László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1946)

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895–1946) was a photographer best known for his explorations of light, shadow, and reflections, and their impact on developing artistic media. Moholy-Nagy was fascinated by technology and machines, and used various mechanisms to improve printed photography. The artist began his career during World War I, creating more than 400 drawings on military issued-postcards. While living in Budapest, Moholy-Nagy joined creative circles, developing as an Abstract painter influenced by Kazimir Malevich (Russian/Ukrainian, 1878–1935) and El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890–1941). In 1919, due to political upheaval in Hungary, Moholy-Nagy traveled to Berlin, where he joined the faculty of the German Bauhaus in 1923. As a part of the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy was one of the most important members of the Constructivist movement, which promoted art as a practice for social purpose. As Moholy-Nagy explored various media, he began to toy with machines and instruments to understand the mechanics of light and shadow. From 1922-1930 Moholy-Nagy developed his famous Light Space Modulator, a machine made of glass, metal, light bulbs, and transparent paper that facilitated his study of pools of light and shadow. Moholy-Nagy would later carry over his findings into color photography. In the 1930s and 1940s, the only form of color photography available to artists was the dye transfer method, a printing style that the artist felt lacked the depth of explorative methods one could find in black-and-white photography. Capturing images of traffic lights in long exposure and other time study techniques, Moholy-Nagy developed Kodachrome film, and material which allowed the artist to translate space and time into printed photography. Today, color photographers often use Chromogenic film, the ideal media Moholy-Nagy would have preferred to use. In 1937, the artist moved to Chicago to serve as the director of the New Bauhaus. When the school closed the following year, Moholy-Nagy founded the School of Design along with his Bauhaus faculty members. In 1944, the School of Design became the Institute of Design in Chicago. Not long after the school was founded, in 1946, Moholy-Nagy passed away due to complications from leukemia. One of the most celebrated photographers of his time, Moholy-Nagy’s work has exhibited at major institutions around the world, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, and the Tate Modern in London.

Timeline

1895
Born in Bácsborsod
1915
Enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army as an officer in the artillery
1923
Invited to join the Bauhaus (founded in 1919) where he taught a metal class and various areas of design
1937
Emigrated to the United States and ran the “New Bauhaus” in Chicago
1938
Opens his own art institute, the School of Design, in Chicago
1946
Died in Chicago, IL

Exhibitions

2007
Sept. 7 - Oct. 13, "Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Photography and Sculpture", Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, NY
2006
Feb. 28 - April 22, "Technical Detours: The Early Work of Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered", Art Gallery of the Graduate Center, City University of New York
1996
Sept. 5 - April 12, "László Moholy-Nagy: From Budapest to Berlin, 1914-1923", University of Delaware
1978
Oct. 21 - Nov. 26, "Photographs and Paintings by Moholy-Nagy", US, NY, Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery