The Daily Heller: Letterform Archive Does the Bauhaus

Posted inThe Daily Heller

I cannot keep it to myself any longer: I have archive envy. This is an uncontrollable, involuntary urge of the nervous system to want everything another person or institution possesses. It is the foremost reason behind the competition between collectors in this increasingly document-inflated world.

However, Letterform Archive is doing such an exemplary job of collecting, assembling, displaying and now exhibiting the treasured documents of graphic design that I do not feel the urge to continue in my own pursuits. Rob Saunders has amassed such a devoted team of archivists and historians that the history of graphic—especially typographic—design is in excellent hands as an open source for primary material.

If anyone thought Letterform Archive was merely a warehouse of common and rare materials, put your money down on their exhibition Bauhaus Typography at 100. (The exhibition catalogue alone, featuring a splendid introduction by Ellen Lupton, is arguably the most complete Bauhaus resource I’ve seen, and I have been collecting related volumes for decades.)

Opening on Nov. 13 and running through April 27, this is the first Letterform exhibition. While it contains much of the commonly seen Bauhaus faculty and student work, including Bauhaus Bucher and the quintessential Herbert Bayer cover masterpiece for the 1919–1923 Stattliches Wiemar catalog, it also showcases many rarely viewed handlettering plates and books that reveal the school’s flirtation with symbolism, mysticism and esotericism.

Curated by Saunders and Henry Cole Smith, Bauhaus Typography at 100 further showcases designers and typographers influenced by the school’s teachings. The juxtaposition of old and new is a treat. The exploration of the school’s unique legacy in graphic design draws a throughline from the Bauhaus’ iconic style to the shape of typography today.

Joahnnes Itten “Utopia Documents of Reality,” 1921.
Title page exhibition catalogue for Weimar State Bauhaus, 1923.
The New Typography article by Moholy-Nagy in Weimar State Bauhaus catalog, 1923.
Johannes Itten annotated proof of “Utopia Documents of Reality,” 1921. Collection Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin.
Johannes Itten, final printed version of the above, 1921.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, “The Theater of the Bauhaus,” 1923.
Johannes Itten, Greetings and Blessings to the Hearts, 1921.
Joost Schmidt, Ticket for the Celebration of the Fifth Bauhaus Year, 1924.
(Top) Felix Klee, “After All, Dessau!” 1927. (Below) Lothar Schreyer, “Crucifixion: Performance Score VII,” 1920.

All images are in the collection of the Letterform Archive except where noted.