In 1923, Albers and Moholy were jointly selected to teach the one-year preliminary course for all newly enrolled Bauhaus students. Moholy’s appointment was a sign that the school was abandoning its early crafts ethos to align itself with the demands of modern industry, a tendency underlined by the title of the first Bauhaus exhibition: Art and Technology: A New Unity.
The mid 1920s was a period of great productivity for Albers and Moholy. Before joining the Bauhaus, Moholy experimented with ideas of style and authorship, and he even assigned the execution of some of his paintings – such as Telephone Picture EM1 1922 – to a sign painter. The title refers to his claim that he might as well have ordered the paintings over the telephone. It was around this time that he began to title works with a combination of letters and numbers akin to a scientific formula, reflecting his desire to purge the artist’s touch from his work and create instead a pure order from impersonal compositional elements.
Similarly, Albers explored semi-industrial techniques to create a fiercely objective art. Appropriating a method devised for engraving headstones, he embarked on a series of abstract compositions created by sandblasting sheets of coloured glass. Made by experienced craftsmen using stencils designed by the artist, such works could be serially produced, bringing art into line with other industrially manufactured goods. Titles such as Skyscrapers A c.1929 and Windows 1929 highlight Albers’s interest in modernist architecture.
Both artists branched out into other areas of creative practice. Inspired by constructivist aesthetics, Albers designed a remarkable group of furnishings and household objects as well as developing a unique typeface. Moholy also designed and co-edited most Bauhaus publications, books that helped to disseminate principles of Bauhaus education. He wrote three volumes himself: Die Bühne im Bauhaus (The Bauhaus Stage) with Oskar Schlemmer and Farkas Molnár; Malerei Fotografie Film (Painting Photography Film); and Von Material zu Architektur (translated as The New Vision). These books are shown here as part of a display that looks at the teaching practice of both artists, which includes work done by students under their tutelage. Both men believed that a teacher’s duty was to unleash creative potential and sharpen perceptiveness, rather than transmit a fixed canon of knowledge. This cooperative, all-encompassing spirit is demonstrated by two of Moholy’s photograms, one showing a material study made by one of Albers’s students, the other a tea ball and plate produced in the metal workshop led by Moholy.