8. MY UNIVERSITY ART EXPERIENCE (PART 3) (Paul Klee and the Bauhaus)

PAUL KLEE, THE BAUHAUS AND KURT KRANZ

Early while at the university I came across the paintings of Paul Klee.  I thought his work magic.  I liked his rich transparent watercolor washes and his collage buildup of a variety of materials gave his watercolors a unique tactile quality and physical presence.  It was that structural approach to 2-dimensional painting that intrigued me...not to mention his fabulous color combinations that looked like stained glass mosaics.  Klee's paintings put me in a new world, a richer world, a more imaginative world...



 I used Klee's inspiration to create my own work...


EXAMPLES OF MY UNIVERSITY WORK IN 1966 CHRONOLOGICALLY ARRANGED

I did a series of paintings based on pulsating grids which were geometric and yet full of the light I felt in nature.  Klee had written of painting as a parallel to nature and that was what I was aiming at.  It was magic to me that I could create a sense of space and depth and yet limit the composition to a combination of flat rectangles.  They seemed brimming with life.


KURT KRANZ
As I was working on this series a surprise came into my life...a visiting painting professor from Germany happened into the art department.  Kurt Kranz had been a student of Paul Klee at the renowned Bauhaus in Dessau and later in Berlin until it was closed down by the Nazis.

The Bauhaus was a remarkable school that included an architecture school, crafts school, and academy of the arts...an integrated training ground for both fine arts and applied arts, and a cross-pollination of the two.   Among its famous art teachers were Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Laszlo Maholy-Nagy. 

Professor Kranz interests followed closely along the lines of Paul Klee and he approached his painting in an almost scientific manner.   He was particularly interested in representing organic growth and the processes of transformation...and he used the same transparent watercolor layering as Klee had done...


EXAMPLES OF KURT KRANZ'S WATERCOLOR COMPOSITIONS OF THE TRANSFORMATION OF FORM

For having been a student of Klee's, Professor Kranz's exercises and assignments weren't at all what I was expecting.  I assumed we would be working in layered watercolor washes doing fanciful abstract compositions.  Instead, we were to work exclusively in oils with still life as our subject.

I could only imagine the tedium of working from prosaic still lifes in the tradition of staid European art.  But the still lifes Professor Kranz had in mind were to be our own individual setups constructed from common objects like milk cartons, paper cups, bottles, and crumpled paper with the addition of natural organic objects like seashells, driftwood, fruits and vegetables.  

This combination turned out to be fascinating...the ordinary made extraordinary.  On top of this, we were to view our still lifes from unusual angles---like from directly above---and in unusual ways...as if the objects and the space were transparent...


MY 1966 STILL LIFE EXERCISES WITH PROFESSOR KRANZ

I learned a lot from doing the drawing above (left).  I had set up some shells, paper cups, and driftwood on my classroom desk.  On a large piece of paper, I drew a rather schematic representation of what I viewed from above.  I drew it with ink and a stiff oil brush.  I loved the quality of line, the tightness of compressed composition, and the 'pentimento' (the visible traces of earlier attempts beneath)...I had lightly covered them up with white paint and then drew over those lines.  I was thrilled with the liveliness of the result and later discovered similar results in the drawings and paintings of Richard Diebenkorn.

I came to have a rapport with Professor Kranz even though his English was limited and my German was non-existent.  During the semester, Herr Kranz's wife became ill and he had to return to Hamburg during the semester break.  He had an extra ticket and invited me to fly with him but, unfortunately, I had no passport at the time and couldn't go.  

We had an additional German-American art instructor, Gerd Koch, who was fluent in German and acted as a translator for Professor Kranz.  By chance, ten years later, I had gotten to know Gerd much better.  He had become an art instructor at Ventura College and with some other artists organized a trip to Europe which I joined.

WILLIAM DOLE
"Collage is for me a working process rather than a category.  As a process, it permits endless change in size, shape, color or texture of pictorial elements.  ...I draw to learn about the things I see."    ---William Dole, 1964
WILLIAM DOLE
As an undergraduate my senior year, I set up an independent study with an art professor, William Dole.  Dole's preferred media were watercolor and collage and I was drawn to the sensibility of his approach and wanted to expand my practice in those media.

Dole worked like a stamp collector...he picked through pieces of special papers and bits of torn letters and applied them to his compositions with tweezers.   For him, it was like a meditative chess game. 

One thing that particularly interested me in his work---besides the process of collage itself---was the bare, empty space that was often there.  It was like the space in a Chinese landscape painting---an emptiness that could be full of energy...


WILLIAM DOLE PAINTINGS AND COLLAGES

The rich collage buildup created a patina in his work that made it seem old and full of history.

Around this time I also became interested in the French painter Jean Dubuffet's 'art brut' pieces.  They were built up of rich textures through various means and materials that, like Dole's work, created a rich patina...


JEAN DUBUFFET'S PAINTINGS

My interest in Klee's, Kranz's, Dole's and Dubuffet's work culminated in a series of watercolor paintings I did at the end of my undergraduate year...
SOME OF MY PAINTINGS 1967-68

Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.

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