Max Bill

22

Bill 22 Kunstmuseum Winterthur 1500 - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 © Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft Zürich, Lutz Hartmann
  • Max Bill
  • 22
  • 1953/(nach 1980)
  • Marble
  • 78.5 x 78.5 x 60.5 cm
  • Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Ankauf, 1984 - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 © Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft Zürich, Lutz Hartmann

Max Bill was one of the most avid proponents of the “principle of order” and sought to align almost all of his designs within what he termed “mathematical thinking,” which he considered the basis of human experience. His marble sculpture 22 (1953) represents the very embodiment of “concrete art,” which dismisses all external dependence upon natural phenomena in favor of an art that emanates directly from the mind of the artist. The twenty-two holes that spiral outward on the vertical plane of the sculpture (and from which the title 22 derives) are not simply an exercise in gradual accumulation, but also a variation on the famous Fibonacci spiral, which follows the corresponding integer sequence, and the basis of which is the form of the so-called golden spiral.

There is a parallel between the sculpture’s precarious intersection of two 90-degree planes and Bill’s later architectural designs, particularly the Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design) in Ulm, as well as the Wohn- und Atelierhaus (Residence and Studio) that he designed in Zumikon, on the outskirts of Zurich. Like 22, the grace of these structures is derived from the simplicity and harmony of lines and surfaces, of similarly intersecting right-angled planes that address the relationship between base and structure.

Damian Lentini

Biography of Max Bill

  • Born 1908 in Winterthur, Switzerland
  • Died 1994 in Berlin, Germany
Max Bill was one of the most avid proponents of the “principle of order” and sought to align almost all of his designs within what he termed “mathematical thinking,” which he considered the basis of human experience. He first trained as a silversmith in Switzerland before studying at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany (1927–29). In the 1930s he was influenced by the ideas of De Stijl movement (1917–31; also known as Neoplasticism), especially as put forth in its manifesto, The Basis of Concrete Art (1930), by the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931). Using this essay as a basis for his own investigations into concrete forms, Bill later organized the seminal exhibition Konkrete Kunst (Concrete Art) at the Kunsthalle Basel in 1944. In 1953 Bill co-founded the Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Ulm, where he both designed the building and developed its Bauhaus-based curriculum, which later integrated science and art. Bill exhibited extensively in the postwar period. His sculpture Dreiteilige Einheit (Tripartite Unity, YEAR), which won first prize at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1951, influenced the emergence of Concrete art in Latin America. Bill’s work has been exhibited extensively, including the first three Documentas, Kassel (1955; 1959; 1964); and retrospectives at the Kunsthaus Zürich (1968–69); the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1974); and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City (1988).