Monthly Archives: October 2016

Moholy-Nagy

I was unfamiliar with he artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy prior to this exhibit at the Art Institute. In fact, I can’t say I had done any research on the artist prior to visiting the museum, and went into it thinking he was an active contemporary artist. But this exhibit was totally different than I had intended. My exposure to true Bauhaus has been limited to slides in art history classes, mentioned in passing before moving on to post war art and architecture. What struck me about Moholy-Nagy was his interdisciplinary approach to art-making, from video (which was often a predecessor to chance-art), to painting, to drawing, to photography, etc. He was truly an artist at heart, constantly making and experimenting with form and media, and very skilled at that. His keen eye for space and color invites the viewer to step out of the mundane, dirty urban streets and into a streamlined, clean, almost musical world. Moholy-Nagy invites us into a purely transcendental space, a place where humans enter to experience true objectivity and peace, peace in a world tortured by the aftermath of WWI, being slung into the Depression and the dawn of WWII. Moholy-Nagy’s work is reliable without being boring. It’s dynamic without being messy. And in the midst of all of this, it retains its truly human core. We see that in his 1927 work “Jealousy,” depicting a man and woman and their shadows, a geometric study and collage of raw human emotion.
The exhibit itself was extremely effective in both its exhibition of his work, as well as creating an authentic context for the work, a context which enhances through the architecture of the space. There was, obviously, the room which he himself designed, but overall, the use of chromium and flat white walls in the rest of the exhibit, the creation of permeable and impermeable space made for a really effective environment. It’s a modernist heaven, in which these daring images dance and take shape. It was totally interactive, as Moholy-Nagy would have wanted. We walk through, we participate, we consume and respond to these ideas and experiments he is laying before us. His National Socialist sympathies are a tremendous influence on his work: anthropocentric and progressive, unrestrained by the centuries-old systems of oppression which had, until the early 20th century, held consistent rule over Europe.
Overall, the exhibit was very effectively presented and masterfully executed. The work was exciting, capturing the reader in its dynamism and innovation, timeless and refined.

No past

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The Art Institute of Chicago is presenting the retrospective of László Maholy Nagy an American-Hungarian painter and photographer who was part of the Bauhaus in Germany in the first half of the 20th century. His work has an influence of the minimal architecture that was such characteristic of the Bauhaus school but he was also exploring with technology and design. Future-Present is a show that evidences the versatile and proliferate work of this avant garde artist who influenced Chicago after founding the New Bauhaus in 1937 and expending the last years of his life. The exhibition has a variation of different mediums like painting, photography, photomontages, sculpture, film, advertising, product design and more. Maholy Nagy is an example of a cross-medium artist who combined art, design and architecture as a whole.

 

Once you enter the first room you see different paintings with circles, lines and rectangles. There are lines and geometric figures that intercut the one with the other in such a precise way creating different dynamics between depths, color and minimalism. You can perceive how in this early work he was exploring the concept of the new or the modern idea of art. There are still paintings, but the lines that used to be a guideline in the architectural planes now are perceived as the protagonists. He was decanting architecture and placing it in a two-dimensional plane.

 

Next is the room of the photomontages. There are geometric drawings that dialogue with images that create a new composition. In the photomontage the drawing cannot separate form the image and vice versa, only the combination of these two mediums makes them unique and wonderful. One can see the influence of the surrealism where there are images in placed in new configurations creating a new image with such humor and irony. The images have been cut outs from books or photographs and have been decontextualized from its original background: there are some runners, dancers, nurses, people in a suits and much more. He plays with repetition, sizes, distribution and movement. They are definitely a highlight of the exhibition.

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Then next part of the exhibit is where Moholy Nagy is presented as a 3d artist. There are the factories, the theater buildings and some sculptures he designed. At the same time there are some drawings of architecture, some photographs and a film. This shows how he cannot step out any of being and artist, architect and designer because he combines them all.

 

After having the first presentation of a more traditional medium such as the painting and then the more design-based work, there is a big room with curve walls. It has paintings, photographs, sculptures that hang from the ceiling, display cases with advertising and typography and it is overwhelming. Even though it is a fact that Maholy Nagy did all of this different work, there is a problem with the curatorial experience in terms of not having the chance of admire things because there are all mixed together in the same space. The curved wall mixed with the different media makes the spectator pass over and walk fast without having the time of taking time with the pieces. It is a retrospective and there should be a lot of work, but the decision of the curve wall is adding one more element to the exhibition that already have 300 pieces of work.

The exhibition shows that Maholy Nagy was an artist that was thinking in the future. He was exploring and taking risks. He took elements of the present such as images and technology proposing and creating the newest work. Future-Present an exhibition in which Maholy Nagy builds things in the present for the future, without a past.

 

Moholy-Nagy exhibition review

László Moholy-Nagy, a talented painter, photographer and influential instructor in the Bauhaus school as well as an advocator of technology-art integrations, demonstrated his advanced thinkings in works and teachings. Moholy-Nagy: Present Future, the exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, reveals his dedications in multiple fields and uses various works to prove the existence and development of his thinking and practices in today’s world.

“Students should learn to delegate rather than work alone and to be mindful of how their art benefits society,” Moholy-Nagy: Present Future starts with a quote about the artist’s philosophy on artists making. To demonstrate the consistency of Moholy-Nagy’s thinking and action, the exhibition includes paintings, photography, design works for theaters, buildings, industrial objects and more.

Purposely putting paintings at the entrance of the exhibition, the curators first introduce Moholy-nagy as a painter to the audience. Paintings about bridges and buildings become a headline for the exhibition, and by examining the basic elements — alphabets, strips, primary colors —the viewers are able to visually understand the “elemental utopia” that Moholy-nagy desired. The paintings show Moholy-nagy’s transition when works from painterly to industrially as more circles, squares, and lines appear deeper in the exhibition.

The photomontage series come after paintings. As a two-dimensional medium that’s similar to paintings, Moholy-Nagy’s photomontage brings out his humor and interference to the world. Using magazine images, Moholy reinvented images that were ready-made as a means to merge art and cultural commentary. By further exploring the possibilities of circles, lines, and other geometric shapes, Moholy expanded his methods to connect and to communicate by dissembling and reassembling within the contemporary context.

Stepping away from traditional arts and walking deeper into the room, viewers gradually walk into the second part of Moholy exhibition. Transitioning from traditional mediums to design works, viewers are able to see Moholy’s works for theater buildings and factories. Inside of a small dark room, slide shows and movie clips demonstrate Moholy’s talents beyond a painter. However, the size of the room is too small to contain Moholy’s excellency and thinkings in full. “No Touch” signs and occasional “Please don’t step too close to the works” from the guards build an invisible wall between the viewers and Moholy. The irony stands between Moholy’s open thinking about integration and the exhibition effort to put people away.

To emphasize Moholy’s creativity as a designer, the second part of the exhibition provides sufficient design works, sculptures, quotes, and explanations to the viewers. With fewer separations and categorizations among the design works, the second part of the exhibition is more open and more inclusive than the first. Applying Moholy uses of circles and squares, the room includes pedestals in round shapes and rectangular viewing spaces. On the pedestals, sculptures in Plexiglas are hung and placed around. Viewers are encouraged to walk around the circle as if they are invited to examine Moholy’s life and works in a full circulation.

As leaving the exhibition, viewers may or may not have a strong impression about the curatorial plan because the idea for the show is built into a flowing structure. Specific topics or themes are useless when the exhibition is about Moholy’s life works. The title Present and Future is no more than a summary of the influence of his works — his thinking is a constant force that passes on to future generations. 

Maholy-Nagy

Written by Nicholas Giorgini

The Maholy Nagy exhibition included a large range of work, from photograms to sculpture.  I was previously only familiar with his photograms, but his sculptural work is really extraordinary.  Some of his sculpture was like looking at a photogram in reality, the sculpture served as an interruption to light that cast a remarkable shadow on the wall or platform.  The use of light and shadow is more interesting in real space rather than on a two-dimensional surface.  Photograms themselves are somewhat boring after the first few, however constructing one before the viewer’s eyes is much more interesting.

The two-dimensional work was less interesting than the three-dimensional work.  I’ve never been a huge fan of his work, however the flat work just seemed to be pointless for the most part.  The shapes and colors seemed rather arbitrary.  There were interesting things going on with transparency and color relationship but not interesting enough to hold my attention for more than a few moments.  I found myself walking past much of the flat work after taking photographs for writing the review.  I will say however, that the presentation of the curving room was a great way to lead the viewer through the space and change the viewer’s relationship to the work.  Rather than being in a rectangle or square room with work on the walls, the curved false walls provided a wonderful flow for the viewer to move through the space.  What the two-dimensional work lacked in getting my attention was made up in the three-dimensional work.  The metal and plexi-glass work was extremely interesting.  The plexi was incised and formed to activate space in exciting and interesting ways.

The most interesting two-dimensional work in the exhibition was the double sided frame that had two works, one on either side.  This work protruded into the space of the viewer and granted a very different experience.  This is something I myself have done in much the same way, without the knowledge that Maholy Nagy had done it.  This method of presentation allows for an entirely new dimension to view flat work, instead of viewing it as a two-dimensional work it is suddenly taken into the realm of sculpture.  What does it mean to view a two-dimensional work as sculpture?  The reality of this question is that two-dimensional work already exists in the three-dimensional world that is simply forgotten or looked past.  The exhibition could have almost been mistaken for a contemporary exhibition, which speaks about how much Maholy Nagy was questioning the art world with his work.  While some of the work was uninteresting, the rest of it was extremely enticing.

Exhibition Review: Moholy-Nagy: Future Present

 

Written by Zoey Wan

      Moholy-Nagy:Future Present is an retrospective exhibition of László Moholy-Nagy, the pioneer of modern design and industrial art. This exhibition includes over 300 works of Moholy had created within various kinds of mediums. From painting to sculpture; personal creation to publications; and from experimental works to commercial commission…

      This wide range of collection is curated in both chronological and categorized flow. The first section of the exhibition is majorly displaying Moholy early paintings that indicate his dedication in experimenting and constructing the optical structures that reflect the “modern eyes”of his generation. The gallery interior of this section is rather plain, which in a way echoes with the simplicity and rationality of Moholy’s creation. Although this exhibition has the intention to emphasize Moholy’s life and creation in the United States, the first section really lost a sense of direction. I personally found myself having a hard time getting my mind into this exhibition when I entered the gallery. It’s more like I just cut through the exhibition in a sudden. I was considering for people who probably know Moholy — but not that much — might have a similar experience as I had.

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      The second section starts to show Moholy’s personality further. Self-awareness and sentimental elements are hardly found in Moholy’s works. He was motivated to make his work not personal-related, and more accessible in understanding as well as design ideology. However, the Photomontage collection stands out quite uniquely. These collages and edits of photo-clips interact playfully with the negative space. This series of work reveals the part of Moholy’s thinking and interest, as well as the humor in his personality. I really enjoyed looking at the collages, and I was also seeing how this smart playing of images still deeply influencing contemporary graphic design especially in magazine layout and composition.

      Starting from the Room of the Present, I finally felt like I’m stepping into not only just a collection of Moholy-Nagy, but also an ideology presentation of him. The chronological pathway of this exhibition help me to observe better on the changing concept and design aesthetics in Moholy’s works and how they were corresponding the technology of the time. I can see the multimedia practice had been thoroughly adopted by Moholy, and he started to apply this practice to almost every aspects of his design. From installation, theatre and interior design, to a little piece of paper form; Moholy truly realized the idea that art and design should run parallel with the technology, and aesthetics should not be confined by class and tradition. The variety of the displaying objects, projects and artworks assembled an exciting scene of the progression in applied art and design. Looking around the final section of the exhibition, I noticed by the time Moholy moved to Chicago, he started to adopt more organic elements into his work. This is an evidence of Moholy’s pursuit of industrial development.

      This exhibition shows me how Moholy brought his art ideology from Europe to America. I also observed that how Moholy and Bauhaus school influenced the modern applied design of the West. It is very interesting to see the distinctions in modern aesthetics between the East and West. This thinking of the different design logic and aesthetics in industrial, infrastructure and many other daily objects under different cultural framework actually interests me a lot. But that would be another complicated and worth-digging topic.

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EVERYTHING MUST GO! Art Fair

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I went to this show two weeks ago I think it was very interesting. Unfortunately this show has ended. It was held by Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park which I formerly worked at.

Here’s the exhibition introduction:

Wicker Park says goodbye to its colorful history from the Lumpen Buddy days, to the Around the Coyote art fair and now the Double Door.Everything Must Go! reflects the selling of our neighborhood and with it our art and culture. This new wave of corporate colonization is being felt all over the city with Google’s tech boom in the West loop, displacing artists and galleries.

Historically Wicker Park was home to artists. By the late 70’s artists that were gentrified out of Old Town and Lincoln Park began settling there in large numbers. As more artists came they began to transform loft space into livable studios, storefronts became galleries, music venues, coffee shops, and bars. Roberto Lopez a native and long time superintendent of the Flat Iron Building  said “Wicker Park wasn’t just a place, it was a state of mind.” At it’s peak was Around the Coyote that began in September of 1990, this art fair changed the cultural landscape by drawing tens of thousands of visitors–and hundreds of thousands of dollars–to the community. A victim of its own success, this new bohemia attracted economic investment. The neighborhood feared yuppies and  “Lincoln Parkization.” They recalled how the visual arts industry created a real estate boom on Manhattan’s lower east side, that ended in the Tompkins Square anti-gentrification uprising of 1988. The community feared that Wicker Park’s unique ethnic and artistic diversity was at risk and that its growing popularity would lead to their displacement. “Anytime a community is discovered, the indigenous population is forced out and the new colonizers reap the benefits.” Theories of gentrification indicate that capital follows culture and identify artists as the main agents for gentrifying working class neighborhoods. Whatever pandered to the “commodification of the artist’s lifestyle in the service of a real estate market” was fair game for protest wrote the Lumpen Times in the mid 90’s. Back then anti-gentrification groups and radical neighborhood activists printed flyers and used guerrilla tactics. They sabotaged businesses by gluing their doors shut, breaking windows, and spray painting “The Natives Are Restless” and “Gentrafux”. Many people fought to keep the neighborhood but as time went on one by one they all left. The nail in the coffin came in 2012 when Wicker Park was featured by Forbes as one of the 5 hippest neighborhoods in the U.S.

Everything Must Go! speaks of the loss of authenticity and to a new era of political passiveness where people are carried by the wave. Over the past 15 years many artist and independent businesses have been priced out of Wicker Park. Heaven gallery that was established in 1998 in the Flat Iron building and in its current location for the past 16 years is one of the last stands that reflect the spirit of the old neighborhood.

Claire Molek and Heaven Gallery invite galleries and curators to rummage through works they have on hand, as a celebration of unique producers, and recalls the collective histories and togetherness of artist neighborhoods and street art fairs. Intersecting the boundaries between a clearance sale and an art fair, the exhibition further explores the magic of unknowable context, and what it means to encourage practice over product, or product over practice.

 

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This was the first time I had been to Chicago Expo, and really, any sort of art fair of its kind. I’m fairly new to the idea of the art world as a capitalist market, but I suppose, so is the art world (at least on the scale it has amassed to in the last thirty years or so). Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. On one hand, it was an opportunity to see the up-and-coming artists of our time in a fast-paced, very dynamic environment, but on the other, it was hard to get past the flock of rich old white people collecting bad, beaten-to-death art, and talking big numbers through wine-stained teeth. However, I saw some absolutely brilliant painting, although it was often shadowed by larger, more novel pieces. I suppose that’s the thing that really made me question the nobility of it: it was a lot of novelty and timely work, of pseudo-pop money-making artifacts, with more the conceptual, discomforting, and craft-oriented pieces left by the wayside. However, Kerry James Marshall’s talk did help me to reframe the lens from which I was viewing the art. He made a point about how the purpose of art is to present something to someone that they wouldn’t otherwise see. It was something which should have been obvious, but something which I hadn’t heard articulated so well in my art education. And so I suppose that there is a point to be made with the tacky CD-eyed portraits and giant slabs of acrylic. Their value lies in their funkiness. That is their point: to be present. So I’ll forgive them for that, even though I personally wouldn’t give them the thousands of dollars at which they were priced.
I suppose then, Expo taught me to broaden my perceptions on art, even though my taste might be quite different from the greater art community. But it wasn’t Expo that taught me this, it was the wisdom of a true master of our time. So, ultimately, Expo was a productive experience, though I have tremendous criticism for the way it values craft and the ultimate purposes of art. (It was overwhelmingly capitalistic, was hard to focus on the art in such a stock market environment, not to mention its being hosted in Chicago’s glorified food court (i.e. Navy Pier), &c.) But still, compelling.

Me Wondering Around Expo Chicago

Written by Zoey Wan

I attended Expo Chicago on Saturday because I wanted to hear the talk held between the SAIC professor Joseph Grigley and the well-known curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. So I’m going to talk about this conversation and the Expo in general.

The Conversation:

I don’t want to make a judgement of whether this event was executed well or not, since I’m not a professional critic and I feel like I just came for the talk. I’m definitely interested in the topics Joseph and Hans were mentioned in their conversation.  I’m not very familiar with both of them, but I know briefly about Hans for few years. I followed his Instagram and have seen his posts of the handwritten notes (The Art of Handwritingproject) for a while. It is lucky to hear that Hans expanded this conversation based on his project, and also introduced another archiving project of his own collections that professor Grigley is currently working on at SAIC.

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They brought up this idea of the crisis of handwriting which I’m also aware of all the time. I remember they talked about how handwriting indicated evidences and features that reflect the actual personality of the individual that the digitized typing would never be able to copy (or not yet). The action, and performative essence in handwriting is a form of art that many people are ignoring. Hans defined things such as the fade away of handwriting as the the disappearing cultural phenomenons. The disappearance which caused by multiple facts like the development of technology, the colonialism, etc. There were also discussions about the method of archiving and the practices of the exhibitions. The predicament of both physical and digital archives, and what on earth is the condition of an exhibitions (what defines an exhibition, what space should an exhibition happen).

I find the topics and ideas Joseph and Hans were talking about were the very grounded matters that should always be brought up at the first place, but yet easily overlooked later on.

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The Expo:

I didn’t go through the entire conference hall, or didn’t pay that much careful attention. I did find few interesting works as always, and I did find the uneasy feelings of this environment, as always. I feel like I have this bizarre double-minded thinking process in my brain. On the one hand I feel distracted to be here because when I found a work I’m interested in, t seems like I’m not supposed to express my interest due to my poor financial condition. Money was the biggest word hanging around my mind, so on the other hand I really do wish I’m just a rich buyer who has all these market-fitted codes of manners that could at least gain me a little vanity.

Picture1.pngHowever, I enjoy observing the art market, and want to get in deeper. I’ve always been thinking the meaning of art and its relationship to us in person. When we were young, what our education taught us was “art” is a beautiful thing that touches everyone, and is for anyone. Then we grow up being more and more distant to art, or even being confused by art (especially the contemporary, which coexist with us at the moment). When I went through all these art market events, what I feel was the strong detachment between art education and the art economy. So I was wondering what makes art so special? And what makes art so secular?

 

 

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