Bauhaus and Me: Walter Gropius, The Manifesto, and My Curvilinear Marble Sculpture

Direct Method Curvilinear Reductionist Marble Sculpture

and BAUHAUS

Walter Gropius, author Bauhaus Manifesto, 1919

Walter Gropius

Bauhaus Manifesto

1919. “The ornamentation of the building was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and they were considered indispensable parts of the great building. Today, they exist in complacent isolation, from which they can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavors of all artisans. Architects, painters and sculptors must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the building, both as a totality and in terms of its parts.    Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of architecture, which it lost in salon art.      The art schools of old were incapable of producing this unity – and how could they, for art may not be taught.    They must return to the workshop.   This world of mere drawing and painting of draughtsman and applied artists must at long last become a world that builds.    When a young person who senses within himself a love for creative endeavor begins his career,  as in the past,   by learning a trade,   the unproductive ‘artist’ will no longer be condemned to the imperfect practice of art because his skill is now preserved in craftsmanship,   where he may achieve excellence.        Architects,   sculptors,   painters – we all must return to craftsmanship!   For there is no such thing as ‘art by profession’.   There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan.   The artist is an exalted artisan.   Merciful heaven, in rare moments of illumination beyond man’s will, may allow art to blossom from the work of his hand,  but the foundations of proficiency are indispensable to every artist.     This is the original source of creative design.         So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen,   free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavored to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists!   Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline,  architecture and   sculpture  and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”

Martin Cooney, August 1st, 2004. A Brand New Studio Workshop is Born.

Martin Cooney

Curvilinear Reductionist Marble Sculptor

Mention the word “Bauhaus” to a cross section of people, as I do when asked to describe my Collection Series Marble Sculpture, and it soon becomes apparent that it appears to to mean a great many things,  to a great many people.   To some it is a movement, a state of mind –  a school of life,  to others it is a particularly – narrowly defined –  style;  and to still others it is both,  or neither.   As a stone sculptor in the classic Bauhaus tradition,   with all the official learning,  accreditation,   working experience, and knowledge that the term implies,  means that I did indeed learn my skill via qualification; namely the NVQ Level 2 Banker Mason certificate attained at the City of Bath College, England.    I have indeed worked in the trade, both here in the USA,  and in the stone-yards in and around Bath.   And as we shall see,  I capitalize upon these industrially acquired skills,  to embed crucial structural integrity into the framework of my sculpture.

Light,  portable, and carved for full immersion in the real world,  much of my ongoing Marble Collection Series incorporates a great many architectural characteristics; including walls, windows,  floors… an interior/exterior, etc.   And not only does the sculpture attract attention upon itself,   due to it’s stone carved architectural nature,  it in turn reflects back upon the architectural statement presented by whichever home,  office,  garden or gallery,  into which it is placed.

“The ornamentation of the building was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and they were considered indispensable parts of the great building. Today, they exist in complacent isolation, from which they can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavors of all artisans.”

This is very true,  as I discovered first-hand when working in the banker shops scattered around the Georgian city of Bath in the early years of this century.   If it wasn’t for the endless round of restoration work provided by the ancient cathedrals,  London bank facades,  and the very occasional modern day folly,  there would have been little in the way of work for the highly trained and experience workforce.   And bear in mind that this profession stretches back almost one thousand unbroken years.    Surely we can channel these centuries of knowledge into a modern day,  relevant,  environmentally sound profession that would utilize many of these traditional skills when they are(often necessarily) in low demand – when very few major projects are being undertaken – and apply this highly talented and traditionally flexible workforce,  to the production Direct Method Curvilinear Marble Reductionist Sculpture?     As will be eagerly explained as we scroll on,  my light,  highly portable,  Fine Art marble carvings defy conventional limitations presented by traditional stone sculpture’s often brutal dead weight,   while introducing a completely new marble Curvilinear Marble Reductionist art form to the long, long history of marble sculpture.  And perhaps best of all…  offers to provide a positive solution to the increasingly thorny problem of marble quarry waste.  Not to mention affording an attractive living wage to the legions of highly trained, but cruelly under employed,  banker masons.

“Architects, painters and sculptors must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the building, both as a totality and in terms of its parts.    Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of architecture,  which it lost in salon art.      The art schools of old were incapable of producing this unity – and how could they, for art may not be taught.    They must return to the workshop.    This world of mere drawing and painting of draughtsman and applied artists must at long last become a world that builds. “

I clearly see my sculpture as an extension of the environment into which it is placed.  Even the very terms that I use to describe my carvings: architectural/structural integrity, curvilinear, protective edging, wafer-thin walls…. etc. etc. reflect the roots of my formal training as a banker mason.   These terms and many more shed much light as to just what is on my mind as a carve my sculpture.    An ‘Architectural Stone Carver’ is what I termed myself when I set out in business,  as no one around the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains appeared to know much at all about banker masonry.   In fact, nothing at all.   And so what better way to inform the wider public as to just what a ‘Banker Mason’ does?   I was an “Architectural Stone Carver!”    These I days refer to myself as a ‘Stone Sculptor’,  but whatever tag I adopt nothing alters the fact that when carving my sculpture I lean heavily – heavily indeed… crucially – upon the training and experience I received working within the stone industry.    Never could I dream of carving ‘at whim’… as is the case with my Direct Method Curvilinear Reductionist Sculpture,  if I had not have put myself through the witheringly frustrating ritual of squaring the block – accurately cubing a rough quarry bloc with the assistance of  a few medieval hand tools – simply in order for the instructors at Bath College to begin the process of teaching me the ancient art of Banker Masonry.    And now, as a classic <Bauhaus> stone sculptor,   I pour all of this masonry knowledge and education  into sculpture that is itself often quite as ‘architectural’ in form as that of the buildings in and around which they are placed… with the one serving to draw attention to the other.  With only, when it comes right down to it,  the matter of scale, size and terminology dividing the two.

“When a young person who senses within himself a love for creative endeavor begins his career,  as in the past,   by learning a trade,   the unproductive ‘artist’ will no longer be condemned to the imperfect practice of art because his skill is now preserved in craftsmanship, where he may achieve excellence. Architects, sculptors, painters – we all must return to craftsmanship!   For there is no such thing as ‘art by profession’.   There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan.   The artist is an exalted artisan.”

“Merciful heaven, in rare moments of illumination beyond man’s will, may allow art to blossom from the work of his hand,  but the foundations of proficiency are indispensable to every artist.     This is the original source of creative design.         So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen,   free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavored to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists!   Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline,  architecture and   sculpture  and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”

“Merciful heaven”?  Oh well, not a term usually banded around these days, but that’s 1919 for you.  I take it that Mr. Gropius wished to end his Manifesto on a resounding note: “Let us strive….unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting”.  Well, I’m certainly up for that.

And so, I hope this perhaps sheds a little light on just what the word Bauhaus means… at least to me.    What follows is the  Program of the Staatliche Bauhaus In Weimara, a block of additional information that usually follows Walter Gropius’ bold manifesto,  and serves to shed even more light upon just what he and his fellow revolutionaries had in mind.  I won’t comment – you can draw your own conclusions – but sections that I have highlighted do serve, in my opinion, to substantiate my use of the word ‘Bauhaus’ when asked to explain my work.

↓ additional information ↓

Program of the Staatliche Bauhaus In Weimar, April 1919

The administration of the Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar: Walter Gropius

“Aims of the Bauhaus: The Bauhaus strives to bring together all creative effort into one whole, to reunify all the disciplines of practical art-sculpture, painting, handicrafts, and the crafts-as inseparable components of a new architecture.     The ultimate, if distant, aim of the Bauhaus is the unified work of art-the great structure-in which there is no distinction between monumental and decorative art. The Bauhaus wants to educate architects, painters, and sculptors of all levels, according to their capabilities, to become competent craftsmen or independent creative artists and to form a working community of leading and future artist-craftsmen. These men, of kindred spirit, will know how to design buildings harmoniously in their entirety-structure, finishing, ornamentation,and furnishing.     Principles of the Bauhaus: Art rises above all methods; in itself it cannot be taught, but the crafts certainly can be. Architects, painters, and sculptors are craftsmen in the true sense of the word; hence, a thorough training in the crafts,  acquired in workshops and in experimental and practical sites, is required of all students as the indispensable basis for all artistic production.      Our own workshops are to be gradually built up, and apprenticeship agreements with outside workshops will be concluded.    The school is the servant of the workshop,   and will one day be absorbed in it.   Therefore there will be no teachers or pupils in the Bauhaus but masters, journeymen, and apprentices.    The manner of teaching arises from the character of the workshop: Organic forms developed from manual skills.   Avoidance of all rigidity; priority of creativity; freedom of individuality, but strict study  discipline.    Master and journeyman examinations, according to the Guild Statutes, held before the  Council of Masters of the Bauhaus or before outside masters.   Collaboration by the students in the work of the masters.   Securing of commissions, also for students.  Mutual planning of extensive, Utopian structural designs-public buildings and buildings  for worship-aimed at the future. Collaboration of all masters and students-architects, painters,  sculptors-on these designs with the object of gradually achieving a harmony of all the component elements and parts that make up architecture.      Constant contact with the leaders of the crafts and industries of the country.   Contact with public life, with the people, through exhibitions and other activities.    New research into the nature of the exhibitions, to solve the problem of displaying visual work and sculpture within the framework of architecture.    Encouragement of friendly relations between masters and students outside of work; therefore plays, lectures, poetry, music, costume parties. Establishment of a cheerful ceremonial at these gatherings.   Range of Instruction Instruction at the Bauhaus includes all practical and scientific areas of creative work.  Architecture, Painting, Sculpture including all branches of the crafts.     Students are trained in a craft (1) as well as in drawing and painting (2) and science and theory Craft training-either in our own, gradually enlarging workshops or in outside workshops to which the student is bound by apprenticeship agreement-includes: a)sculptors , stonemasons, stucco workers, woodcarvers, ceramic workers, plaster casters, b) blacksmiths, locksmiths, founders, metal turners, c) cabinetmakers, d) painter-and-decorators, glass painters, mosaic workers, enamelers, e) etchers. wood engravers, lithographers, art printers, enchasers, f) weavers.    Craft training forms the basis of all teaching at the Bauhaus.    Every student must learn a craft.    Training in drawing and painting includes: a) free-hand sketching from memory and imagination, b) drawing and painting of heads, live models. and animals, c) drawing and painting of landscapes, figures, plants, and still lives, d) composition, e) execution of murals, panel pictures, and religious shrines, f) design of ornaments, g) lettering, h) construction and projection drawing, i) design of exteriors, gardens, and interiors, j) design of furniture and practical articles.     Training in science and theory includes: a) art history-not presented in the sense of a history of styles, but rather to further active understanding of historical working methods and techniques, b) science of materials, c) anatomy-from the living model, d) physical and chemical theory of color, e) rational painting methods, f) basic concepts of bookkeeping, contract negotiations, personnel, g) individual lectures on subjects of general interest in all areas of art and science.      Divisions of Instruction The training is divided into three courses of instruction:course for apprentices, course for journeymen, III. course for junior masters.    The instruction of the individual is left to the discretion of each master within the framework of the general program and the work schedule,  which is revised every semester. In order to give the students as versatile and comprehensive a technical and artistic training as possible, the work schedule will be so arranged that every architect, painter, and sculptor-to-be is able to participate in part of the other courses.         Admission: Any person of good repute, without regard to age or sex, whose previous education is deemed adequate by the Council of Masters, will be admitted, as far as space permits.   The tuition fee is 180 marks per year (It will gradually disappear entirely with increasing earnings of the Bauhaus).   A nonrecurring admission fee of 20 marks is also to be paid.  Foreign students pay double fees.   Address inquiries to the Secretariat of the Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar.  April 1919.   The administration of the Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar: Walter Gropius”

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