‘Baroque to Bauhaus’

Eye-catching burgundy and ivory garments drape and glisten in soft light as “The Marriage of Figaro,” performed by the London Philharmonic illuminates the ambiance of the “Baroque to Bauhaus” exhibit at the McNay Art Museum.

The “Baroque to Bauhaus” exhibit is comprised of several displays which include titles such as “Baroque: Mozart’s School for Lovers” and “Bauhaus: The Mechanized Stage.” The term “Bauhaus” is used to describe the clean lines and geometric forms of the post World War I art movement. Between 1919-1938, students of this style included Laszlo Moholy-Nagy with his 1923 print, “Konstruktionen III (Construction III)” and Alexandra Exter’s “Decors de Theatre” (1930).

Oskar Schlemmer was a major figure associated with the Bauhaus school. He believed that theatre was significant for the Bauhaus style. Schlemmer once stated that the “human body is a physical structure—not an emotional being” and that “theatre means to reveal second nature” and not the single reality.

In the exhibit, “Baroque: Mozart’s School for Lovers,” the contrasting Bauhaus and Baroque styles become one. Mozart’s operas “Cosi fan tutte” and “The Marriage of Figaro” are transformed from the extravagant and ornate Baroque fashion to the slick style that is Bauhaus.

Baroque art was the new art movement of the 17th century and was made popular for its dramatic and emotional appeal. Mozart’s opera scenes are redesigned to take place in modern settings such as in lofts overlooking a city skyline.

One of the artists who made this transformation possible was Adrianne Lobel with her graphite drawings. At this display, a video is available for viewing with modern reenactments of “Cosi fan tutte.”

Other parts of the exhibit include drawings and sketches of Georges Bizert’s “Carmen,” and ink on paper costume designs by Tazeena Firth and Timothy O’Brien for Benjamin Britten’s opera, “Peter Grimes.” A looping projection of acts I, II and III of “Peter Grimes” also accompanies the displays.

At the end of the exhibit is a section titled “Recent Acquisitions,” displayed in this area are two costumes from the 2006 Broadway musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The designs for these costumes are just as extravagant as the costumes themselves.

Gregg Barnes created the costume designs with gouche, metallic paint and graphite on paper. An audio track sung by the cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone” titled “Show Off” can also be heard. Across the room is an area titled “The Chinea Festival” which mostly consisted of 1772 etchings by engraver Guiseppe Vasi. Hung in the back wall of this room are oil paintings by Natalia Gontcharova, which portrays characters from the Russian fairy tale turned play, “Snegourotchka (The Snow Maiden).” Among these oil on canvas paintings are depictions of “The Queen of Shemahkan” (ca. 1922) and “The Astrologer (ca. 1922)”.

Setting the mood for the exhibit are richly colored walls, featuring dimly lit quotes from “Carmen” and “Peter Grimes,” among others. The best element to the “Baroque to Bauhaus” exhibit is the multimedia experience. Not only is there a modern audio/video aspect involved, but the actual costumes, designs and small-scale sets from the operas add to the variety of visual treats, a feast for your eyes. The “Baroque to Bauhaus” collection is on display at the McNay until June 10, 2012.