The Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy was one of the most influential thinkers, designers and art educators of the first half of the twentieth century. His experimentation with light, space and form generated international attention. Among those impressed by Moholy-Nagy’s work was Walter Gropius, German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, who made Moholy-Nagy one of the youngest instructors in the history of the Bauhaus. In his time at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy utilized multi-disciplinary art practices to revolutionize abstract artistic media.
This documentary by John Halas in 1990 playfully highlights the prolific career of Moholy-Nagythrough archive footage, photographs and animations. The film outlines his career beginning with his early explorations with light and photography, all the way to his appointment to the “New Bauhaus” in Chicago 1937 by Gropius.
As one of the early twentieth century’s most forward thinkers, Moholy-Nagy practiced his sensory education through fine art, photography, sculpture, graphic design and architecture. He experimented with the photogram; the process of exposing light-sensitive paper with objects laid upon it. Perhaps his most enduring achievement is the construction of the “Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Bühne” (Light Prop for an Electric Stage, completed 1930), a device with moving parts meant to have light projected through it in order to create mobile light reflections and shadows on nearby surfaces.
In his time at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy focused on an “education of the senses” and began to think in terms of systems and materiality with respect to art. In this way he helped lay the groundwork for the post World War II digital-media shift in artistic practices. Moholy-Nagy even helped rethink the original Bauhaus typography and logo into the lowercase design still used today.
As a celebration of Moholy-Nagy and his impact on twentieth-century design, Lars Müller and Lars Müller Publishers have announced a reprint of Oliver Botar’s Sensing the Future: Moholy-Nagy, Media and the Arts (2014). You can find out more about the book and Moholy-Nagy’s work from Lars Müller Publishers’ website here.