Herbert Bayer: Aspen Years

March 1 – March 29, 1997


From his early childhood in Austria and continuing throughout his lifetime, Bayer had a great enthusiasm for hiking into the mountains.  Participating in the activities of wondervogel (an outdoors movement), Bayer spent extended periods in the remote villages of the region in a happy, but solitary childhood.  The catalyst for a major change in Bayer’s outlook was the discovery of Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spirituality in Art.  Believing that Kandinsky was teaching at the Bauhaus, and without money, Bayer hiked from Darmstadt to Weimar.  Meeting with Walter Gropius in the fall of 1921, Bayer was accepted to the Bauhaus.  By 1925, Bayer accompanies the Bauhaus in its move from Weimar to Dessau, and Bayer is appointed by Gropius to be one of its directors.

Bayer concentrated largely on photomontage, surrealism, and graphic design during his remaining years at the Bauhaus, later in Berlin, and while in New York during the early forties.  By 1944, Bayer rediscovered his passion for mountains and their formation leading to an important new body of paintings.

The “Mountains and Convolutions” series of Bayer’s creative oeuvre centered on the pictorialization of tectonic motion.  Reducing the landscape to sculptural surface motion, the pictures demonstrated the artist’s awareness of the dynamism of the earth’s surface as created by activity deep within the underlying core.

By 1946, Bayer had moved to Aspen to act as consultant on the development of Aspen from a small mining town to a major ski resort and cultural center.  He also acted as architect for the newly forming aspen Institute For Humanistic Studies.  His interests as illustrated by “Mountains and Convolutions” lead to the exploration of ideas concerning earthworks beginning in 1947.  Fully realized projects include Grass Mound, 1955, Marble Garden, 1955, and Anderson Park, 1973-74.  As stated by Bayer, “my aim with environmental designs is to carry art and design from the privacy of the museum to the public realm”.  In the tradition of the Bauhaus, Bayer believed for six decades that art, technology, and nature should share a unity.