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.