Daily Archives: October 29, 2016

No past


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.


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.