An exhibition on the New-York Historic Society surveys the work of the influential but little-known German-born American artist, graphic designer and inside designer Winold Reiss (1886-1953). Titled The Artwork of Winold Reiss: An Immigrant Modernist, the present options 150 works—many being exhibited for the primary time—together with work, drawings, posters, furnishings, preparatory sketches and extra.
As a younger man, Reiss enrolled on the Munich Academy to check beneath Franz von Caught, whose different pupils included Paul Klee, Wasily Kandinsky and Josef Albers. In 1913, aged 26, he immigrated to America and settled in New York. “He comes right here as a result of he needs to convey Trendy artwork to America,” says Marilyn Satin Kushner, who co-curated the present with Debra Schmidt Bach. “He has his fingers in all the pieces. He sees the significance of portray and sculpture but in addition of graphic design, poster design and even woodworking.”
The primary of the exhibition’s 4 galleries focuses on Reiss’ early work. It encompasses daring and vibrant work introduced over from Germany, in addition to graphic works, posters and two wood eating chairs. The work Ornamental Fowl Panel (1911-1916)—a vivid and swirling design in tempera on paper—exemplifies this early interval, whereas a poster from 1916 promoting a charity bazaar for the widows of fallen First World Struggle troopers embodies his knack for daring graphic designs.
The second gallery options Reiss’ strongest and arguably most related work. In 1925, Reiss was tapped by writer Paul Kellogg as an example a problem of the sociopolitical journal Survey Graphic. Titled Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro, the problem was visitor edited by the author and thinker Alain Locke, and in addition featured writings by civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois and feminist scholar Elise Johnson McDougald.
Among the Black intellectuals Reiss was commissioned to color pushed again in opposition to a white, German immigrant being chosen to painting them, however issues had been assuaged when Locke vouched for the artist. “Locke understood that Reiss, greater than any artist he knew, was capable of get to the soul of those individuals,” Kushner explains. The works are proven right here for the primary time since 1925, once they had been exhibited on the New York Public Library on one hundred and thirty fifth Avenue.
The adjoining wall options portraits together with a well-known depiction of the poet Langston Hughes; the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi; and a piece on paper of a Indigenous man referred to as Turtle (one among 10 works Reiss created of him). After studying the immensely standard Wild West novels by German creator Karl Might, assembly and portray Indigenous individuals grew to become one of many artist’s principal focuses, with over 250 such works recognized to be in his oeuvre. He made a number of journeys to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana to depict varied tribespeople; this physique of labor stays Reiss’ most commercially profitable, although only one instance of it’s featured within the exhibition.
Within the third gallery there are preparatory sketches, metalwork and ephemera consultant of Reiss’ industrial work for accommodations, eating places and houses throughout New York Metropolis. Notable items embrace preliminary inside designs and sketches for the favored chain of Longchamps eating places spanning 1923-1952, in addition to menus and matchbooks for the Crillon restaurant dated 1919-1926. It’s an additional proof of the breadth of Reiss’ skillset, with colourful and swooping shapes, graphics and typefaces that exemplify quintessential Modernism. Almost all the industrial endeavors referenced within the third gallery not exist; mockups and ephemera are all that stay.
The fourth and ultimate gallery delves into a few of Reiss’ influences. It’s anchored by a large-scale portray salvaged from one of many Longchamps eating places, designed across the theme of “the long run”. Rendered in gilt paint, the 1936 portray of an airplane, prepare, and automotive set in opposition to a vibrant cityscape recollects Italian Futurism, and reveals the artist’s imagined interpretation of twenty first Century life. Different highlights embrace a pair of works emulating German expressionism, and an action-packed Harlem dance scene from 1925 that demonstrates his deep love of jazz.
The survey of Reiss’ work raises the query of why such a prolific and influential artist is basically unknown immediately. Whereas he loved industrial success and was accepted in artist circles, as an immigrant from a rustic that Individuals fought in opposition to in each the First World Struggle and Second World Struggle, Kushner posits that Reiss felt ostracised from mainstream society at a time of excessive anti-German sentiment. The sensation of being an outsider drew him to depict minorities and ethnic teams on the fringes of society, together with African Individuals, Native Individuals and Asian Individuals.
Racism and prejudice additionally meant there have been few retailers and venues to publish or present these ensuing artworks. In the meantime, Reiss’ industrial work for eating places and accommodations was principally unveiled with little fanfare and sometimes destroyed or painted over as tastes modified. Bringing these works collectively retroactively now seeks to treatment Reiss’ longtime obscurity by presenting them with recent context and to a brand new viewers.
- The Artwork of Winold Reiss: An Immigrant Modernist, till 9 October on the New-York Historic Society, New York