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.
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.