Silke Schatz: Wilkinson Gallery

By Bell, Eugenia | Artforum International, November 2006 | Go to article overview
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Silke Schatz: Wilkinson Gallery


Bell, Eugenia, Artforum International


"The New Architecture," a movement based on a sociopolitical awareness of the built environment, dawned in the early 1920s. Central to its cause was the improvement of housing through the provision of natural light and fresh air and the creation of outdoor space. German architect Otto Haesler ranks among the most significant proponents of the movement, but while no other architect in the '20s was as committed to the modernist claims of efficiency and rationalism as he, Haesler remains virtually unknown despite his vital contributions to the modernist canon.

Haesler's practice in the small Saxon city of Celle lasted thirty-four years. A decade or so into his tenure there, he was asked to become the director of the Bauhaus--an offer he refused because he was so committed to his modernist vision in Celle--and his friends and collaborators included Bauhaus members such as the painter Karl Volker, the photographer and designer Katt Both, and the architect Hermann Bunzel. His social housing in Celle, including the Italienischer Garten, Georgsgarten, Volksschule Hankenbuttel, and Blumlager Feld complexes, is at the center of "Private Public," Silke Schatz's new exhibition of drawings and sculptures, which explores her family history in Celle, her birthplace, as it intersects with Haesler's work.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

At odds with Celle's half-timbered traditional houses and precious, postcard-perfect castle--and representing the "Public" portion of the exhibit--Haesler's primary-colored, boxy housing projects were, according to the artist, unknown to her while she was growing up. So it's with fresh eyes that Schatz has skillfully interpreted the architect's modernist vision in detailed, blown-up views of the building plans (based on archival prints) and two tabletop models of works of his in Celle (Celle, Siedlung Georgsgarten Block 1 and Celle, Direktorenwohnhaus After Otto Haesler 1930/31; all works 2006), the latter embellished with stenciling and carpeting, echoing the search for architectural idealism also apparent in some of Schatz's earlier work.

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