I’ve arrived to the point in my dissertation where I address a frequent question: “so, these architects are like a Chilean Bauhaus?” It’s an indirect way of saying, “relate your group to something established, something from Europe, something I know!” I get it, the unknown is terrifying. But I couldn’t live with myself as a Latin Americanist art historian if I didn’t try to pry you away from that life preserver. There are few life preservers in my dissertation and most of them have been relegated to footnotes. Like this one about the Bauhaus.
Full disclosure: there is no smoking gun connecting the School of Valparaíso to the Bauhaus. In all my readings I have yet come across a letter, a proclamation, or anything drawing a link between these two groups. The best evidence I could find was Josef Albers‘s visit to the Universidad Católica in Santiago in 1953, two decades after the Bauhaus closed and one year after Alberto Cruz and company split for the coast. Did Albers and Cruz meet? Does it matter? I’ve never been interested in exhaustively exploring the cultural ether of my research subjects just to propose that “person X” definitely knew “person Y.” The object and what it reveals has always been my interest. But for the sake of history, which in this case is pretty interesting, I can report that in the 1940s Bauhaus publications were few and far between in Chile. Le Corbusier was much more present in the region, but access to his writings was also limited.
To be honest, when I began my dissertation I was more interested in establishing an affinity between the School of Valparaíso and Black Mountain College. Maybe it’s because Buckminster Fuller made a few cameos or it’s neat to think of Albers and company in the mountains of North Carolina but I’ve always had a thing for this school. Unfortunately, that’s for another lifetime.
Bauhaus and Black Mountain College aside, if there’s any evidence of a smoking gun between the School of Valparaíso and a first-world collective it’s with the Ulm School of Design. Though in a roundabout way. Before taking up his uncle’s invitation to join nascent the School of Valparaíso Claudio Girola was busy with the Asociación de Arte Concreto-Invención in Buenos Aires. When the group split in 1949, Girola made his way west while Tomás Maldonado, another one of the founders, left for Europe and eventually found work at the Ulm School in 1954. Girola and Maldonado stayed in touch and when other members of the School of Valparaíso traveled to Europe in the 1950s, they met with Maldonado.
One day I’ll master stop-animation and create an amazing timeline of these travels between Latin America, North America, and Europe. For now, I have this map. Maybe there are no smoking guns, but clearly all roads lead through Germany and Buenos Aires.