Sunday, February 12, 2017

LACMA's Exhibit "Future Present" by Artist Moholy-Nagy, Feb.12-June 18, 2017

The “Future Present” Moholy-Nagy retrospective opened today, February 12th in L.A. 

The exhibition will be at LACMA through June 18, 2017.
Photos by Karen Ostlund 
Co-organized by LACMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
 Moholy’s works, including Room of the Present, in LACMA’s Moholy-Nagy: Future Present from February 12 through June 18, 2017. The first comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s work to be seen in the United States in nearly 50 years, the exhibition includes approximately 300 works, some never before shown publicly.
Co-organized by LACMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition has already visited the other venues in the last year before moving to Los Angeles for its only West Coast appearance. Michael Govan, LACMA’s CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, pointed out that the exhibit looked different in and was reinvented for each venue.
Early years: Radio and Railway Landscapes 1920
 “Moholy-Nagy: Future Present,” a comprehensive retrospective of the work and legacy of artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946), opened today Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The vast accumulation of works created by the pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, designer, and filmmaker illustrates how he used new technologies, techniques, and ideas to transform art in the first half of the 20th Century.

Moholy-Nagy's work in advertisment in mens clothing 1932
At first glance, some of Moholy-Nagy’s work seems routine now, such as his advertising graphic work and Plexiglas sculptures. Then, a quick glimpse at the dates when the works were created facilitates an understanding that the work was truly cutting edge and avant-garde, and had great influence on artists since then.

“Moholy’s goal throughout his life was to integrate art, technology, and education for the betterment of humanity; he believed art should serve a public purpose,” said Carol S. Eliel, the exhibition curator from LACMA. “These goals defined the artist’s utopian vision, a vision that remained as constant as his fascination with light, throughout the many material changes in his oeuvre.
Photo-montages by Moholy-Nagy
One of the most versatile of the 20th century artists, Moholy-Nagy grew up in Hungary. He left his law studies at the University of Budapest to serve in World War I. He began drawing during the war. After his discharge, Moholy-Nagy took up art and became involved with many of the era’s art movements, including Cubism, Futurism, Dada, experimental photography, early Minimalism, and more. The artist lived briefly in Vienna, before settling in Berlin in 1920. With the 1934 rise of Nazism, Moholy-Nagy moved with his family to Amsterdam, then London. Then, in 1937, the artist accepted an invitation to found a design school in Chicago, Ill., and he lived in Chicago until his death in 1946.

The exhibit changes from room to room reflect how Moholy-Nagy’s interest in one art form.  Visitors move along with the artist’s career, from his earliest days in Hungary to the Bauhaus in Germany (1923–28), other work in Europe, and final years in Chicago (1937–46).

A lot of Moholy-Nagy advertising pieces, graphics designs, and photomontages are collages employing a kaleidoscope of carefully chosen imagery. There are a considerable number of photomontages in the exhibit; many offer satirical narratives piecing together the images assembled.
Three of five works he did called “Construction in Enamel,” but are more commonly known as his “telephone paintings,” are included here, and presented side by side.
“Room of the Present” is based on plans and correspondence dating back to 1930.
 The immersive chamber features sculpture, posters, film, and industrial design elements.
Moholy-Nagy’s kinetic “Light Prop for an Electric Stage (1930)

“Vertical Black, Red, Blue,” a 1945 sculpture in LACMA’s collection. The plexiglas is incised with an intricate pattern and painted the named colors in places.
Nickel sculpture with spiral, 1921

Graphic designs are shown from various phases of his career. The show includes advertising lithographs for the London Underground in 1936 and 1937 that reflect his interest in typography, motion, and geometric objects. Geometric forms, circles and diagonals in particular—are commonly used in various pieces.
László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) was an artist and educator who strove to make images and ideas accessible to the broadest possible public, would no doubt take great advantage of all these platforms were he alive today. One of the most versatile figures of the twentieth-century avant-garde, he was a brilliant and restless experimenter who ardently believed in the potential of art as a vehicle for social transformation and in the value of new technologies in harnessing that potential.
László Moholy-Nagy, Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand), 1925/29, printed 1940/49, Galerie Berinson, Berlin, © 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Born in rural Hungary in 1895, Moholy lived and worked, over the course of his career, in Budapest, Vienna, and Berlin; at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau; and in Amsterdam, London, and Chicago. A desire to expand his artistic horizons led to his early geographic relocations, while his later moves were the result of the rise of Hitler and National Socialism in the 1930s. Moholy’s work was collected and exhibited internationally during his lifetime, and his writings, often pedagogical, were widely published and translated.

Moholy  pursued law studies at the University of Budapest but left after two years, in 1915, to serve as an artillery officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He began drawing while on the war front, depicting its bruised landscapes and devastated figures. He got wounded in 1917 and convalesced in Budapest, writing for the city’s avant-garde publications. Moholy remained there after his discharge in 1918 to focus on painting, and was soon drawn to the cutting-edge art movements of the period, including Cubism and Futurism. Moholy moved to Vienna in 1919 before settling in Berlin in 1920, where he served as a correspondent for the progressive Hungarian magazine MA.
Moholy -Nago 1927
 The letters and glyphs of Dada informed Moholy’s visual art around 1920 while the hard-edged geometries and utopian goals of Russian Constructiveness influenced his initial forays into abstraction shortly thereafter, particularly works that explore the interaction among colored planes, diagonals, circles, and other geometric forms. By the early 1920s Moholy had gained a reputation as an innovative artist and perceptive theorist through exhibitions at Berlin’s radical Galerie Der Sturm as well as his writings. “Production-Reproduction” (published in 1922), for example, illuminates the notion of iteration and reiteration in various media as a means to “produce new, as yet unfamiliar relationships.”
Photogram 1926 Moholy
 Moholy described his geometric abstractions as a “glass architecture” of simple, minimal forms, embodying light and transparency and intended to manifest a utopian society. In his attempt to envision the new, Moholy increasingly worked with industrial materials including metals and plastics. Going one step further, Moholy’s 1923 “telephone paintings” were not made by his own hand but rather fabricated by an industrial manufacturer; Moholy thereby set a precedent for later generations of artists from John Baldessari to Jeff
Moholy: Space Modular 1942

Moholy: Plexiglas and steel, Twisted Planes

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