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Bernhard Hoesli: Collages (February 17 - March 7, 2014)

February 12, 2014

Bernhard Hoesli: Collages

Max W. Sullivan Gallery, Architecture 206

School of Architecture, UT Arlington

February 17 - March 7, 2014

Reception: 6:00 pm, Monday, February 24, 2014

This exhibition was made possible by funds donated by Bill Booziotis, FAIA
Booziotis and Company, Architects, Dallas, Texas



Bernhard Hoesli was a Swiss architect whose ideas about architecture had a great impact on the architectural history of the last fifty years. He was born in 1923 in Zurich and died in 1984. He began studying architecture in 1943 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). After graduating, he spent a year working with Le Corbusier in Marseilles and Paris, and then moved to the United States. In 1953, he began teaching architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Shortly after, Colin Rowe, Robert Slutzky, John Hedjuk, Lee Hirsche, Lee Hodgden, Werner Seligmann, and John Shaw arrived on the scene. This group of faculty members came to be known as the “Texas Rangers”. Their collaborations, carried on even after their departure from Texas, resulted in some of the most important developments in architectural history and education such as transparency and collage city. In 1968 Hoesli edited a German translation of the “transparency essays”, which Rowe and Slutzky had published several years earlier, called Transparenz. In this edition, he includes an addendum and many illustrations that helped to clarify the concept of phenomenal transparency.

After leaving Texas in 1959, Hoesli returned to Switzerland to practice and teach at the ETH. Here Hoesli developed a pedagogy for architecture based on the presumption that Modern architecture was a style and that one could establish a coherent course of study based on the use of precedents. For Hoesli, Modern architecture did not need to refuse a relationship with history in order to be effective and strong. It is for this reason that his involvement with the medium of collage is so significant. His attitude towards collage was pervasive in all of his work.

Hoesli collage

First of all we must be clear that by collage one understands, of course, a picture, a type of painting, an object. However, one can also say that this object is the result of a process, a particular kind of approach to shapes, colors and, typically for collage, scrap paper. So a collage is not only meant as an object, something made, a result, but what is perhaps far more interesting: a process. Moreover, that behind this way of doing something which as a result then leads to a collage, the collage could be meant as an attitude of mind… (Bernhard Hoesli - Lecture, May 2, 1983, Bern)

By definition collage is a technique for assembling a picture from diverse fragments of paper, fabric or other discarded materials – the detritus of contemporary culture. The fragments are put together such that new relationships, complimentary and sometimes contradictory, must be constructed. He recognized that, like a collage, culture and the contemporary city is composed of fragments that do not always have complementary relationships to one another.

The collages in this exhibition represent the work of the last twenty years of Hoesli’s life. They were begun in 1963, fifty-one years after Pablo Picasso completed his collage Still Life with Chair Caning. Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris are credited with turning collage into a medium of “high art”. However, it was not simply an object of high art that Hoesli had in mind when he made a collage. Hoesli made collages in order to use them as experimental fields, practice fields, notation devices, and diaries. He made them while traveling, teaching, working, and while at home. Most of the collages are small enough to permit keeping them in a satchel or on a desk, permitting them to be pulled out and worked on at any moment. Hoesli would work on a collage for a long period of time, revisiting it day after day or year after year. It was their temporal nature and the constant friction between the controlled and the haptic that allowed these collages to be emblematic of Hoesli’s larger attitude towards life. Over time, Hoesli’s changing preoccupations and the physical effects of aging materials are both evident in each collage. Hoesli kept a record of the history of each collage by making notations on the back. Most of these notations have been transcribed for the exhibition.

The collages in this exhibit are a part of a living history that has a critical bearing on our understanding of architecture and architectural education. This exhibit allows today’s architects, artists, students, and educators to go back to the “primary texts” with all their potency and insight.

All the collages in the exhibition are on loan from Hoesli’s daughter, Regina Hoesli.

Christina Betanzos Pint

bernhard hoesli