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László Moholy-Nagy. Photograms 1922-1943

Painter, sculptor, photographer, film-maker, designer, typographer, art theoretician, but also an architect of exhibitions, advertising man, stage designer, tireless teacher, the Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) is the embodiment of the utopian spirit of the avant-gardes of the twenties and thirties.

After studying law and being demobilised from the front, he decided to devote himself to painting in 1918. He soon made contact with Kurt Schwitters, Raoul Hausmann and El Lissitzky, evolved in Dadaist and Constructivist circles and created works inspired by their research. From 1922 he began to affirm his own artistic personality and really discover his originality. Like a number of artists of the time (the Constructivists in Russia, the leaders of the Stijl movement in the Netherlands), he experimented with brand new materials (rhodoid, Plexiglas, aluminium) and was fired with enthusiasm for the new technical possibilities, defended an interdisciplinary exchange between the arts, industry and the sciences. Moreover, he put forward one of the most complete aesthetic models of the modern movement. Both with his works, and his teaching (notably at the Bauhaus in Germany from 1923 to 1928 and at the Institute of Design in Chicago from 1937 to 1946) and writing, Moholy-Nagy made a great contribution to the renewal of ways of interaction between feeling and thought, some of which we still use today.

 

That aura, worthy of a Renaissance humanist, springs from the fact that, even though he was not the first to use this technique or that material, he innovated radically every time and in every sphere. And in his work, while the formal discoveries may have an independent plastic role, he endows them with a function which is even more essential in his view: to transform the human being in his lifestyles, psychology and physiology, as well as in his intellect. Moholy-Nagy, who lived in an extremely troubled period, wanted man no longer to be an instrument or a thing, but to use his creation to become the sole producer and constructor of his existence. In that respect, he follows the utopian spirit of his day, and his will to develop physical capacities and human conceptualisation to the utmost in a functional synthesis of body and spirit explains his ceaseless quest for new plastic forms.