Swiss art finds kudos between the Thirties and Forties as numerous artists from various disciplines come together under one common denominator - “the integration of the arts” - conceptualised by the previous experience of the German Bauhaus. The Constructivist motto, “Art should shape and organise daily life, not decorate it”, gives rise to a mentality that is inspired by avant-garde movements and which acquires strong experimental components. Thus movements emerge that go down in history within diverse fields, for instance Concrete Art, Objective Photography and New Typography as well as functional architecture and furniture, all present in this extensive exhibition.
Suiza constructiva (Constructivist Switzerland) displays a selection of over two hundred and fifty pieces from seventy different artists, where the renewal of artistic disciplines from Switzerland can be appreciated. The exhibition completes the work of curator Harald Szeemann following the previous exhibition Suiza visionaria (Visionary Switzerland), organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in 1992.
Neutrality and a territory of reduced dimensions help Switzerland to become the hub of activity for a group of artists that practice “free” arts and which come together via associations, museums and decorative art schools in Basel and Zurich. Concrete Art emerges as a fusion of influences from Cubism and late Purism, Abstract Painting, Surrealism and Constructivism. In the close ties with Bauhaus and the Abstraction-Création group, their intentions set out from the liberation of natural appearances and external references. The works tend to be the pure expression of the human intellect based on colour, space, light and movement, and also set out from the suppositions of the manifesto written by Theo van Doesburg in 1930. Some of the representatives from this trend that feature in the exhibition are: Max Bill, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Clara Friedrich-Jezler, Camile Graeser, Hans Hinterreiter and Verena Loewensberg.
Following the crisis in 1930, the demand for housing and refurbishment grows, thus causing Swiss architects and designers to join forces and standardise and rationalise buildings. After the end of the Twenties and the beginning of the Thirties, this innovative concept is tested on small projects, culminating in the Neubühl housing development in Zurich. Some of the architects involved in this process of change include: Paul Artaria and Hans Schmitdt, Rudolf Steiger and Flora Steiger-Crawford, Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Robert Maillart. Suiza constructiva also brings together examples of applied industrial design, carried out by artists such as Max Ernst Haefeli, Hans Coray, Willy Guhl and Marcel Breuer.
Graphic design and photography are used to transmit the advances taking place in different fields. Artists such as Jan Tschichold, Richard Paul Lohse, Emil Ruder and Dieter Roth are innovators in graphic design, for instance in posters and leaflets, conceiving what is known as “Swiss typography” and “Swiss Style”.
Moreover, Objective Photography is also committed to technique and improvises with its own style. Binia Bill, Hermann Eidenbenz, Ernst A. Heiniger, Hugo P. Herdeg, Herbert Matter and Anton Stankowski are some of the artists in the exhibition to outline the new direction technical photography takes.