100 Years of Bauhaus
Works by Roman Clemens from the Collection
curated by Sabine Schaschl, Evelyne Bucher and Eliza Lips
The year 2019 marked the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus. We also wanted to celebrate this anniversary at Museum Haus Konstruktiv, so we devoted a solo exhibition to former Bauhaus student Roman Clemens (1910–1992) from our own collection. Selected paintings from the 1970s and 1980s were on display, supplemented by archive material that has never been made public before, from our part of the artist’s estate.
The multifaceted oeuvre of Roman Clemens comprises stage sets, architecture, design and painting. He discovered the central themes of his work (stage and space) at the Bauhaus in Dessau, where he attended classes by Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Oskar Schlemmer. Here, already in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Clemens worked out the fundamentals of his later work as a scenographer and painter: His stage space was to be a space full of tension and action, but which, from the audience’s perspective, would also have the qualities of a well-composed painting.
After working as an assistant stage designer at Friedrichs-Theater in Dessau, Roman Clemens transferred his principles to the stage at the Zurich City Theater (today’s Zurich Opera House), where he worked from 1932 to 1943 as stage designer and art director. Together with architect Werner Frey in 1948/1949, he realized the interior design and fittings for what was then Studio 4 (today’s Filmpodium). To this day, it is still probably his most impressive spatial artwork: an “optical cabinet” with a design completely defined by the film medium – by the contrast between static and dynamic, light and dark, black and white.
In the mid-1950s, Roman Clemens made painting his main profession. The exhibition at Museum Haus Konstruktiv clearly showed that he always considered painting to be related to space. In the selection of paintings from the 1970s and 1980s shown here, Clemens developed abstract geometric image spaces by means of variety-rich field structuring and color organization. The paintings, most of which were generously donated to Museum Haus Konstruktiv’s collection by the Lis and Roman Clemens Foundation, were supplemented by archive material that also comes from our part of the artist’s estate. This includes draft stage designs from Clemens’s time at the Bauhaus and City Theater, as well as photographs and documents in the context of his work as director and designer of numerous didactic exhibitions.