MOHOLY-NAGY: FUTURE PRESENT
Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art | 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
February 12 through June 18, 2017
Tickets | $15
Slideshow image: A19, 1927, detail, Hattula Moholy-Nagy, Ann Arbor, Michigan, © 2017 László Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
The first comprehensive retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) in the United States in nearly 50 years, this long overdue presentation reveals a utopian artist who believed that art could work hand-in-hand with technology for the betterment of humanity. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present examines the career of this pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, who was also an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, a prolific writer, and later the founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design.
Painting, photography, film, sculpture, advertising, product design, theater sets—Moholy-Nagy did it all. Future Present brings together approximately 300 works to survey the career of a multimedia artist who was always ahead of his time. Moholy, as he was known, came to prominence as a professor at the Bauhaus art school in Germany (1923–28). In 1937 he founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago, a school that continues today as the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
A pioneer of abstraction for the industrial age, Moholy insisted that art must be developed from the materials of one’s time, in his case recorded sound, photography, film, and synthetic plastics. He demonstrated that in our era of reproducibility works of art gain fresh meaning with a change in size or even reorientation, reverse printing, or a shift in lighting. For Moholy, every citizen could be creative, and every viewer could educate his or her senses by studying effects of light, transparency, and motion in common materials of everyday modern life.
Image: Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand), 1925/29, printed 1940/49, Galerie Berinson, Berlin, © 2017 László Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Future Present offers a richness of works ranging in date from around 1918, made in Moholy’s native Hungary, through his years in Germany (1920-34), in Holland and England (1934-37), and in Chicago until his death there in 1946. Among Moholy’s innovations seen in the show are experiments with cameraless photography; the use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture; research with light, transparency, and movement, work at the forefront of abstraction; fluidity in moving between the fine and applied arts; and the conception of creative production as a multimedia endeavor. Radical for the time, these are now all firmly part of contemporary art practice.
Image: László Moholy-Nagy, Vertical Black, Red, Blue, 1945, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Alice and Nahum Lainer, the Ducommun and Gross Acquisition Fund, the Fannie and Alan Leslie Bequest, and the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, © 2017 László Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Special emphasis is given to Moholy’s time in the United States, where his art moved from planar painterly abstractions to three-dimensional hybrids of painting and sculpture. Never have so many of the artist’s late works in Plexiglas—wall-mounted, freestanding, and hanging in midair—been seen together.
A highlight of Future Present is the full-scale realization of the Room of the Present, an immersive installation that is a hybrid of exhibition space and work of art, seen here for the first time in the United States. This work—which includes photographic reproductions, films, images of architectural and theater design, and examples of industrial design—was conceived by Moholy around 1930 but realized only in 2009.
The exhibition at LACMA is designed by the Los Angeles-based architecture firm Johnston Marklee. The installation design reflects the transparency and dynamism of Moholy’s work, with a diagonal visual “cut” through the entire exhibition space. At the same time, details of the installation pay specific homage to Moholy’s vocabulary both in Germany (a black line running along the floorboards and around doorways) and in Chicago (organically shaped plinths and pedestals for the later sculptures).
Future Present is accompanied by a comprehensive exhibition catalogue, the most extensive Englaish-language book on the artist to date.
Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The Los Angeles presentation is made possible by Alice and Nahum Lainer. The exhibition is realized with major support from, among others, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.
For more information visit LACMA.