Bayer & Johnson 2011 Exhibition

From 1936-1946 the genre of modern abstraction experienced a pronounced shift, when many artists fled and moved to the United States, infusing the renegade American art scene with avant-garde European ideals. Herbert Bayer and Raymond Jonson, have disparate roots; the former a European Bauhaus trained artist who relocated to the States, and the latter an American painter and co-founder of the Transcendental Art Group. Nevertheless, during the post war period both artists produced radically progressive bodies of work while staying ardently true to their personal aesthetics.

Raymond Jonson began to experiment with technique, expanding upon the long-held principles of the Transcendental Painting Group, to develop an approach that was motivated by spontaneity and free from the ties of symbolism. His work exhibits an evolution along a clear path, drawing upon the energy of the times while maintaining a commitment to his refined instincts. Jonson was inspired by the widespread availability of acrylic polymer paints which completely transformed his method of working. His compositions from the post war period are experiments in line and color, and build form from negative space.

In 1950, he founded the Jonson Gallery at UNM – the only space in the southwest where abstract and non-representational work was being exhibited at that time. There, Jonson was able to support and influence the careers of many young modern artists by providing them with a space for their first exhibitions.

True to his Bauhaus pedigree, Herbert Bayer experimented in virtually every medium with impeccable aptitude. After the war, Bayer moved to Colorado and undertook endeavors in sculpture, architecture, lithography, mural painting, photomontage, typography, graphic design, earthworks, environmental art, abstract and surrealist painting. Bayer did not see a separation between fine and applied art, and positioned his work in a world caught between nature and industrialization.”My work seen in its totality is a statement about the integration of the contemporary artist into an industrial society.”

Bayer’s artistic contributions, whether in the realm of fine or graphic arts, always attempted to bring logic, clarity, and beauty to the world. “I don’t see the artist as an outsider. I think he has responsibilities towards his nation and his environment. The artist is the only one who can solve problems of a visual nature – and there are so many problems in visual nature today.”

Peyton Wright Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Herbert Bayer and the Raymond Jonson Estates.

About the Artists
(1900 - 1985)
Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) was born in Austria, where he entered into an apprenticeship under the architect and designer, Georg Smidthammer, with whom Bayer learned drawing, painting, and architectural drafting, inspired by nature and without formal knowledge of art history. In 1920, Bayer discovered the theoretical writings of the artist Vassily Kandinsky, as well as Walter Gropius’ 1919 Bauhaus manifesto, in which Gropius declared the necessity for a return to crafts as a source of true creativity and inspiration. Bayer traveled to Weimar to meet Gropius in October of 1921 and was immediately accepted into the Bauhaus. There, he was deeply influenced by the instruction of Kandinsky, Johannes Itten and Paul Klee.

In 1928 Bayer moved to Berlin together with several members of the Bauhaus staff including Gropius, Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer. He found work as a freelance graphic designer, particularly with German Vogue, under its art director Agha. When the latter returned to Paris, Bayer joined the staff full time, and also worked increasingly with Dorland, the magazine's principal advertising agency. It was in the period from 1928 to his emigration to America in 1938 that he developed his unique vision as an artist, combining a strongly modernist aesthetic sense with a rare ability to convey meaning clearly and directly. This seamless combination of art, craft and design mark Bayer as true prophet of Bauhaus theories.

Bayer followed Gropius to America in 1938, and set his breadth of skills to work later that year in designing the landmark Bauhaus 1918-1928 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Bayer flourished in New York as a designer and architect, but it was his meeting with the industrialist Walter Paepcke in 1946 that allowed him to harness his concepts of 'total design' to the postwar boom. Paepcke was developing Aspen as a cultural and intellectual destination, and found in Bayer the perfect collaborator. Bayer was designer, educator and indeed architect for Paepcke's Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies (later The Aspen Institute), which promulgated the very Bauhaus project to encourage cooperation between art and industry and the role of the arts in society. From 1965 he fulfilled a similar role in advising Robert O. Anderson, chairman of the Atlantic Richfield Company.

His work is represented in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, Schubladen Museum, Bern, Switzerland, Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City.

In August 2019 The Aspen Institute announced a major donation by Stewart and Lynda Resnick for the creation of the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies. This will allow the Institute to showcase and exhibit its Bayer works, grow its collection, borrow from major cultural institutions, and create new exhibitions that will educate the public about Bayer’s remarkable legacy. The center opened in the spring of 2022.

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(1891 - 1982)
In 1938, Raymond Jonson co-founded the Transcendental Painting Group, a group of painters whose vision was to advance spirituality in art through the creation of non-objective work. As a professor of art at the University of New Mexico, Jonson’s vision inspired such renowned artists as Richard Diebenkorn and Agnes Martin. In 1950, he founded the Jonson Gallery at UNM, the only space in the southwest where abstract and non-representational works were being exhibited.

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