For more than three decades, Chicago's Institute of Design provided the training and inspiration to an impressive number of students who rank today among the most widely recognized fine art photographers in the country. Guided by such luminaries in the field as László Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, the Institute of Design (ID) served as an American outpost of the Bauhaus, Germany’s legendary experimental school of art, design, and architecture, and transmitted a wide range of radically influential ideas about light, form, and abstraction to a new generation of artists. Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from December 7, 2002 to March 2, 2003, is the first museum exhibition to comprehensively examine the school’s significant contribution to photography during its formative and peak years.
Featuring work by more than 50 photographers, Taken By Design brings together the best work by faculty and students of the Institute of Design from the time of its founding in 1937 through the departure of Siskind in 1971. In addition to photographs by Moholy-Nagy, Callahan and Siskind, the exhibition presents works by photographers Ray K. Metzker, William Larson, Barbara Blondeau and Thomas Porett, who helped in bringing the Institute’s radical teaching methods to Philadelphia and its art schools, forever changing the city’s photography scene. Also on view are images by internationally recognized photographers Thomas Barrow, Linda Connor, Eileen Cowin, Barbara Crane, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Joseph Jachna, Kenneth Josephson, György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Richard Nickel, Arthur Siegel, and Art Sinsabaugh.
"This exhibition has a special resonance in Philadelphia," said Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs at the Alfred Stieglitz Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art. "The Institute of Design has had a major role in the training of artists whose work has an important presence in the photography collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and museums across the world. From the innovative work of Moholy-Nagy to Callahan’s distinctive landscapes and the powerful work of Philadelphia master Ray Metzker, the photographs that emerged from the Institute of Design have expanded the artistic possibilities of photography."
The Institute of Design, with its emphasis on experimentation, radically changed the way photography was taught and practiced in this country. Moholy's photograms, Callahan's high-contrast landscapes, Siskind's wall abstractions and a wide range of student pictures set new standards for both formal and technical exploration in photography. In addition, the school educated generations of photographers who would in turn become teachers, thus ensuring a lasting legacy of ID artistic principles and educational philosophy.
Taken by Design is divided chronologically into three sections. The first concentrates on the investigational nature of Moholy's approach and the importance his teachings placed on photography's role in the preparation of the "complete designer," one of the essential goals that guided the approach of the original Bauhaus school from its founding in Weimar Germany in 1919. The second shows formal and abstract camera explorations under Callahan and Siskind, as students applied principles of experimentation to a new kind of individual, photographic subjectivity. The third focuses on the conscious references to the processes of the photographic medium itself.
Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971 is organized by David Travis, curator of the department of photography at The Art Institute of Chicago. This exhibition was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, and has been made possible by LaSalle Bank.
The exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is on view in the Berman and Stieglitz Galleries, and is coordinated by Katherine Ware. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and is available for $45 in the Museum Store, by calling (800) 329-4856, or by visiting the Museum’s Online Store at www.philamuseum.org. The book numbers 272 pages, with 270 illustrations (20 color and 250 duotone).