Max Bill (1908 – 1994) was a Swiss painter, sculptor, architect, designer, teacher, and writer. He studied at the Bauhaus from 1927 to 1929, then returned to Switzerland, primarily in Zurich. He saw himself as primarily an architect, but he worked in several fields, with the ultimate goal of bringing the various branches of the visual arts together—he once described art as the “sum of all functions in harmonious unity.”
However, he is best known for his sculptures, which are characterised by smooth, elegant, spiralling abstract forms in stone or polished metal. He borrowed van Doesburg’s word “concrete art” to describe his work in this vein, popularising it in Switzerland in place of “abstract.” He travelled to Argentina and Brazil in 1941 to introduce the concept of Concrete sculpture. He was a tireless promoter of his concepts (he wrote several books and numerous articles in English and German) and organised exhibitions of abstract art).
His sculptures have been regarded as Minimal art forerunners. Still, they reflect a subtle blending of mathematics and intuition, and some Minimalists, such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris, have disputed his influence.
Bill’s work as an architect included his own home in Zurich (1932–3) and the lauded Hochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design) in Ulm (1951–5), where he built an austerely elegant complex of buildings delicately placed in a romantic setting on a shoestring budget. From 1951 to 1957, he was a co-founder of the school and the architecture and product design departments’ director.
Bill executed many public sculptures in Europe and exhibited them extensively in galleries and museums, including a retrospective at the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1968–69. He had his first exhibition in the United States at the Staempfli Gallery in New York City in 1963. He was the subject of retrospectives at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1974. He participated in documentas I (1955), II (1959), and III (1964). In 1993, he received the Praemium Imperiale for sculpture, awarded by the Emperor of Japan.
Bill is credited with having been “the spark that lighted the fuse of Brazil’s artistic revolution” and the country’s “movement toward concrete art” with his 1951 retrospective at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. He strongly influenced Brazilian artists like Franz Weissmann.
Chilvers, I. (2011). The Oxford dictionary of art. Oxford University Press.
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, April 22). Max Bill. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:51, July 22, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Max_Bill&oldid=1084060301