Aspen Institute commemorates the legacy of Herbert Bayer in a new center dedicated to the artist

Earlier this summer, the Aspen Institute unveiled the new Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies, celebrating Bayer’s prolific career.

The Austrian-born artist designed the layout of the Institute as well as several of its buildings.

But as the Center shows, Bayer was also a painter, sculptor and graphic designer, and the Center features more than a hundred of his paintings, collages, tapestries and sculptures.

The exhibition spans his entire career, with works from the earliest years at Bayer’s art school in Germany to his later years in Montecito near Santa Barbara.

During the intervening years, Bayer made art in his Red Mountain studio during a thirty-year stay in Aspen.

Dick Carter, an artist based in Basalt, was his studio assistant for five of those years. He says Bayer’s time in Aspen is evident in his art.

“I feel like he was totally influenced by being here – there’s no doubt about that,” Carter said. “I think the mountain influence was in his work for a lot of what he did, the geology and the atmosphere, the weather, the wind.”

No matter where Bayer created or what medium he used, one constant remained, and that was the Bauhaus influence.

The art movement was launched at the genre’s namesake school in Germany, where Bayer honed its craft.

Some of the main characteristics of the Bauhaus style include the use of primary colors, abstract geometric features, and balanced shapes.

Bayer would take this approach with him to Aspen, where he would settle in 1946.

According to James Merle Thomas, the new center’s first director, “he took that early experimental sensibility from Bauhaus and 1920s Germany, and he turned it into a portrait of Aspen at that time.”

The Institute announced on Friday that Lissa Ballinger has been named interim director of the Center as Thomas transitions to a senior research position at the Institute.

Thomas said Bayer’s take on the Bauhaus was influenced by Colorado landscapes, with abstract depictions of mountains, beavers, owls and columbines – and all of this is on display in the new center.

“For me, these works are just absolute modernist masterpieces that I think reflect his experimental artistic sensibility, while grounding us in our natural surroundings,” Thomas said.

For example, aspen groves also inspired him. But rather than the usual vibrant green, in a series, Bayer’s Aspens are covered in warm teals, golds and pink roses.

In another book, Bayer approaches aspens from a completely different angle. This time, multiple pairs of eyes replace the iconic knots and twists of the bark in a black and white collage.

For an artist, it is impressive to see such a variety of style and structure side by side, but a multi-faceted approach is at the heart of all of Bayer’s work.

Aspen looked very different when Bayer arrived here, lured by Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke, who asked him to help design what would become the Institute’s campus.

Bayer became the architect behind Paepcke’s vision for a renewed Aspen.

And the Center offers an in-depth look at their partnership and how they transformed Aspen into the artistic and intellectual haven it is today.

Steve Chuckovich is also a fan of Bayer’s work. He came to town just to take a look at the new exhibit.

“I knew his work, but before I got a little here, a little there, and now suddenly you can see it in one place,” Chuckovich said.

Prior to his visit, Chuckovich says he had never seen any Bayer teenage pieces next to the ones he made in the eighties.

“I think the surreal pieces he did early on were very interesting because they influenced his later work a lot,” Chuckovich added.

Carter says the Bayer Center shares the story of the man behind the art and offers a tour of Bayer’s life and career.

“The center is really going to be a boon to people finally understanding a lot more about Bayer and seeing it in a more contemporary context,” Carter said.

The Center also plans to partner with regional universities in an effort to share Bayer’s work with the next generation of art lovers.

About Bernice D. Brewer

Check Also

NOMA opens ‘Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers’ | Events

There are iconic photographs in “Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers,” now open …