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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Thursday
Nov032011

Channeling the Bauhaus  

Metalltanz, about 1928 - 1929, T. Lux Feininger, Gelatin silver print, © Estate of T. Lux Feininger, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Gorgeous images of distant galaxies play across our computer screens, generated from signals dispatched by unmanned space probes, and this miraculous imagery is relegated to use as electronic wallpaper. An exhibition at the Getty Museum of Lyonel Feininger’s photographs brings us back to earth, and makes the act of composing an image more immediate and moving. The New York-born artist was one of the first teachers at the Bauhaus, designing the cover of its prospectus, but he disdained photography as a mechanical medium. When he finally did pick up a folding pocket camera in 1928, he approached the subject as though it were an experimental art form, shooting the Bauhaus buildings and the city of Dessau at night. Complementing these tiny black and white images are holiday snaps of his family and exuberant shots by his son, T. Lux Feininger, which capture the high spirits of the Bauhaus students. The father’s precise compositions and the son’s spontaneity reflect the two faces of a school that shaped our concept of modernism, and still feels alive, eighty years after it was shut down. And, as a bonus, the exhibition includes images by Feininger’s colleagues, László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Peterhans, and a few from his subsequent exile.

Bauhaus, March 26, 1929, Lyonel Feininger, Gelatin silver print, © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of T. Lux Feininger

Lyonel Feininger Photographs, 1928-1939, will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum through March 11, 2012

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