This is the first exhibition devoted to the color photographs of László Moholy-Nagy
Moholy's ongoing preoccupation with the phenomenon of light defined all periods of his artistic creativity, and his strength lay in his effortless skill in translating light and spatial dimensions from one medium to another. (Fiedler, Jeannine, Phaidon 55, 2001, p 3,4)
This exhibition reveals color photographs by László Moholy-Nagy that have never been seen before. From 1936 until his death in 1946 Moholy-Nagy worked intensively with his Leica camera, producing a number of 35mm Kodachrome slides, only some of which survived. These free and confident investigations in color highly engaged the artist in the last years of his career, but since the technology for color printing then available was unable to render the images to the artist's satisfaction, very few were printed. The only known vintage print is owned by the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York.
It is striking that these images, taken in the 1930's and 40's, conceptually precede much of contemporary photography. However, since almost none of these photographs were ever seen before, the parallels we discern are not the result of direct influence but rather testify to an extraordinary prescience and innovative sensibility that Moholy-Nagy accomplished. It is impossible to be less than amazed at how contemporary these works feel. This exhibition addresses, perhaps more effectively than any previous, the aspect of our Gallery 2 program that is geared toward presenting historical work within the same context as contemporary artists.
The photographs range from purely abstract traces of light, to portraits, to images of his own constructed sculptures made out of plastic, string or colored gels, to organic formations. László Moholy-Nagy worked extensively in many different mediums (painting, kinetic sculpture, photomontage, photography, photogram, film, typography, etc.) across a number of genres including Constructivism, Dada, and Suprematism. In the color photographs shown in this exhibition, Moholy-Nagy's study of light in the form of transparency, reflection and distortion that he focused on throughout his career is beautifully and succinctly presented. The photographs delightfully synthesize much of his work that was previously explored across diverse media.
We are delighted to have the remarkable opportunity to work closely with Hattula Moholy-Nagy, representing the Estate of László Moholy-Nagy, in selecting, printing and representing these significant and beautiful works.
Several of László Moholy-Nagy's color photographs were seen for the first time in the exhibition, "Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971", organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. This exhibition started at the Art Institute of Chicago in March 2002, traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (through October 20, 2002) and will be at The Philadelphia Museum of Art from December 7, 2002 until March 2, 2003. Additionally, a group of color photographs comprise the second half of the recently published Phaidon 55 book on László Moholy-Nagy (© 2001, with essay by Jeannine Fiedler).
This exhibition has been organized with Oliver Renaud-Clement.