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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present
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Excerpt from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York:

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present
May 27–September 7, 2016

László Moholy-Nagy (b. 1895, Borsód, Austria-Hungary d. 1946, Chicago) believed in the potential of art as a vehicle for social transformation, working hand in hand with technology for the betterment of humanity. A restless innovator, Moholy-Nagy experimented with a wide variety of mediums, moving fluidly between the fine and applied arts in pursuit of his quest to illuminate the interrelatedness of life, art, and technology. An artist, educator, and writer who defied categorization, he expressed his theories in numerous influential writings that continue to inspire artists and designers today. Walter Gropius invited him to join the faculty at the Bauhaus school of art and design, where Moholy-Nagy taught in Weimar and Dessau in the 1920s. In 1937, he was appointed to head the New Bauhaus in Chicago he later opened his own School of Design there (subsequently renamed the Institute of Design), which today is part of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Among Moholy-Nagy’s radical innovations were his experiments with cameraless photographs (which he dubbed “photograms”) his unconventional use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture experiments with light, transparency, space, and motion across mediums and his work at the forefront of abstraction, as he strove to reshape the role of the artist in the modern world. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present features paintings, sculptures, collages, drawings, prints, films, photograms, photographs, photomontages, projections, documentation, and examples of graphic, advertising, and stage design drawn from public and private collections across Europe and the United States.

On display in the museum’s High Gallery is Room of the Present (Raum der Gegenwart), a contemporary fabrication of an exhibition space conceived of by Moholy-Nagy in 1930, but not realized in his lifetime. On view for the first time in the United States, the large-scale work contains photographic reproductions and design replicas as well as his kinetic Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Bühne), 1930 recreated 2006). Room of the Present illustrates Moholy-Nagy’s belief in the power of images and the significance of the various means with which to view and disseminate them—a highly relevant paradigm in today’s constantly shifting and evolving technological world.

Moholy-Nagy is a central figure in the history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 1929, Solomon R. Guggenheim and his advisor, German-born artist Hilla Rebay, began collecting his paintings, works on paper, and sculpture in depth for the Guggenheim’s growing collection of nonobjective art. His work held a special place at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting—the forerunner of the Guggenheim Museum—where a memorial exhibition was presented shortly after his untimely death in 1946.

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, is the Guggenheim’s organizing curator for the exhibition, with the assistance of Ylinka Barotto, Curatorial Assistant, and Danielle Toubrinet, Exhibition Assistant.

This exhibition is organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Continued, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Introduction Video: "Moholy-Nagy: Future Present"

Moholy-Nagy, Room of the Present, 1930/2009 [Sound]


Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, Exhibition Catalogue

This exceptional book offers a fresh and extensive examination of the work of pioneering artist László Moholy-Nagy (1894–1946). The first major American survey of his oeuvre in nearly a half century and the most extensive English-language book on the artist in thirty years, the catalogue offers an integrated presentation of Moholy’s production across a range of art forms including painting, sculpture, photography, graphic design, film, advertising, and theater.

Over 300 works are illustrated in color, including the artist’s early paintings and photograms, his whimsical photomontages—all of which are reproduced together here for the first time—and late works in Plexiglas. Distinguished scholars offer new insights into Moholy’s materials and working methods the relation among writing, administration, and art making in his practice and his influence on contemporary art. Particular emphasis is given to Moholy’s American years and his leadership of the Chicago Bauhaus as well as his reception as a painter.

Matthew S. Witkovsky is Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Carol S. Eliel is Curator of Modern Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Karole P. B. Vail is Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

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László Moholy–Nagy, American, born Hungary, (1895–1946)
b. July 20, 1895, Bácsborsód, Hungary
d. 1946

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