August 2015-July 2016
Herbert Bayer’s tapestries are arguably the least researched body of his work, and much of his exploration of this medium and its production remains unknown. This rare exhibition of Bayer’s tapestries, dating from 1961-1983, includes seven pieces in the Paepcke Gallery on loan from collectors around the United States, and also highlights the impressive collection of fifteen tapestries that are displayed permanently throughout the buildings of the Aspen Institute (please refer to the exhibition checklist and map). The exhibition emphasizes the stylistic range, brilliant color palette and design in this resplendent body of work.
In the 1960s, as Bayer continued his geometric and chromatic explorations, he began his exploration of the design and fabrication of tapestries. To assist in realizing his vision, Bayer visited factories in different locations of the world including Puerto Rico, Morocco and China. Several of the tapestries are large-scale versions of works that he had executed in different media. There is no known accurate record of Bayer-approved fabrication locations, and there is little record of editions. This is particularly curious because of how fastidiously Bayer annotated and recorded his work. It is known that many of the tapestries were made to fill corporate boardrooms for the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). The genius of utilizing tapestries in these large spaces is that they had the added benefit of helping to absorb sound.
The size and the bold, orderly designs of the tapestries dominate every space they inhabit. The subjects for the tapestries are familiar to Bayer; he explores concepts of geometry, symmetry and asymmetry, and also integrates mathematical theories (such as the Fibonnaci sequence) especially into his later work. He uses a simple and recognizable vocabulary of geometric forms—circles, triangles, and rectangles, and he revisits his ‘Gates’ series frequently in these tapestries – the most well know of the ‘Gates’ series is a 21 ft outdoor sculpture that was realized in Santa Barbara after Bayer’s death. Also relevant to all of these tapestries is Bayer’s masterful use of color and the interaction and interplay of the color on the wool canvas.
The tapestries are yet another example of Bayer’s fearlessness and daring in exploring a new medium, enforcing his Bauhaus ethos of equality and lack of hierarchy in the arts. Exploring textiles was practical and efficient and allowed him yet another way to advance his understanding of color and form.