One of the most consistently overlooked aspects of Colorado Springs culture is its rich art history. During the first half of the 20th Century, Colorado Springs was second to none among arts colonies west of the Mississippi. Blake Milteer, Curator of 19th -21st Century Art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center offers insight into the work of Herbert Bayer.

Says Blake:

What we’re looking at is a portfolio of works by Herbert Bayer from 1948, squarely in the period of “high modernism.” I find these works to be a central part of the abstraction that had gone on here in the Springs [at that time].

One of the important things about abstraction in Colorado Springs as it sprung up in the 1940s and 1950s is that a big part of the inspiration for its taking hold here is that you had significant artists from afar come here for brief periods of time and extolling the importance of abstraction. One of those artists was Robert Motherwell, who taught here in the summer of 1954. And he, of course, is one of the New York School, one of the great core of American abstractionists that was critical to this shift in art world attention from Paris to New York at that point. That also happened via artists who came from Europe to America. Herbert Bayer was one of those artists. He was an Austrian-born artist who studied and then taught at the Bauhaus prior to WWII and ultimately settled in Aspen (was brought out there by the Aspen Institute). He was one of those great modern artists who was multi-talented; he worked equally well in various media from painting to sculpture to photography; he was among the first artists to create earth works; he was a graphic designer.

What we have here is a series of seven prints from a portfolio called “7 Convolutions” that he did here at the Fine Arts Center with nationally renowned lithographer Lawrence Barrett. So it’s extraordinary that this internationally renowned artist came down here to the Springs work directly with Barrett on this extraordinary body of work. It’s seven, four-color lithographs. And the process that the two had to develop to create this series of abstract and semi-abstract lithographs was amazing: They had to come up with a process in which not only only were they able to print these various colors, but one of Bayer’s concerns was that in Lithography you weren’t able to achieve a bright white. So they came up with a process of building up chalk with which they were able to achieve a really luminous whites.

The subject matter of these prints is various iterations of this notion of convolution. And so some of them appear very much as water rolling over rocks, which is a very central theme to us here in Colorado as landscape imagery. And then some of them become sort of purely abstract where they look like neither water nor topography or geography, but feel like what we might describe as pure abstraction where there’s no recognizable subject matter.


5 Responses to The Art of Herbert Bayer

  1. Mrs. M. says:

    Lovely way to start the morning! Beautifully described, thank you!

  2. B Casados says:

    I saw these (and other remarkable pieces) at the CS FAC’s Abstract show recently. Nice to see them again, and th read and hear about them, too.

    Thanks for your wide-ranging interests, and the research you do to bring these TBS stories to us!

  3. adam degraff says:

    more art history please

  4. Liz Arnold says:

    Thanks Noel – I really enjoyed viewing these pieces. His work reminds me of Joan Miro – fun to see how artist “borrow” from one another. DaVinci said that as an artist you can “steal with your eyes”. I have always liked this concept because although an idea might come from seeing another artist’s work, each artist creates their art with their own unique style and experience.

  5. Judy says:

    Herbert Bayer is my favorite artist whose work I first laid eyes on in 1982 while working for Atlantic Richfield. His tapestry pieces are breath taking. They adorned the 36th floor of the Anaconda Building in downtown Denver. I’d never heard of him. It was like falling in love, when I first saw his abstract crazy work. It didn’t make sense to me, but it moved me. Thank you for this article and slide show. Wish the Denver Art Museum would show case his work in a larger exhibit, rather than just the basement.
    Ah, if only one day I will be able to own one small piece of his! For now, I’ll have to settle for an H.B. screen saver.


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