Context and History of Art and Design Education

October 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

This week with spencer we looked at the context and history of art and design education- how art and design education came to be. we looked a lot at Henri Bergson, John Dewy, Joseph Albers and Eva Hesse along with others…




Context and history of Art & Design

Early 1900s

Henri Bergson

Convinced many thinkers that the processes of immediate experience and intuition are more significant than abstract rationalism (“regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”.) and science for understanding reality.

The seemingly stable physical world, the notion of strength of truth and the existence of unchanging morality were all less settled in the face of the new physics, pragmatism (rejection of the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality.), biblical criticism and emerging theories of evolutionary transformation and vitalism. (“Living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things”)

Example: world trade center protests – political peace and order that democracy thrives on is grounded on the idea that they also radically disagree on things. Voting narrows that choice, but also narrows the perception of disagreement. Filmed in cities all around the world, and had a communal chat which expressed a lack of consensus and unity. Multiplicity. (Unity + disorder)

John Dewey


Critical on top down ordering structures, important for individuals to form experiences, needed an idea of material experiences where people are situated, early 20th century his visions were used as individual, neat ordering on experiences. Fashion your own world, affect change and grow with it. Experience is the fulfillment of an organism in its struggles and achievements in a world of things. It is art in germ. Even in its rudimentary forms, it contains the promise of that delightful perception which is aesthetic experience.


Joseph Albers


Bauhaus – Germany


Central place for design thinking, linked to building and construction, technical college with a strong arts agenda because of experimental methods in teaching, student learning and experience. Interested with the architectural grid ding and composition, equally interested in hands on, craft culture and experiential view on the world. Disciplinary.


Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Centered on the idea of we are living in a machine age. Taught the aesthetic and communicative properties of materials through which students developed a design sensibility. Directed towards simplicity and elemental expression by reducing variety in nature to basic properties used to create products that had organization and function.



Johannes Itten

Stressed direct interaction with the physical world – he saw the study of nature as above all else a study of the purely material through which his students discovered the inexhaustible wealth of textures and their combinations. Actively engaged their senses through which perception was filtered. Additionally the artist claimed that through exercises dealing with materials and materiality ‘a new world was discovered.’ it ten’s was a method mediated by the body, his exercises involved looking closely and intently so as to discover the world anew through sharpened and refined senses.


Josef Albers

How colours interact and act on each other – thinks of them as networks of interacting forces of intensity, a form of multiplicity in colour. Formalized approach when teaching, working with diagrams and theorizing of the practice. Trying to get across the picture of multiplicity. Credited with influencing the movements of geometric abstraction and minimalism developed a perception-based mode of ‘colour action.’ emphasis the relation between colours and how they work on perception. Dewey’s ideas practiced in experiential colour interaction on Albers behalf. “Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon – it is the very heart of painting.” creating ‘visual empathy’ through which one gained ‘the ability to read the meaning of form and order.’ disliked expressionism.


Black mountain college – USA


Liberal arts college with a very strong arts agenda; had a very free approach to education. They had two compulsory courses, philosophy with John Andrew Rice, and materials and form with Josef Albers. John Dewey was actively involved in BMC, and tried to develop the curriculum, tutors and their families mingled with the students; sharing what was available it was more a micro-community. Constructed experience and had a holistic approach to life through regular engagement. BMC were interested the process and not results, so had a much wider and open agenda that the Bauhaus. “Our way of handling facts and ourselves amid the facts is more important than the facts themselves” played a formative role in the definition of an American aesthetic and identity in the arts during the 1950s and 1960s. Trans-disciplinary.


Buckmister Fuller – created his first geodesic dome in 1948


John Cage staged his first work of performance art (first Happening)


Links between the institutions


– Both heavily oriented to experimentation, expressed views and ideas of Dewey and both accepting of materials and form by Josef Albers


– Bauhaus has a stronger formalism environment, attraction to universal principles and to design. Arts united through principle


– BMC is more open environment, less structural aims. Stronger attachment to material culture; embrace of popular culture, runs with an art agenda, cares about the production of signs not the end.




Eva Hesse


She loved Albers formalism, dogmatism and overbearingness. Learnt in terms of experimental practice, doesn’t include much colour deliberately to avoid association, produced informal materialistic work spurred by materialistic practices that Albers recommended. Skewing his method to produce new forms of painting and design. Produces unique perceptions in person’s minds. Has a love/hate relationship with Albers.



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