●Edition 1: Learning From
Oct. 24 2018–Jan. 6 2019

bauhaus imaginista: Learning From, São Paulo

  • SESC Pompéia São Paulo
  • R. Clélia, 93 - Pompeia, São Paulo - SP, 05042-000, Brazil

Anne Wilson, Disintegration Grid, detail, 1975, Paper rush, raffia, Courtesy of Anne Wilson and Rhona Hoffman Gallery.

bauhaus imaginista: Learning From at the SESC Pompéia in São Paulo explores the role played by cultural appropriation during the time of the historical Bauhaus, as well as after the school’s dissolution, detailed in three narratives taken from the Bauhaus’s international reception. The exhibition’s point of departure is Paul Klee’s 1927 drawing Teppich (Carpet). This small India ink drawing references traditional Maghrebi carpet patterns, displaying Klee’s abiding interest in non-Western visual cultures—an interest also widely evident at the Bauhaus including through the illustrated books on “world cultures” held in the school's library.

Photograph from the archive of Hannes Meyer from his time in the Soviet Union, undated, © Hannes-Meyer-Archiv, DAM.

From the mid 1930s onwards Bauhaus emigres, including Josef and Anni Albers, and Marguerite Wildenhain, traveled throughout the Americas observing, documenting and collecting handicrafts produced by pre-Columbian and contemporary indigenous cultures. Anni Albers and her fellow weavers, including a younger generation of Fiber Artists looked for example to Peruvian textiles, due to their technical brilliance but also because of the high social value afforded weaving in Inca culture. An interest in vernacular handicraft and architectural typologies on the part of former Bauhaus masters is also evidenced by the photographic studies undertaken by Hannes Meyer and Lena Bergner during their sojourn in Mexico.

This turn to the vernacular and to handicrafts was similarly politicized in post-independence Morocco, where rejection of the French Beaux-Arts model by Moroccan artists of the early 1960s led to the re-evaluation of local North African craft traditions such as jewelry, rugs, ceramics, vernacular architecture and murals in the course of their developing a post-colonial style of art and design. Cross-referenced with elements of Bauhaus pedagogy, the concern with Moroccan craft tradition was integrated into the curriculum of the School of Fine Arts in Casablanca by a cadre of young artists serving then as instructors, including the painter and graphic designer Mohamed Melehi.

In Brazil, a new design school named the Institute of Contemporary Art (IAC)—established by the architect Lina Bo Bardi and Pietro Maria Bardi at Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP)—laid claim to Bauhaus lineage through both its curriculum and faculty. This European modernist hegemony was also resisted, leading Bo Bardi to study Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous cultural production in her effort to formulate a specifically Brazilian aesthetic—a pursuit which gained pace after she began running the Museum of Modern Art in Bahia, setting up a school there similar to the IAC. Bo Bardi’s story reflects a broad post-war interest in cultural appropriation, developing new modernist vocabularies by turning to the cultures of marginalized groups.

The exhibition at SESC Pompéia recounts these stories from the Bauhaus’s afterlife through a wide range of artworks, artifacts, films, documentary material and new artistic commissions. An accompanying discursive program was developed to interrogate these histories and their shared logic of cultural appropriation. Detached from their original context, this “borrowing” strategy occurred contemporaneously with marginalized traditional cultures, such as Brazil’s Indigenous people, witnessing the destruction of their traditional way of life by processes of administrative and economic modernization, and neo-colonial aggression.

Richard Chalfen, Film maker Alta Kahn while shooting Navajo Film Themselves, 1966, film still, Courtesy of Penn Museum Archive/© Richard Chalfen.

Anne Wilson, Disintegration Grid, detail, 1975, Paper rush, raffia, Courtesy of Anne Wilson and Rhona Hoffman Gallery.

Public program / Discussion on October 25, 2018 at Goethe-Institut São Paulo
Speakers: Ailton Krenak, Ethel Leon, Adele Nelson, Luiza Proença, Suely Rolnik, Cristine Takuá, Paulo Tavares, Marion von Osten and Grant Watson.

bauhaus imaginista: Learning From is produced by the SESC São Paulo and curated by Grant Watson (London) and Marion von Osten (Berlin), with support from researchers Luiza Proença (São Paulo), Maud Houssais (Rabat), Anja Guttenberger (Berlin), Elissa Auther (NYC), and Erin Alexa Freedman (NYC).

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