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Design Analysis: Max Bill and his Works Essay

Analysis of more recent influential artist and work of art and design is never complete without the consideration for the work of Max Bill. This is because of Bill’s hold not just in a particular artistic movement but also in his influence in terms of era and in terms of influencing countries and regions because of the impact of his art, which upon introduction as deemed new and received mixed reactions from Bill’s contemporaries and even from his future critics. Nonetheless, Bill was a key artist in several discipline and because of his attitude and skill in the arts, he was greatly revered by many.

“Max Bill remained the single most decisive influence on the direction taken by Swiss graphic design in the 1950s (Hollis 169). ” Bill was as much respected as he was criticized because of his work, his art and his approach. And because of that, he is, until now, a controversial artist in some degree. He was important in the Creation movement and in the progress and the development of the movement started by other artists – “the concept of Creation was taken furthest by the Swiss artist Max Bill… Bill called for the pure expression of van Doesburg’s concept of concrete art in every field…

Max Bill was taking Vantongerloo’s methodical approach one step further in the direction of concrete art (Honnef, Schneckenburger, Fricke, Walther 456). ” Also, Bill’s works was important for the development of concrete art largely because of how Bill’s works gave life and continuity to concrete art, allowing individuals to learn and study concrete art through his output and contribution to the movement. “The buildings, paintings, and writings of Max Bill, however, are perhaps the best cases to consider, for one of the basic premises of his concrete art (Leatherbarrow, Mostafavi 24).

” In the end, after putting into consideration those who spoke for and against Max Bill and his art and style, the audience is left with the task of asking himself/herself what he or she actually thinks about the work of art of Max Bill. This particular self inquiry and the probable answer to this question is something that this paper will try to delve on, explore, discuss and investigate. The common dilemma that extraordinary artists like Max Bill experience during their life or posthumously is how people react to their artistic instinct and style.

Max Bill was not just one of the individuals who followed a particular movement and became famous because of his role in promoting an artistic style pioneered by many others before him. He pioneered a style and made it a significant and influential artistic approach that changed and challenged the artistic status quo, in the process creating many cynical opinions attacking his work, the rationale for his new method and skepticism in the merits of his new approach to art and design.

Critics of Max Bills works, his design and layout for example, pointed out that despite his inherent talent, skill and vision, he too made some errors; something that, oddly enough, he shared with other notable artists as well. “Interestingly, one of the sins which Tschichold accused Max Bill was the rejection of the indention to mark a new paragraph, which was also a blind spot for Renner at this time (Burke 176). ”

Because the world in general was not unanimous in its appraisal of Max Bill, whose birth date falls on December 22, 1908, and his art and design, new artists and the students of the craft are left to their own devices and to the influence of other individuals to shape for themselves their own opinion about Max Bill. His art and design and how these are regarded and appraised are based largely on the visual impact of the work and with consideration to the input of several historical accounts that tell the story of Max Bill and his artistic design and other works.

There are many expected reactions that artists would show upon their examination of the works of Max Bill, simply because Max Bill’s works can affect an individual in several different ways. What a person thinks of Max Bill’s works and artistic design is a question not answerable by meager explanation of thought; but is rather deserving of a more protracted discussion and analysis focusing on the impact of his style and the opinion that is generated from an individual who have studied and appraised Max Bill’s works. Max Bill, like any other artist who rose to prominence, was noted because of his style and approach to designing.

Mostly, the critique for Bill’s style and approach was hinged on how it was very simple – in appearance, but not the same case for execution, which nonetheless inspired other artist. “De Harak was profoundly influenced by the exquisite simplicity of the great Swiss modernist Max Bill (Heller 284)” – and how it seems to lean towards being functional and/or utilitarian. “The Swiss School or the International Typographic Style, as it was also known, was renowned for its clean, functional, and objective approach to design.

Sans Serif typography expressed the style’s progressive spirit while the use of mathematical grids provided structure (Raimes, Bhaskaran 116). ” This was a description of one of the rising style post World War II in Germany and Switzerland since there was also the rise of what is considered as the International Style, and the connection of Max Bill in it. “The International Style was the most important Swiss contribution to graphic design following World War II… connected with the International Style included Max Bill (Williams 29).

” It was a style that most historians and observers believed to be pioneered by Max Bill because this was how Max Bill, a native of Winterthur, Switzerland, approached art and designing. The flourishing of such movement is not surprising especially with consideration to the role and influence of Max Bill in that particular era. “The first major attempt to develop a post-war design theory in West Germany came from the Hochschule fur Gestaltung in Ulm, which opened its doors in 1955. Max Bill, the Swiss artist and designer, was its first director (Margolin 270).

” If this was the case, then it follows that Bill’s works can be described as being “clean, functional and objective” as well. But these three characteristics are mere broad strokes in an effort to effectively characterize the identity of Bill’s work and the genre that he pioneered. But while the idea of clean, objective and functional is not easily defined in a singular, limited perspective, looking at his works can enable the critic/observer to see what Raimes and Bhaskaran were both pointing at when they described the characteristic of Max Bill’s work and design style. Line, Sharp Ends S and Curves

One of the characteristics of Max Bill’s works and design that can be easily noticed by the person looking at these works is the penchant of the artist in the use of lines and shapes with edges. Although Max Bill definitely had several works that featured smooth flowing curves like Bill’s 1938 work entitled Variation 13, a color lithograph work that features several curved, crescent shapes that surround a yellow round center, sharp edges and pointed breaks are very prominent in his designs like in the work Verdichtung Zu Caput Mortuum as well as in his lay out and his use of grids to layout designs.

Even in the very smooth flowing “Surface in Space with Two Corners”, Bill’s penchant for sharp and pointed edges is still visible as this particular art work is crowned by a pointed tip moving upwards to lead the sides with equally curving flow to a particular meeting point. Yes, Max Bill’s artistic playground is realm of shapes and colors.

“Bill also embraced the idea of art concrete – the construction of paintings from pure, mathematically exact visual elements, such as planes and colors (Raimes, Bhaskaran 116). ” But his socio-political experience and surroundings may have had something to do with his passion for powerful sharp lines and cuts on curve points. This particular inclination of the artist, apart from acting as a distinguishing aspect of his work, also provides the ethos of Max Bill’s creations.

Because of the artist’s inclination to use lines, shapes and alternate shapes and empty/negative spots with particular significance of pointed and sharp ends and curves – an example of which is Max Bill’s “Pythagoraisches Dreieck im Quadrat II,” which he started working on in 1974 that features an unequal triangle placed awkwardly in the center to signify the negative space while bands of color are present from all of the three edges of the white triangle.

Bill’s works have the feeling of being supremely industrial –hard, lifeless, stored with potential force (and at times, unfeeling) – and largely utilitarian, with aesthetic consideration transcended by the need to be useful, exact and purposeful. Because of this approach of Max Bill, a critic can see the reflection of the impact of Bill’s surroundings and how these surroundings affected directly or indirectly his approach and design style.

Max Bill’s penchant for lines was considered as one of the styles and approaches that represent the entry of modern thinking and approach to design and visual arts. The question is why and how. Traditional and the pre-Max Bill era of design and art was largely focused on rendering real world in print as a representation of real life, rendering what was seen as is (animals, plant, houses, human beings etc) and therefore appealing to the senses of the audience because they understood what they saw and can relate to what they saw.

Max Bill’s idea of composition and art was focused on the use of lines and shapes to represent something besides and away from its traditional and conventional self and image, an approach, which incidentally was also representative of the new wave of technological development that happened in Europe after World War II. The audience can relate to Bill’s lines and shapes because they see these artistic aspects more often as they see industrial buildings and factories being erected to symbolize modernism and technological development.

Because of that, the changes that the socio-economic and socio-political plateau imposed on the society allowed the audience a chance and capability to better understand and appreciate Max Bill’s works in visual arts and design, even if other artist failed to give Max Bill and his style their support. “Bill was hoping to continue the Bauhaus project of uniting art and industry, but this approach was opposed by Tomas Maldonado and others on the faculty (Margolin 270). ”

According to Max Bill, his artistic works and designs were meant to be simplistic, exact, precise and useful overall, with strong inclination and inclusion of the concepts of mathematical ideas to support his idea of preciseness among the parts and objects of his overall composition. Bill was able to achieve this goal, as his works were seen by critics in the same light. The presence of lines in his works helped audience by leading their attention towards the aspects of the composition which Bill believed require more attention compared to others.

His boxes and rectangles effectively encapsulated images that needed isolation and separate attention by the audience, removed from the rest of the composition but nonetheless integral in the overall appeal of the utilitarian/artistic design. This was the rationale for the work Verdichtung Zu Caput Mortuum according to the Daimler Art Collection article, explaining that the core square figure at the center is capable of giving itself life by its own means even if it is nonetheless connected with the bands of colors that surround it (Daimler Art Collection 3).

Bill’s style and approach in artistic designing and output made him during his time a catalyst of a particular new movement: “By the end of the second World War, a new graphic style had begun to emerge from Switzerland to Germany… One of the pioneers of this movement was Max Bill, an architect, artist, and designer (Raimes, Bhaskaran 116). ”

Because of this, it can be argued that Max Bill and his works, his line of thinking, his analysis of how work should be executed and why it should adhere to that particular approach, and his rationale with the relationship of mathematics and purely aesthetic art are by and all solid proofs about his characteristic as being a genius in the field of art and artistic design and an important artist during and after his time. This is largely because of his role and influence in the creation of a new trend in artistic design that influenced design approach all over the world.

Max Bill’s Works Reflect Beauty When faced with the question “how does a Max Bill’s works affect a person” or “what can a person say about Max Bill’s works,” it is safe to say that one of the probable responses to this particular query is that the works reflect artistic beauty. There are many proofs to say that such statement was true. First, many critics during and past Max Bill’s time have time and again praised the works of this particular artist; second, it cannot be denied that Max Bill’s works has a very appealing characteristic, a trait that makes his works pleasing to the eye.

There is a state of mental comfort as a person looks at his work of art because it does not try too hard to be profound or deep or poetic that the audience do not find it difficult to relate to the art object. Here are proofs based largely on his works. The color combination in his Strahledge Orange is warm and relaxing and does not assault the senses strongly. The color combination in his Variation 13 complements with each other and with the dark background. There is a sober and subtle color beauty in the harmony found in the lines and colors in the Verdichtung Zu Caput Mortuum as well as in the 6-teilige Bewegung.

And the combination of simplicity and beauty is not difficult to detect in Bill’s very popular design Sun Lamp. The golden radiance of his sculptures namely Flache im Raum von einer Linie begrenzt, Funfeckflache im Raum mit vollem Kreisumfang and Surface in Space with Two Corners are visually appealing and easily very beautiful, as the Endless Tension was not very close to its name since the feeling of negative tension in the senses of the audience is not something that the artwork ignites in its presence.

Third, critics and historians have always noted how Max Bill was conscious of incorporating the characteristic of being beautiful in his works, even if most of the observers would point out that his passion for being simple and utilitarian may have compromised it. “Designers such as… Max Bill proposed a reductive, unadorned graphic design that aimed for objectivity and efficiency. Their purist ideals did not exclude a strong sense of beauty (Middendorp 114). ” The idea of unadorned graphic design, objectivity and efficiency is seen in the Sun Lamp, which is without a doubt adorned nonetheless with traits of beauty and an appealing aura.

Max Bill’s Work Reflect Intellectual Approach to Making Art and Design Max Bill’s works reflect the intellectual framework that Bill uses and integrates in his approach towards the creation of art and design. Bill and his works become unique because while most of the popular artists feature popular works that are powered by human emotion or sheer instinctive visual skill. Bill’s work and approach to producing art features the use, integration and consideration of the intellectual plateau.

This does not just make his works special but also complicated and possessing a certain depth in artistic value that is very hard to equal or surpass. “His sculptures show that rational relationships and visual logic, including mathematical formulae, can harbour dynamic streams and topological mysteries. Bill was a master of such transformation (Honnef, Schneckenburger, Fricke, Walther 456). ” An example of this is his sculptures, like his obsession with the use of the Moebius strip and the mathematical and interpretative value of these particular sculptures.

Bill does not just simply twist, turn metal and find reason and definition with what accidentally comes out as beautiful or artistic. On the contrary, he knows what he wanted to do and through his use of his intense discipline he manages to accomplish his vision, like his bronze work entitled “Endless Tension. ” Max Bill’s Works Reflect the Use of Mathematical Concepts The incorporation of mathematical concepts was something that is not exclusive to Max Bill, especially since many other artist in different fields were also studying how mathematics can be more effectively integrated in the creation of artistic output.

“Artists’ interests in mathematics span many subdisciplines of the field. Some find rational process of mathematics intriguing (Wilson 322). ” While there is indeed mathematical considerations in art, there are very few who rigidly utilized and implemented mathematical aspects in the creation of art and design. “While El Lissitzky’s approach to the grid allowed for a degree of flexibility, the Swiss architect, painter and designer Max Bill placed emphasis upon absolute mathematical order in many of his graphic designs (Meggs 86).

” This is not just found in his design and layout tasks and output, but also in his art as well, in the heart and soul of his output and in his approach towards artistic creation: “Even for Bill, however, the interest does not end with logical manipulations. He sees artistic challenges in the ways mathematics connect humans with the mysteries of the universe. He is inspired by the intellectual leaps made by mathematicians (Wilson 322). ”


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