On view

Swiss, 1908–1994
Unit of Three Equal Volumes, 1965
Black granite
30 x 44 x 44 in. (76.2 x 111.8 x 111.8 cm)
Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation

© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo by Jerry L. Thompson
Unit of Three Equal Volumes consists of three rectangular bars placed at right angles to each other to create pyramidal voids. The composition exemplifies Max Bill’s predilection for precise mathematical organization, while its highly polished surface—a feature the artist admired in the work of Constantin Brancusi—reflects both light and the surrounding space. The compositional formula of three equal volumes presented as a unit occupied Bill for at least a decade.

Bill, a graphic and industrial designer as well as an artist, studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, in the late 1920s and was deeply influenced by its mission and practices. The Bauhaus motto, “Unity of Art and Technology,” proposes bridging the divide between art and modern life. In 1936 Bill introduced his concept of “Concrete Art” (the term “Art Concrèt” had been coined by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg in 1930), which came to define his work and Switzerland’s artistic landscape. Distinguishing Concrete Art from abstract art, Bill stated that the latter is an arbitrary reduction of natural phenomena while the former is independent of nature. “Concrete Art,” he explained, “uses purely aesthetic means to make abstract thoughts become visible and thus create new objects.”