New York

Herbert Bayer

Marlborough | Midtown

Herbert Bayer once designed some emergency bank notes for the Thuringian government, probably the best-looking currency of modern times, which became worthless a few days after being issued, due to an inflationary devaluation. Well, inflation is upon us again, though hardly as drastic this time, and Bayer, with a truly distinguished reputation as a designer, has been at work on the more stable tender of paintings and other objects shown at Marlborough (where else?). It may be safe to say that one of the things distinguishing art from (mere) design is that works of art get made for a special class of reasons; indeed, making art and doing criticism often entail inventing reasons for doing and saying certain things, or persuading other people that what one considers a reason should be considered a reason. Bayer’s works in this show seem to fall somewhere between mere design and art. There are a couple of paintings, such as Out of the Dark and Exfoliation, which begin to be interesting; but they don’t seem to know it, they seem to be artless in the least insulting sense. But I frankly can’t come up with any forceful or otherwise worthwhile reasons with which to meet Bayer’s pieces other than that good design is always welcome in the world, and especially in America. But America, at least New York, is the last place that good design should get away with posing as good painting or sculpture. Some of Bayer’s pieces will make handsome accessories.

Kenneth Baker