Focus on the Bauhaus: an exhibit and a film

If you pay any attention to Chicago architecture, you’ve probably heard of the Bauhaus in connection with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, its last director, who came to Chicago in 1933 when the school closed under pressure from the Nazis. For someone who associated the Bauhaus with Mies and modern architecture, the current exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum was eye-opening about the range of applied arts that the storied German design school taught in its short life, including carpentry, metalwork, pottery, housewares, wallpaper, stained glass, weaving, graphic design, and typography.  

The Elmhurst Art Museum is the only place in the country hosting The Whole World a Bauhaus, a traveling exhibition during the 100th anniversary year of the Bauhaus’s founding. 

The Bauhaus approach, uniting craftsmanship and industrial production in objects that were both aesthetic and useful for the masses, has influenced design down to the present. The Whole World a Bauhaus displays relatively few of its products, however. This exhibit is more history than design. The artifacts in display cases are outnumbered by documents and photos on panels. Materials relevant to a theme are grouped together, so you’ll see a Wassily Kandinsky drawing next to a teaching schematic next to a photo of a dancer. I was somewhat frustrated wading through it all, since I was more interested in seeing what the Bauhaus produced than seeing photographs of its players. Among the limited number of Bauhaus products, I especially liked a chess set, a stainless steel teapot, a cradle, and a fruit bowl.

The exhibit did inspire me to learn more about László Moholy-Nagy, another Bauhaus émigré who became as significant a figure in Chicago as Mies. The painter/photographer/sculptor/educator in 1937 founded the New Bauhaus, a school that evolved into the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology.

A reason this international traveling exhibit made Elmhurst its only US location may be that the museum is adjacent to the McCormick House, one of only three remaining houses designed by Mies van der Rohe. Visitors can also go into the house, where German-born artist Claudia Weber is living and exhibiting her work until April 14.

Organized by the German international cultural exchange organization IFA, The Whole World a Bauhaus will be up until April 20. It took just over a half-hour for me to get there on Metra from Ogilvie Station. The museum, at 150 South Cottage Avenue, is a five-minute walk from the Elmhurst train station.

For Chicagoans who don’t want to venture out of town, there’s another opportunity right in the Loop to learn about the Bauhaus: The documentary film Bauhaus Spirit: 100 Years of Bauhaus will be shown at the Siskel Film Center on March 24 at 3:15 p.m. and March 27 at 6 p.m. Its focus is on the school’s methods and principles, which sounds a lot like the focus of the EAM exhibition.



“America is now governed by the least educated, least informed, and most gullible 34 percent of the electorate — Donald Trump’s base.” 

— Neil Baron, The Hill

PS from me: I mentioned to a friend last week that I’d read that 90 percent of Republicans still approve of Donald Trump. “That can’t be true,” she said, so I double-checked. A February Gallup poll indeed reported that statistic. The only positive I can think of is that Trump may have driven a lot of Republicans out of the party.

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