Oskar Schlemmer (Stuttgart, Germany, 1888 - Baden-Baden, Germany, 1943) is the master of form at the Bauhaus Dessau workshops in 1925, although he becomes associated with the institution some years before. Schlemmer is conspicuous for being one of the ideologists behind the formulation of new man from artistic, dynamic and spatial parameters. He is also a mural painter and sculptor and defines a new “type” of human construction based on dance and theatre, originating from his work as a choreographer and stage and costume designer. Schlemmer restricts the trend towards abstraction, dominant in Bauhaus, and is characterised stylistically by the organic geometry of the human anatomy.
The exhibition is steeped in the spirit of light and renewal that defines his most well-known creation, the Triadisches Ballett (1920-1922), and also features over one hundred works that examine Schlemmer's output from 1919 onwards. This selection considers the materialisation of his project, which looks towards, “a new Greece, a post-revolutionary and purified humanity whose movements...unfolded in a space dominated by a rediscovered law” , in the eyes of the specialist, Éric Michaud.
The occupation of space and free circulation is the convergence of the teaching and artistic and theoretical practices that Schlemmer undertakes in Bauhaus; under the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's slogan, “without music, life would be a mistake”, he creates the most important performances in Bauhaus. For the ballets, Schlemmer devises costumes that impede the dancer from making certain movements whilst also forcing them to new forms of expression; thus, the body is based on the conjunction and reconciliation between what is organic and technical without falling into what is mechanic, something that sets him apart from contemporary Futurist stances or those of artists such as Fernand Léger.
The visual nature of the theatre event, and even the dramatisation of Bauhaus, whereby the building becomes the stage, form the basis in 1925 for his decorative projects of the stairways and corridors of the school. The mural paintings and pictures pertaining to similar themes are inhabited by characters that travel up and down these routes of circulation, as if they were virtual stairs. In this fashion Schlemmer substantiates the notion of the continuum of architecture and experience represented by Bauhaus and employs figurative, illusionist and representative painting in an environment that disseminates Abstraction.
His painting, two-dimensional with a minimal palette, is, according to the specialist, Karin Von Maur, defined by the principals of “law, precision, limitation and the greatness of ideas.” In his sculptures and reliefs, everything is measured against the human figure and contain the allegory of seeing space in terms of social relationships, for instance in Family (1923), Four Figures and Cube (1928) and In the Wooden House (1936). Von Maur points out that the motif of stairs is substituted by banisters in the Thirties, coinciding with the change in Schlemmer's personal life and a more radical political climate. Later the window appears as a frame for his last series of paintings yet same the theme remains - to visualise social architecture.
Centre Cultural de la Fundaciò la Caixa, Barcelona (February 5 - April 27, 1997)