Sylvia Schwartz at ODETTA, photo courtesy: Jeanette May
The Bauhaus impacted the way we perceive fine art’s relationship to craft, design, architecture, and industrial material. Founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, the Bauhaus’ vision was both radical and utopian: a union of art and design into a single creative expression, creating useful and beautiful objects that fit modern industrial life with particular emphasis on designing for mass production; thus paving the way to later 20th century artists. “Bauhaus Babies” at ODETTA brings together three contemporary artists, whose works relate in some way to the Bauhaus spirit; altogether their work is peppered with a 21st century spin on randomness and chance.
Richard Bottwin’s wall sculptures draw most directly upon Bauhaus architecture and functional objects. His reductive plywood surfaces, laminated or painted with acrylic, are configured to invite the viewer to reinterpret the modernist vocabulary of simple constructions. “Blue Beam,” an elongated narrow sculpture stands out. This predominantly blue structure surprises the viewer with unusual angles and stretched form, on the whole evoking a sense of disorientation, floating, and implied physical gesture.
Sylvia Schwartz uses a series of hand-made paper sheets to create a fragile yet bold, large-scale composition with an intense color scheme, predominantly rich in subtle red. Her surfaces create a meditative space which is both tranquil and stirring. Schwartz’s wall installation commands the space and at the same time keeps growing on the viewer the longer they spend time with it. Her process is elaborate. She mixed the red pigments together with the pulp and made paper sheets, then she worked with pigmented cotton and abaca pulp that could be layered into silicone molds she had made from seaweed on the beach over many years in her native Australia. Her molds cast seaweed and clay, capturing finger prints along the way. These textures and color schemes allude in subtle ways to the Australian landscape, its red clay soil, desert and blue-green ocean. “I wanted the piece to ultimately be itself and not about nature, about the balancing act between life told and life lived,” she concludes.
Ryan Sarah Murphy also aims to stay away from direct narrative content. Her vivid collages form “Pages”, a Jazzy wall installation which suggests fragmented architecture and landscape with distinct rhythmic play between shapes, colors and lines. Marked by a horizon line, each image offers an entry point and a sense of grounding. “What I’m interested in is shifting these constructed forms into more unfamiliar territory, where you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at,” Murphy says. For this ongoing series of collages, from about 2014 to the present, Murphy tore out the front and back pages from her collected used hardcover books and pasted the cut cardboards on top. Her collage process is highly intuitive too but unlike Schwartz’s mixed use of hand-made and found material, Murphy exclusively manipulates found objects.
“UTA Bauhaus UTA,” an energetic performance by Uta Bekaia, Uta Brauser, with dancers and music, compliments the exhibition, bringing to life Geometric archetypes through movement , gestures, spins, and poses in wearable sculptures. Costumed in sculptural shapes, the performers animate and merge geometry with the human body, counterpointing female and male energies to express the power of procreation.
Overall, “Bauhaus Babies” lays out an elegant, playful and at times deeply engaging array of artworks and performance, tying this group of contemporary artists to the reductive aesthetics of the Bauhaus with an aim to create new dialogues.
Bauhaus Babies, featuring works by Richard Bottwin, Ryan Sarah Murphy and Sylvia Schwartz. @odettagallery