contributing intellectually and practically to socialist society. Although the government of Lázaro Cárdenas was about to end, Mexico in 1939 still appeared like the ideal place for communist and socialist intellectuals, politicians and artists to work. In accordance with this mindset, and after reading the article “Las industrias otomíes del valle del Mezquital” (“Otomi industry in the Mezquital valley”)58 by Francisco Rojas, Bergner drew up a program for textile education in the Bauhaus style for Otomi communities, although she never managed to implement the project.

Exposición anual del Programa federal de construcción de escuelas, 1945, from: Fondo Enrique Yáñez, Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos de la Facultad de Arquitectura (AAM–FA) UNAM.

Exposición anual del Programa federal de construcción de escuelas, 1945, from: Fondo Enrique Yáñez, AAM–FA.

Although Bergner was in the end unable to apply her skills in industrial and textile design directly in Mexico, it was still a very fruitful time for her as a graphic designer. She created the visual identity for a catalogue and exhibition of the Management committee for the Federal Program of School Construction (CAPFCE) between 1944 and 1946. When the school-construction body held an exhibition in 1945 in the Palacio de Bellas Artes—exhibiting existing buildings and future plans, as well as plans for literacy programs—Bergner was charged with designing the layout, statistics and informational maps59 compiled by Hannes Meyer. A traveling exhibition,60 the show brought the work of the Bauhaus designer to different audiences and venues.

In August 1947, the first issue of the publication Construyamos Escuelas was released, for which Bergner provided the book design, using the assignment to emphasize constructivist notions she assimilated during her time in Moscow. In her capacity as a designer, she appears to have observed space as the foundation of a new social, political and economic order. Geometry, lines, top views and montage were used by Bergner as mechanisms for visual communication intrinsic to and in correspondence with the publication’s discourse. It is possible that she used this to continue communicating the idea of a just modernity through the use of visual language and a content that was aimed at a wider audience, not only an elite comprised of architects and designers.61

Exposición anual del Programa federal de construcción de escuelas, 1945, from: Fondo Enrique Yáñez, AAM–FA.

It is important to emphasize that Meyer and Bergner did not abandon their architectural or industrial design work during their time in Mexico, although they did become involved in other fields. Throughout nearly the entirety of their stay in Mexico they participated in the Taller de Gráfica Popular (People’s Graphic Workshop, TGP). It is highly likely the initial contact came from Hannes Meyer joining the Teatro de las Artes in the electrician’s union, according to research by Helga Prignitz-Poda.62 In 1942, with the appearance of the publishing house Estampa Mexicana,63 the couple solidified their fruitful relationship with the workshop, which continued even after Meyer’s death. Both Bergner and Meyer viewed the workshop as a space that could become a cultural and political center for all manners of artistic expression, and between 1941 and 1942 Bergner even organized an exhibition of the TGP in the USSR,64 in partnership with Georg Stibi.65 As with her work for the CAPFCE, in the TGP catalogues Bergner used a characteristic typeface and logo befitting her socialist ideals. By 1948, all the publications and advertising pages of the working group would for the first time employ a uniform design.66 In that same year, much of Meyer and Bergner’s energy was directed towards publishing a book/catalogue on the workshop, which included a historical outline whose contents, design and editorial composition were handled by Bergner.67 They continued to publicize the workshop with overseas exhibitions even after they left Mexico for good in 1949.

Lena Bergner led a dynamic political life in Mexico. She worked together with the TGP in its battle against fascism, and her work continued to gain visibility both in the United States and Europe. She and Hannes Meyer were not only editors and curators of graphic exhibitions, they were political activists, active at important moments in the worldwide battle against fascism as well as Mexico’s domestic political context. She believed in the values of leftwing philosophy she first acquired in Germany, and she continued to follow these ideals during her stay in the USSR. Later she would have occasion to reflect on her earlier thinking, and it turned out Mexican society in the 1940s offered the perfect locale for her to rethink her politics and continue developing her artistic work. It is impossible to refer to Lena Bergner’s artistic and design work without also thinking of her as a social and political figure.

Translated from the Spanish by Laurence Nunny.

Construyamos Escuelas, ed. by Hannes Meyer, no. 1, August 1947, gta-Archiv / ETH Zürich.

●Footnotes
  • 1 Sigrid Wortmann Weltge: Women’s Work. Textile Art from the Bauhaus, Chronicle Books, San Francisco 1993, p. 108.
  • 2 Lena Bergner: “Unterricht bei Klee”, in: Form + Zweck. Fachzeitschrift für industrielle Formgestaltung, No. 3, 1979, pp. 60–62.
  • 3 “Los tapetes y tapices de Léna Bergner”, in: Arquitectura y Decoración, no. 16, 1939, p. 77.
  • 4 Bergner: “Unterricht bei Klee,” 1979.
  • 5 Hal Foster: Arte desde 1900, Akal, Tres Cantos 2006, p. 185.
  • 6 The following year, she proposed opening a class specifically for weaving students, thereby becoming the representative of the Textiles Workshop and acting as general teacher from 1927 to 1931. T’ai Smith: “A collective and its individuals: the Bauhaus and its women”, in: Cornelia H. Butlery & Alexandra Schwartz (eds.): Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York 2010, p. 160.
  • 7 Smith: “A collective and...”, p. 172.
  • 8 Magdalena Droste: Bauhaus 1919–1933, Taschen, Cologne 1991, p. 72.
  • 9 Ibid.
  • 10 Léna Bergner: “Algunas ideas sobre tejidos”, in: Arquitectura y Decoración, p. 78, no. 16, 1939.
  • 11 Bergner: “Algunas ideas...,” p. 78.
  • 12 Adolf Loos also made reference to the elimination of ornaments in favour of a purely functional approach to design. Adolf Loos: Ornamento y delito y otros escritos, translation by Lourdes Cirlot, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona 1972.
  • 13 Max Scheler: El puesto del hombre en el cosmos, translation by José Gaos, Losada, Buenos Aires 1938, p. 8.
  • 14 Ibid, p. 7.
  • 15 Bergner: “Algunas ideas...,” 1939, p. 78.

  • 16 Ibid.
  • 17 Mario de Micheli: Las vanguardias artísticas del siglo xx, Editorial Alianza, Madrid 2008, p. 351.
  • 18 Bergner: “Algunas ideas...,” 1939, p. 78.
  • 19 The University of Weimar possesses some data encompassing what Lena Bergner herself would provide for her intellectual biography in the journal Arquitectura y Decoración in 1939. “Lena Bergner,” portal of the University of Weimar, https://www.uni-weimar.de/de/universitaet/struktur/zentrale-einrichtungen/archiv-der-moderne-universitaetsarchiv/bestandsuebersicht/datensaetze/privatarchive-nachlaesse/nachlass-lena-bergner/
  • 20 Portal of the University of Weimar.
  • 21 Hannes Meyer was dismissed in 1930 as director or the Bauhaus as a result of the political tension that had arisen between students of a “communist” orientation and students who arrived at the Bauhaus without deeply held political or ideological beliefs. Meyer’s troubled relationship with the mayor of Dessau at that time was one cause for his eventual ouster, with the latter fearing that the politicization of the school of architecture would interfere with the Bauhaus’s relationship with the city. That some members of the Bauhaus were revealing themselves to be social democrats also did little to help Meyer’s position. The school had re-established itself in this city after leaving Weimar. Georg Leidenberg: “Todo aquí es vulkanish. El arquitecto Hannes en México, 1938–1949,” p. 503, in: Laura Rojas y Susana Deeds (coords.): México a la luz de sus revoluciones, vol. 2, El Colegio de México, Mexico 2014.
  • 22 Bergner: “Algunas ideas...,” 1939, p. 77.
  • 23 The Five-year plans were State-sponsored projects carried out over a pre-defined period of time. In the USSR, they not only had economic and political objectives, but also sought to establish communist ideology through cultural and social reorganization. Meyer and Bergner participated in the first two five-year plans. During the first five-year plan (1928–1932), the basic industries began to be reorganized, primarily the field of agriculture, and there were technological advances in town planning. In the second five-year plan (1933 – 1937) the country experienced major economic growth and sought to improve the quality of the people’s life, with industrial design and the decorative arts used to encourage a feeling of identification with the Soviet republics by highlighting the “folkloric beauty” that could be found across the USSR. Hannes Meyer: “Proyecto de extensión y reconstrucción del gran Moscú–URSS”, in: Arquitectura y Decoración, No. 12, 1938, pp. 263–267. 
  • 24 Wortmann Weltge: Women’s Work..., 1979, p. 109.

  • 25 Along with the original sketch, a sample of the Metro textile has been in storage at the Antonio Ratti Textile Center of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 1985. Both were donated by a private collector. The textile sample measures 41 × 59.4 cm. The object appears in the catalogue under the name Metro (1985). However, the oldest name, dating from 1939, is The underground metro.
  • 26 Francesco Dal Co: Socialismo, ciudad y arquitectura: URSS 1917–1937. La aportación de los arquitectos europeos, Alberto Corazón, Madrid 1973, p. 113.
  • 27 I would like to thank the architect Enrique Ibarra Pineda, a contributor to the Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo in the Department of Museography and Production, for his explanation of the technical aspects of this type of projection.
  • 28 Ana Moreno Cañizales: “Diseño y tipografía en De Stijl,” p. 3, in: i+Diseño. Revista Internacional De Investigación, Innovación y Desarrollo en Diseño, no. 9, April 2014.
  • 29 Bergner: “Algunas ideas...,” 1939.
  • 30 This text makes reference to the metaphor as a figure that represents a reality in objects that share a certain similarity therewith. In other words, we can see the dynamism of the textile forms as a representation of urban soviet life.
  • 31 Dal Co: Socialismo, ciudad y arquitectura..., 1973, p. 106.
  • 32 Bakhtin defines a chronotope literally as a “time-space,” referring the concept to the essential social connection of artistically assimilated time and space relationships. Bakhtin, one of the most prominent of the Russian Formalists, explains that “in the artistic chronotope, the spatial and temporal elements join together in an intelligible and concrete whole.” Although Lena Bergner’s textile is not a novel, in this essay I reflect upon the narration-representation of its context. Mijail Bajtin: Teoría y estética de la novella, Taurus, Madrid 1989, p. 237.
  • 33 Hans Maria Wingler: The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1969, p. 141.
  • 34 When Lena Bergner made the textile Metro in the Soviet Union, the theory of color, chemical and industrial studies were already widely known among designers. Christina Lodder: Constructive Strands in Russian Art. 1914–1937, Pindar Press, London 2005, p. 589.
  • 35 In the class, they did scale exercises, which involved implementing nine steps, for example from black to white, from yellow to red, or from red to blue, applying wash upon wash to achieve a gradation between two pure colors. Werner David Feist: My Years at the Bauhaus, translation by Elizabeth Volk, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Berlin 2012, p. 39.
  • 36 Feist: My Years at the Bauhaus, p. 39.
  • 37 Bergner: “Algunas ideas...”, 1939.

  • 38 The line, as proposed in the constructivist manifesto of 1920, is not observed as a descriptive value but as a direction of static forces and rhythm in objects, as a creator of depth and therefore space. Mario de Michelli: “Manifiesto del realismo. 1920,” in: Las vanguardias artísticas del siglo xx, Editorial Alianza, Madrid 2008, p. 351.
  • 39 Hannes Meyer: Hannes Meyer. El arquitecto en la lucha de clases y otros escritos, Editorial Gustavo Gil, Barcelona 1972, p. 236.
  • 40 The object possesses qualities that tell us of a dialogue with the futurist vanguard that came before Russian constructivism. The latter movement would form a fundamental part of the thinking of the German architects and designers in the Soviet Union of the 1930s.
  • 41 Dal Co: Socialismo, ciudad y arquitectura..., 1973, p. 99.

  • 42 An analysis of Léna Bergner’s work reveals that textile design production (at least from the Bauhaus) is very closely connected to the context in which it is created. A work of textile can give us information about the society in which it is produced, such as modes of production, the use of raw materials, and its function in daily life (when relating the objects to specific uses). Textile objects therefore serve as a reference for what is more generally being communicated socially at certain historical-artistic moments in time.
  • 43 Christina Kiaer: Imagine No Possessions. The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2005.

  • 44 Wortmann Weltge: Women’s Work..., p. 92.
  • 45 Paul Klee: Teoría del arte modern, translation by Hugo Acevedo, Ediciones Caldén, Buenos Aires 1970, p. 76.
  • 46 Ibid, p. 91.

  • 47 Gombrich: El sentido del orden..., 2006.
  • 48 Ibid, p. 5.
  • 49 Wolfgang Thöner: Entfernt. Frauen des Bauhauses während der NS-Zeit-Verfolgung und Exil, edition text + kritik, Munich 2012, p. 299.

  • 50 Wortmann Weltge: Women’s Work..., 1979, p. 109.

  • 51 Fondo Migración, Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City.

  • 52 Sources such as the catalogues of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) and texts translated into Otomi are evidence of Lena Bergner’s close work with educational establishments in Mexico.
  • 53 Francisco Reyes: “Otras modernidades, otros modernismos”, p. 19, in: Esther Acevedo (coord.): Hacia otra historia del arte en México. La fabricación del arte nacional a debate 1920–1950, Conaculta, Mexico 2002.
  • 54 Ibid, p. 18.
  • 55 Karen Cordero: “La invención del arte popular y la construcción de la cultura visual moderna en México,” p. 71, in: Esther Acevedo (coord.): Hacia otra historia del arte en México..., 2002.
  • 56 Ibid, p. 68.

  • 57 The dialectic nature to which Lena Bergner refers relates to Marxist dialectic materialism, popular among the students of the Bauhaus in Dessau and essential to the idea of seeing the community as a socio-political workshop. At the institution, students read Marx, Engels and Lenin. Feist: My Years at the Bauhaus, p. 82.
  • 58 Individual sheets from the article “Mappe 1,” Lena Bergner collection, Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin.
  • 59 The Fundación Mariana Yampolsky holds in store (uncatalogued) the catalogue that Hannes Meyer made for CAPFCE. In the catalogue, the graphic design and illustrations are attributed to Lena Bergner. Her hand can be clearly seen when comparing the images with photographs from the exhibition.
  • 60 Uncatalogued photographs in the Fondo Enrique Yáñez, Archivo Arquitectos Mexicanos, UNAM.
  • 61 Construyamos escuelas, no. 1, 1947, Hannes Meyer collection, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland.
  • 62 Helga Prignitz suggests that this was the main contact between the Meyers and the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP), mentioning that “since Aguirre, O’Higgins and Méndez were active members of the association, the Teatro de las Artes was the meeting point for Mexican and exiled intellectuals (of all nationalities) who were interested in art. It’s scenic space also hosted assemblies of the electrician’s union, where Siqueiros, Pujol, Renau, Arenal and others had painted a mural.” Helga Prignitz-Poda: Taller de Gráfica Popular, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut—Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin 2002, p. 81.
  • 63 Hannes Meyer headed the publishing house in 1942 and later from 1947 to 1949. The Swiss architect brought a hitherto unseen level of productivity to the publishing house. Prignitz: Taller de Gráfica Popular, p. 128.
  • 64 Prignitz: Taller de Gráfica Popular, p. 128.
  • 65 Georg Stibi (1901–1982) was a German politician and publicist who settled in Mexico in 1941 and replaced Hannes Meyer at the head of Estampa Mexicana.

  • 66 Prignitz: Taller de Gráfica Popular, 2002, p. 128.
  • 67 Ibid., p. 130.
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