- Oskar Schlemmer: Visions of a New WorldOur PickBy Ina Conzen
- The Letters and Diaries of Oskar SchlemmerOur PickSelected and edited by Tut Schlemmer, translated by Krishna Winston
- Beyond the Bauhaus: Cultural Modernity in Breslau, 1918-33By Deborah Ascher Barnstone
- The Theater of the Bauhaus: The Modern and Postmodern Stage of Oskar SchlemmerBy Melissa Trimingham
- Bauhaus: Workshops for Modernity, 1919 - 1933By Barry Bergdoll and Leah Dickerman
- Human-Space-Machine: Space Experiments at the BauhausBy Torsten Blume, Christian Hiller, and Stephan Müller
- Man: Teaching Notes from the BauhausBy Oskar Schlemmer
- Dance the BauhausBy Torsten Blume
Important Art by Oskar Schlemmer
Schlemmer's reliefs mark a half-way point in his exploration of the human body from two-dimensional paintings to three-dimensional sculptures. His negotiations with Cubism are also apparent as he divides the human figure into geometric sections. The viewer sees the figure from the front and the rounded shapes denoting the head, torso, and legs are intersected with horizontal and vertical gridlines. These elements of the body are raised from the surface, but also delineated through the use of metallic paint in black, brown, silver, and bronze. Patterned sections make the figure stand out from the surface and offer more depth to the relief.
Reliefs were a medium that many artists of this time experimented with including Hans Arp, whose wooden reliefs of the 1910s and 1920s raised geometric shapes beyond the confines of the two-dimensional canvas. Schlemmer's relief works also exhibit many similarities to the Wall Pictures of his friend Willi Baumeister. Relief H-6 PA can be seen as Schlemmer's attempt to reinterpret the European avant-garde, and particularly Cubism, along the lines of his own fixation with the human figure. In his move towards sculpture through his experimental reliefs, the artist was able to reconsider the body's relationship to space, and utilize geometry for anthropomorphic rather than abstract ends. This work foreshadows Schlemmer's use of geometry in performative art and theatre, in particular the Triadic Ballet.
The tubular shapes of Abstract Figure resemble the standing human form with arms outstretched. The streamlined body can be seen as that of the New Man, a fantasy figure in post-war Germany who was thoroughly modern and forward-thinking. The use of bronze and nickel reflect these notions and give the work a machine-like aesthetic, an idea that was explored by staff and students at the Bauhaus, where Schlemmer was teaching at this time. The inter-disciplinary environment of the school meant Schlemmer could easily access the resources and materials of the metal workshop to create this piece.
Abstract Figure was one of Schlemmer's first forays into expressing the human figure in three-dimensions. Following the First World War, Schlemmer increasingly placed an emphasis on the more spatial aspects of his art and how the dynamism of the human body could be displayed through sculpture and theater. Of such experiments, the artist wrote: "Sculpture is three-dimensional. It cannot be taken in at once, but rather in a temporal sequence of different locations and angles of view. As a sculpture is not exhausted by a single direction of view, the visitor is forced to move, and it is only the circumambulation and the sum of impressions that leads to the full experience of the sculpture".
Schlemmer's ballet premiered at the Stuttgart Landestheater in September 1922, with music by the German composer Paul Hindemith. The production went on to tour throughout Europe in the 1920s, to cities including Weimar, Frankfurt, Berlin, and Paris, spreading the Bauhaus ideas of modern art. The ballet didn't have a plot, but rather three acts of different moods and color which Schlemmer described as a "party of form and color". Act One was yellow, Act Two, pink, and the final Act was black. It was performed by three dancers, two female and one male, who wore a total of 18 costumes. The costumes over-emphasized the forms of the human body, turning the dancers into geometrical constructions and they moved both with and against the wearers as they danced the ballet, restricting some movements and highlighting others. The mixed media of their construction variously reflected and absorbed light further emphasizing certain body parts and structural elements.
Schlemmer was not the first to explore the traditional dance form of ballet in a modern way. At this time, the Ballets Russes, founded by the Russian art patron Sergei Diaghilev, was at the height of its popularity. Diaghilev commissioned new music from the composers Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev, accompanying by sets designed by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Schlemmer's Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky. In the Triadic Ballet, however, Schlemmer was the first artist to fuse dance and modernism through his exploration of abstraction in real space. It also marked a breakaway from classical ballet's focus on the soloist and the duet, instead emphasising a collective approach to dance. Schlemmer described his attempts to explore the relationship between body, shape, color and space as "artistic metaphysical mathematics". As well as the physical movement of the dance, the costumes can be seen as a living embodiment of Schlemmer's previous sculptural and pictorial work. The performers appear machine-like in their faceless costumes, reflecting on the zeitgeist of the New Man.