Biography

Filipowski

Richard Filipowski (1923-2008, Canada) was a United States-based artist who worked across multiple media in the New Bauhaus style. Filipowski, a teacher by vocation, held positions at the Institute of Design in Chicago and The Harvard School of Design; he also served as professor emeritus at MIT. Many of his teaching roles were contemporaneous with those of Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Laslo Moholy-Nagy. Filipowski's close working relationship with these men, and with Moholy-Nagy in particular, places him at the center of modernist art and design circles in America, and among the foremost Bauhaus artists active in the mid twentieth century.

Filipowski was born in Poland in 1923 and immigrated to Canada in 1927. His family described him as an avid draughtsman in his youth.  In 1938, Filipowski’s discovery of a MoMA exhibition catalog of Bauhaus artwork inspired him to pursue a formal education in the arts. Consequently, Filipowski wrote Moholy-Nagy, a founding member and teacher at the New Bauhaus, appealing to him for his mentorship.  Moholy-Nagy was so impressed by Filipowski that he invited him to join his program.

Filipowski's relationship with Moholy-Nagy evolved over time from student to collaborator and peer. Moholy-Nagy instructed Filipowski across multiple media, including painting and metalwork in the Bauhaus style. As a testament to his admiration of Filipowski's body of work, Moholy-Nagy featured several of Filipowski's works in his seminal text Vision in Motion (1947), and Filipowski was the only student Moholy-Nagy called upon to join the New Bauhaus faculty. He taught there from 1946-1950, joining the ranks of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

Moholy-Nagy was not the only Bauhaus artist to have validated Filipowski as a talent. Gropius later invited Filipowski to partner with him to teach a fundamentals course at Harvard. He championed Filipowski both as an artist and theoretician with a comprehensive understanding of the function of space, light and color, and the experimental application of these elements to innovate form. Gropius and Filipowski collaborated on the coursework and its implementation from 1950 - 1952, which culminated in what both described to be a successful student exhibition. Due to conflicting interests between Gropius and Dean Joseph Hudnut, the program at Harvard was halted in 1952, and in 1953 Filipowski moved on to serve as the Associate Professor of Visual Design in the Department of Architecture at MIT, where he taught for 36 years.

Filipowski used his income from teaching to pursue what he called the "art of the psyche", abstract paintings and sculptures that he considered a process of self expression and exploration, and a personal endeavor not to be subject to criticism or commercialization.  This inclination towards privacy perhaps explains why Filipowski gained less notoriety than his Bauhaus counterparts.

In the 1940s and 50s, Filipowski's paintings were characteristically of the Bauhaus style and evocative of artworks by Moholy-Nagy, though they clearly represent Filipowski's individualized interpretation of the constructs of Bauhaus philosophy. They showcase distinctive geometric themes emphasizing different iterations of the sphere, frenetic linework, and the use of bold, primary colors. In 1954 Filipowski began to experiment with the use of bronze and silver alloys to create additive sculpture. For a time, Filipowski abandoned painting entirely, though he returned to working across both mediums before his death in 2008.

Filipowski's sculptures appear to be more naturalistic than his Bauhaus style paintings, but the principles of design remain tied to the tenets of the Bauhaus, as they too are an exploration of the motion of line and experimentation with process, and they exemplify the integration of art, architecture and technology.

Many of Filipowski's sculptures relate directly to a particular commission created in conjunction with Pietro Belluschi. In 1962 Belluschi, the Dean of Architecture and Planning at MIT and frequent collaborator with Gropius, asked Filipowski to submit a 3D model for an Ark to be featured in the Temple B'Rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY.  It took Filipowski almost a year to construct the sculpture, using bronze and silver alloys to weld it. The piece was wonderfully intricate and dynamic, a master work which Filipowski described thus: "All metal surfaces are textured - no square inch is alike. Each surface is unique. The result is a glowing visual quality."

Most of Filipowski's smaller sculptures are iterations on the form of the Ark. Some are tall, attenuated and majestic like trees, some are squat and bushy like undergrowth; each one embodies the same spiritual message that the Ark does, which according to the temple's literature represented an affirmation of human potential and development, and in taking the abstracted form of forestation, conveyed the idea of "seed pods for future growth."

Towards the end of his life, after he retired from MIT, Filipowski returned to painting and drawing. He created a series of 345 "Pub Drawings" over a period of two years, aptly named for the motel pub in Burlington, Massachusetts where he created them.  The pub drawings represent a culmination of Filipowski's early and late styles, a combination of energetic line work and the bold use of primary color, with the more naturalistic and even figurative aspects of his sculptures.

Filipowski, as a result of his training by Moholy-Nagy and his own enhanced understanding of Bauhaus principles, is not only significant but exemplary as a Bauhaus artist, and his early works are stylistically the epitome of Bauhaus training.  His later works, too, represent a wonderful evolution in style reflective of Filipowski’s own unique trajectory. 

For his entire body of work, Filipowski garnered the respect and admiration of the Bauhaus elite; he was highly regarded despite his tendency to create his works in a private manner. During his lifetime, Filipowski's works were exhibited mostly in Chicago and Boston, and his artworks are now a part of several prestigious collections including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The De Menil Collection Museum and the Walter Gropius House Museum. Filipowski was the recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Award, The First Prize for Sculpture at the Boston Arts Festival and the Aleck and Ruth McClean Award.

CV

RICHARD FILIPOWSKI (1923-2008)
 
Education
1942-46  Institute of Design, Chicago, IL
1938-42  Art Studies in Toronto, Canada
 
Teaching Positions
1953-89  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1950-52  Harvard University, Graduate School of Design
1946-50  Institute of Design, Chicago
 
Awards
1988    Named Professor Emeritus by M.I.T.
1967    The Aleck and Ruth McClean Award
1958    First Prize for Sculpture, Boston Arts Festival
1957    Alfred P. Sloan Award, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1945    Honorable Mention, national design competition for dormitories at
                 Smith College
1941    Vimy Ridge Memorial Poster Competition
 
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2018    Hostler Burrows, New York, NY (forthcoming) 
2013    Richard FIlipowski: Beyond the Bauhaus, Hostler Burrows, New York, NY
2009    Acme Fine Art and Design, Boston, MA
2005    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA
1989    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA
1988    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA
1974    Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA
1969    University State College, Oneonta, NY
1968    Fitchburg Art Museum, MA   
1966-71  Art in Embassies Program, US State Department
1964    Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA
1962    Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA
1958    De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
1953    Boris Mirski Gallery, Boston, MA
1951    Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
1950    Linn Gallery, Winnetka, IL
1947    Institute of Design, Chicago, IL
 
Selected Group Exhibitions
2006    De Menil Museum, Houston, TX
2005    Noguchi Museum, New York, NY
1972    De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
1969    Marblehead Arts Festival, MA
            Gallery of the State Street Bank, Boston, MA
            Prudential Center Gallery, Boston, MA
            De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
1968    Beverly Tercentenary Celebration Arts Festival, MA
1967    Ogunquit Art Museum, ME
            Joan Peterson Gallery, Boston, MA
            Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
            Prudential Center Gallery, Boston, MA
1966    Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA
            Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA

1965    Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
            De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
1963    Museum of Art and Science, Nashua, NH
            Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
1960    Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
1959    Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
            Nexus Gallery, Boston, MA
            Boston Arts Festival, Boston, MA
1958    Boston Arts Festival, Boston, MA
1949    Illinois State Museum
            Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1948    The Benjamin Gallery, Chicago, IL
            Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1947    Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1944    Julian Levy Gallery, New York, NY
 

Public Collections
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Walter Gropius House Museum
Addison Gallery of American Art
De Menil Collection Museum
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum
Cary Memorial Library
David Rockefeller
State Street Bank and Trust Company
Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company
Chase Manhattan Bank
First National Bank
 
Selected Commissions
1965    Untitled, Revere Copper and Brass Corporation
            Cross, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, PA
1964    Untitled, Sheraton Corporation, Prudential Center, Boston, MA
            Fence, North End Branch, Boston Public Library
1963    Cross, Chancel Light and Candelabra, Trinity Lutheran Church,
                 Chelmsford, MA

1962    Ark in the Chapel, Temple B’rith Kodesh, Rochester, NY
1960    Untitled, Sheraton Corporation, Dallas, TX
1956    Candelabra, Temple Emmanuel, Dallas, TX
1955    Relief for Ark, Entranceway and Eternal Light, Temple Israel,
                 Swampscott, MA

 
Bibliography
Richard Filipowski: Art and Design Beyond the Bauhaus, Marisa Bartolucci,
                 editor. The Monacelli Press, 2018
Opening Note, Hattula Moholy-Nagy

Finding Form:  The Art of Richard Filipowski, exhibition publication, M.I.T.
                 Museum, 2005

Lessons Learned:  Thoughts on Filipowski, Richard Dattner and Carol Bankerd
At the Intersections of Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, and Design, Larry List
The Quiet Man, Larry Weinberg, Modern Magazine, Fall 2010
A Gift of Friendship, Carol Bruce, Historic New England Museum, 2002

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