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Form and Function

AUDC + Steve Rowell Anne Burdick Durfee Regn Sandhaus GRAFT Yeh + Jerrard

Guggenheim Gallery, Chapman University Orange California February 10 – March 22, 2003

This is the catalogue essay for an exhibition of Los Angeles based architects, designers and artists part of Chapman University’s Fine Arts Department’s series of events called “Revolutions: Art and Culture between the Wars”. The work in the show presents a range of approaches to the material expression of use, commenting on form/function reciprocity as defined by the Bauhaus.

No simple definition of the Bauhaus’ legacy is possible since heterogeneity was one of the institution’s key characteristics, concentrating competing aesthetic and ideological positions throughout a decade of experimentation in a wide range of media. From sources in evidence in pre-World War I Europe, extending back to the beginning of the Modern era in the late Eighteenth Century the Bauhaus produced a shifting current of ideas. Since the Second World War, some of these ideas, such as the imperative that all art should serve social aims, have been put under close scrutiny and transformed or effectively discarded. Others, like the necessity of overlap between theory and design practice, have been so completely incorporated into current ways of thinking that they go unnoticed.

The overarching concept informing Bauhaus art and design (and the Modern movement in general) still highly relevant today is the Romantic notion of the infinite and universal: the world is seen as made up of abstract elements - actions and processes of use - taking place at various sizes and temporal intervals. Out of this broad idea emerge two more specific principles: Design methods are applicable to every scale - from letterform to city planning - and function has meaning in the same way that matter once had essential, spiritual qualities in early 20th century art movements.

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