Analogous to the constructivist trend (where he excels as a painter), the turning point in László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) career and concept of art lies is in his participation in the Congress of the International and Progressive Artists’ Union (Dusseldorf, May 1922). He publishes his first programmatic text in the summer of 1922: Produktion-Reproduktion, which echoes the aesthetic and the project of "man-machine" and in which he argues that film and photography are the new tools that will achieve the completeness of vision. In this way, the exhibition presented by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía focuses on his stills -the impression of a single shot on paper without a camera- and brings together a body of work that comes entirely from the Folkwang Museum in Essen (Germany) in which he illustrates the manner in which his theoretical formulation becomes detailed and evolves over a twenty-year career.
Unlike contemporary stills by Man Ray and Christian Schad, Moholy-Nagy does not emphasise the search for poetic-surrealist compositions nor does he cover-up the everyday object enigma, but turns light into the main character. Light is, for the artist, synonymous with knowledge as it reveals and offers a new vision of objects that had been previously hidden but without resorting to its recognition.
Retrieving the tradition of trick photography from the beginning of the century and with the contemporary model of abstract film, represented in the work of Hans Richter and Walter Ruttmann, Moholy-Nagy tackles his geometrically shaped light compositions using templates, so that in his first stills and paintings there is little formal and compositional difference. Gradually, his experiments become more complex due to his adding of volumetric objects or fragments of metallic fabrics and grids whose material or transparent qualities amplify the luminous possibilities of the resulting stills. In his resulting compositions weightlessness and lack of perspective dominate, and are able to identify space and light. Another feature is the indifference in the direction of his stills, which exemplify the realisation of an infinite space.
From 1923 and until 1928, Moholy-Nagy’s theoretical, educational and artistic work is marked by experimentation and linked to the Bauhaus. The search for light effects from an abstract point of view constitutes one of his goals and leads him to produce the kinetic sculpture Licht-Raum-Modulator (light-space modulator) in 1930, consisting of a collection of metal and glass objects of different shapes, sizes and finishes. Exiled in the United States, his desire to create academies of light materialises with the founding of the New Bauhaus (1937) and the School of Design (1938), both in Chicago. In them, Moholy-Nagy insists on the formation of the "student's sensitivity towards different qualities of space dependent of light, speed, movement, time, geometry, or determined social circumstances, such as mass or series production or psycho-physical factors", as noted by specialists of this artist, Floris M. Neusüss and Renate Heyne.
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