Industrial optimist: Moholy-Nagy revisited

Jeff Tollefson in Nature:

Moholy-Nagy-A11-43-900_pI’m standing in the spiraling rotunda of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, and over me dangles a chaotic mess held together by translucent Plexiglas. In the shadow the sculpture casts on the wall, the shapes converge in a pleasing negative blending intention and happenstance – impossible to predict, yet clearly part of a plan. On evidence, this is an artist thinking experimentally, and in multiple dimensions.

The industrial designer, artist and photographer Lázló Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) was certainly that. As the Guggenheim’s retrospective Moholy-Nagy: Future Present shows, the Hungarian pioneer of the Bauhaus and beyond worked in a dazzling array of media: film, photography, painting, sculpture, graphic design and typography. But behind the restless eclecticism, he adhered to the unifying theory (with the Constructivists) that art is integral to social transformation and must embrace new technologies. At a time of vast industrial expansion, he declaimed himself as “[n]ot against technological progress, but with it”, championing novel industrial materials — from Formica and aluminium to the Plexiglas in Dual Form with Chromium Rods (1946) in the rotunda. Drawn towards the airy, the transparent and the brilliantly coloured, he was also in love with light and movement: like contemporary Alexander Calder, he engineered moving parts and even electric motors into kinetic sculptures.

More here.