Aspen Historical Society opens Herbert Bayer exhibit |

Aspen Historical Society opens Herbert Bayer exhibit

Megan Cerise Winn primes one of the Bauhaus panels before painting it on Nov. 20 at the Herbert Bayer and Bauhaus exhibition hanging at the Aspen Historical Society.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times


What: ‘bayer & bauhaus: how design shaped aspen’

Where: Aspen Historical Society

When: Tuesday, Dec. 4 through March 2020; grand opening Dec. 20, 4-6 p.m.

More info:

The Aspen Historical Society is sharing a treasure trove of materials by the Bauhaus artist and polymath Herbert Bayer as the town prepares to celebrate the Bauhaus centennial in 2019.

In the new exhibit “bayer & bauhaus: how design shaped aspen,” the Historical Society is for the first time displaying the influential artist’s original works that underscore how his visual concepts shaped the idea and aesthetic of Aspen as the modern town was reborn in the 1940s.

“It’s about the influence that Herbert Bayer had on the town of Aspen and, through Herbert Bayer, the influence that the Bauhaus had on Aspen,” curator Lisa Hancock said during installation of the exhibition last month.

The Austrian-born artist and master at the Bauhaus school in Germany settled here in 1946 as Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke began remaking the forgotten former mining town as a “mind, body, spirit” utopia. Bayer stayed until the mid-1970s, when he moved to California for health reasons. He died in 1985.

The show includes original sketch studies and drawings, architectural designs and historical photographs. Bayer and his wife, Joella, donated most of the works in the exhibit to the Historical Society, which hasn’t previously found occasion to display them.

Through these rarely seen original materials, “bayer and bauhaus” demonstrates how Bayer literally hand-crafted the visual aesthetic of Aspen in every corner of the town as it emerged out of “the quiet years” and into the ski era. The town was his canvas as a “total work of art” where, for example, he could renovate the Hotel Jerome and craft details down to the stationary for its guests. He designed the Aspen Institute campus and championed preserving the town’s faded Victorian architecture, designed ski-area amenities and promotional materials for the Institute, the ski resort and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

“What the future of Aspen promised then was the participation in shaping an environment,” Bayer wrote in 1967. “This was one of my motives in choosing Aspen as a place to live and work.”

One fascinating display deconstructs the process behind Bayer’s iconic “Ski in Aspen” posters, placing photographs of ski tracks and a silhouetted skier next to Bayer’s original watercolor paintings that take images from the photos and play with combinations of primary colors to make his poster.

A similar display tracks the creative process behind his outdoor sculptures and earthworks on the Aspen Institute campus, including Bayer’s original design sketches for his Grass Mound and Anderson Park.

And his stamp on the design of the ski areas gets thoughtful treatment, including a display of sketches for the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain, ski lifts and on-mountain lodges. The Historical Society also is displaying hand-drawn sketches of his vision to refresh the mining-era buildings downtown, including the Wheeler Opera House and the Jerome.

The exhibition makes room for lesser-known remnants of Bayer in Aspen, like his unique fence designs with crenulated tops that once peppered the West End. Three are still standing in the neighborhood, including one at Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins’ home.

There also are oddities here: a 1950 postcard set, for example, that Bayer made to showcase attractions like skiing in Tourtelotte Park, a haunted house, the Sundeck and Victorian architecture; and a set of stamps he designed for the U.S. Postal Service in 1966.

The exhibit opens to the public Tuesday and will run through March of 2020. The Historical Society is celebrating the show’s grand opening Dec. 20 with the nonprofit’s annual holiday cookie exchange and caroling. That event also will mark the unofficial kickoff of Aspen’s yearlong centennial celebration of the Bauhaus German art school and movement. Arts organizations up and down the Roaring Fork Valley are taking part with exhibitions, participatory art classes, lectures, walking tours and parties.

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