Max Bill, Rhythm in Space

Max Bill (Swiss, 1908 – 1994)
Rhythm in Space, 1967
Black diorite
58” x 20” x 60”
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLitteris, Zürich
Click to listen to docent Lloyd Hickson talk about Rhythm in Space.
Click to listen to docent Joyce Pabst talk about Rhythm in Space.
Click to listen to more information about Max Bill and his work.

Swiss artist Max Bill was born in Winterthur, near Zurich, in 1908 and died in Berlin in 1994. He was not only an artist, but a silversmith, architect, theorist, activist, industrial designer, and the most influential graphic designer in Switzerland. From 1927 through 1929 Bill studied under Walter Gropius, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee at the Bauhaus. His first sculptures were made in 1933. Bill co-founded the Ulm Design School in the 1950s with Inge Scholl  and Oti Aicher, becoming its first director. The school’s goal was to integrate all the arts and continue the traditions of the Bauhaus. Bill won numerous honors and awards throughout his career, such as the Grand Prix for his design of the Swiss Pavilion at the Milan Triennale. His sculptures are all over Europe and in the world’s leading museums.

Max Bill is also known as a leader in the Constructivist movement. The Constructivists used mathematics in creative design as a way of achieving the pure expression of harmonious dimensions while controlling the results. In fact, Bill believed that although art needs both emotion and thought to be successful, it is thought that makes it possible to order the emotions so that art can emerge. This interest in theory and mathematics is what led Bill to his pure and uninterrupted forms. He became fascinated by the Möbius strip and applied its mathematical and theoretical implications to his artwork. His projects would begin with experiments on paper, based on mathematics, which were then translated into stone or metal. Although his works were clear, precise and devoid of feeling, they did not just take on a mathematical shape, but instead recaptured mathematics as an inspiration.

Max Bill’s sculpture Rhythm in Space consists of three overlapping rings inspired by the Möbius strip’s curved, uninterrupted surface. The sculpture’s pedestal is polished to a higher shine than the sculpture itself, drawing attention to the geometric form. The curved contiguous edges cause the sculpture to look different as the viewer walks around it, creating a continuous sense of movement. The piece embodies Max Bill’s two principles for his art: the creation of rhythm in an uninterrupted surface and energizing a static object. In Rhythm in Space Bill uses mathematical equations and theory to transform heavy stone into an object that appears infinite, light and elegant.