Major Retrospective of László Moholy-Nagy Opens at the Guggenheim Museum in New York May 27–September 7, 2016 #MoholyNagy

gen-press-moholy-nagy-1
László Moholy-Nagy
A II (Construction A II), 1924
Oil and graphite on canvas, 115.8 × 136.5 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection 43.900
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Exhibition: Moholy-Nagy: Future Present
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Location: Full rotunda Dates: May 27–September 7, 2016 Media Preview: Thursday, May 26, 2016, 10 am–1 pm
(NEW YORK, NY, May 26, 2015) From May 27 to September 7, 2016, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will present the first comprehensive retrospective in the United States in nearly fifty years of the work of pioneering artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946). Organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Moholy-Nagy: Future Present examines the full career of the utopian modernist who believed in the potential of art as a vehicle for social transformation, working hand in hand with technology. Despite Moholy-Nagy’s prominence and the visibility of his work during his lifetime, few exhibitions have conveyed the experimental nature of his work, his enthusiasm for industrial materials, and his radical innovations with movement and light. This long overdue presentation, which encompasses his multidisciplinary methodology, brings together more than 300 works drawn from public and private collections across Europe and the United States, some of which have never before been shown publicly in this country. After its debut presentation in New York, the exhibition will travel to the Art Institute of Chicago (October 2, 2016–January 3, 2017) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (February 12–June 18, 2017).
Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is co-organized by Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Matthew S. Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago. The Guggenheim presentation is organized by Vail, with the assistance of Ylinka Barotto, Curatorial Assistant, and Danielle Toubrinet, Exhibition Assistant.
The New York presentation of Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is made possible by Lavazza. Funding is generously provided by David Berg Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, The Hilla von Rebay Foundation, William Talbott Hillman Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, and Sotheby’s. The Leadership Committee for the exhibition, chaired by Peter and Dede Lawson-Johnston, is gratefully acknowledged for its support, with special thanks to Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Rowland Weinstein, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, and Achim Moeller. Additional funding is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Moholy-Nagy: Future Present provides an opportunity to examine the full career of this influential Bauhaus teacher, founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design, and versatile artist who paved the way for increasingly interdisciplinary and multimedia work and practice. Among his radical innovations were his experiments with cameraless photographs (which he dubbed “photograms”); use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture that was unconventional for his time; researching with light, transparency, and movement; his work at the forefront of abstraction; and his ability to move fluidly between the fine and applied arts. The exhibition is presented chronologically up the Guggenheim’s rotunda and features collages, drawings, ephemera, films, paintings, photograms, photographs, photomontages, and sculptures. The exception to the sequential order is Room of the Present (Raum der Gegenwart) in the High Gallery, a contemporary fabrication of a space originally conceived by Moholy-Nagy in 1930 but never realized in his lifetime. Constructed by designers Kai-Uwe Hemken and Jakob Gebert, the large-scale work contains photographic reproductions, films, slides, documents, and replicas of architecture, theater, and industrial design, including a 2006 replica of his kinetic Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Bühne, 1930). Room of the Present illustrates the artist’s belief in the power of images and his approach to the various means with which to view them—a highly relevant paradigm in today’s constantly shifting and evolving technological world. Room of the Present will be on display at all three exhibition venues and for the first time in the United States. The Guggenheim installation is designed by Kelly Cullinan, Senior Exhibition Designer, and is inspired by Moholy-Nagy’s texts on space and his concept of a “spatial kaleidoscope” as applied to the experience of walking up the ramps.
Born in 1895 in Austria-Hungary (now southern Hungary), Moholy-Nagy moved to Vienna briefly and then to Berlin in 1920, where he encountered Dada artists, whose distinctive visual attributes of the urban industrial landscape had already entered his work. He was also influenced by the Constructivists, and exhibited work on several occasions at Berlin’s Der Sturm gallery. During this time, Moholy-Nagy experimented with metal constructions, photograms, and enamel paintings. At the same moment, in his ongoing quest to depict light and transparency, he painted abstract canvases composed of floating geometric shapes. While teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar and then Dessau, he and Walter Gropius pioneered the Bauhaus Books series, which advanced Moholy-Nagy’s belief that arts education and administration went hand in hand with the practice of art making. Around this period, the artist became temporarily disenchanted with the limitations of traditional painting. Photography took on greater importance for him, and he described the photogram as “a bridge leading to new visual creation for which canvas, paint-brush and pigment cannot serve.” He fashioned photomontages by combining photographs (usually found) and newspaper images into absurd, satirical, or fantastical narratives. When he moved back to Berlin in 1928, he enjoyed success as a commercial artist, exhibition and stage designer, and typographer, examples of which will be on display in Moholy-Nagy: Future Present. Adolf Hitler’s rise to power made life increasingly difficult for the avant-garde in Germany; thus, in 1934 Moholy-Nagy moved with his family to the Netherlands and then to London. Once he moved to Chicago in 1937, he never returned to Europe.
Moholy-Nagy immigrated to Chicago to become founding director of the New Bauhaus, known today as the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He also made some of his most original and experimental work during this time, pursuing his longtime fascination with light, shadow, transparency, and motion. He continued to make photograms, created his Space Modulators (hybrids of painting and sculpture made from Plexiglas), and pioneered 35 mm color slide photography, shown as projections in the exhibition. He gave his full attention to American exhibition venues before his untimely death of leukemia in 1946, showing nearly three dozen times across the United States—including in four solo shows.
Moholy-Nagy was a central figure in the history of the Guggenheim Museum. His work was included in the museum’s founding collection, and he held a special place at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, the forerunner of the Guggenheim Museum. He was among the first artists director Hilla Rebay exhibited and collected in depth, and the museum presented a memorial exhibition shortly after his death. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present highlights the artist’s interdisciplinary and investigative approach, migrating from the school to the museum or gallery space, consistently pushing toward the Gesamtwerk, the total work, which he sought to achieve throughout his lifetime.
Exhibition Catalogue
Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is accompanied by an extensively researched catalogue examining the work of the pioneering artist. Featuring more than 300 works illustrated in color, it is the most comprehensive English-language book on Moholy-Nagy in over thirty years and offers an integrated presentation of his works across mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, graphic design, and film. The exhibition curators and other scholars provide new insights into Moholy-Nagy’s methods and his influence. Essays examine the confluence of writing, arts administration, and art making in the artist’s practice; his use of materials, incorporating intensive conservation research and analysis; and his impact on redefining the role of the artist in society. Particular emphasis is given to his American years and his leadership of the Institute of Design in Chicago. The catalogue will be available for purchase at guggenheim.org/store (hardcover: $65, softcover: $45).
Education and Public Programs
A range of programs featuring film, music, and explorations into László Moholy-Nagy’s resonance today is offered in conjunction with Moholy-Nagy: Future Present. Highlights are listed below, with full information and tickets available at guggenheim.org/calendar.
Film
Films to Come: Moholy-Nagy and the Moving Image
Fridays–Saturdays, June 3–August 26, 11 am
This film program includes documentaries about László Moholy-Nagy, Bauhaus films, selections of abstract cinema, and works by contemporary filmmakers inspired by the artist.
Panel
Moholy-Nagy: Art for a New Century
Wednesday, June 22, 6:30 pm
Bringing together scholars, curators, and artists, this program explores how László Moholy-Nagy’s experimental and multifaceted practice resonates today more than ever. Presentations by Oliver Botar (University of Manitoba), Carol S. Eliel (Los Angeles County Museum of Art co-organizing curator), and artist Barbara Kasten are followed by a panel discussion. Moderated by Karole P. B. Vail, Guggenheim co-organizing curator. $15, $10 members, free for students with RSVP.
For Middle Schoolers
Game Design Workshop
Wednesday, June 29, 1–5 pm
Grades 5–8. Just as László Moholy-Nagy was challenged to create dynamic compositions through various materials and new technologies, participants will design games through hands-on activities and by using Gamestar Mechanic, a video game creation tool. Students will also learn how to submit their games as part of the 2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge. Free with RSVP. Created in collaboration with the 2016 STEM Challenge, The Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, and E-Line Media.
Performance
Moholy-Nagy: Optical Sound
Thursday, July 21, 7 pm
In response to what László Moholy-Nagy referred to as an “opto-acoustic alphabet,” this program highlights the fusion of modulated sound and light. A large-scale multichannel presentation of innovative Hungarian electronic music from the 1970s is followed by a performance by a contemporary practitioner of intermedia work that exemplifies Moholy-Nagy’s dream of a “groove script.” $30, $20 members, $15 students.
Tours
Curator’s Eye
Friday, June 3, 12 pm
Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Conservator’s Eye
Friday, July 29, 12 pm
Julie Barten, Senior Conservator, Collections and Exhibitions, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and contributor to the exhibition catalogue
About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The Guggenheim network that began in the 1970s when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was joined by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, has since expanded to include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (opened 1997) and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (currently in development). The Guggenheim Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that celebrate contemporary art, architecture, and design within and beyond the walls of the museum, including the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative and The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative. More information about the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation can be found at guggenheim.org.
VISITOR INFORMATION Admission: Adults $25, students/seniors (65+) $18, members and children under 12 free. The Guggenheim’s free app, available with admission or by download to personal devices, offers an enhanced visitor experience. The app features content on special exhibitions as well as access to more than 1,500 works in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection. Additionally, information about the museum’s landmark building is available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Verbal Description guides for select exhibitions are also included for visitors who are blind or have low vision. The Guggenheim app is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Museum Hours: Sun–Wed, 10 am–5:45 pm; Fri, 10 am–5:45 pm; Sat, 10 am–7:45 pm; closed Thurs. On Saturdays, beginning at 5:45 pm, the museum hosts Pay What You Wish. For general information, call 212 423 3500 or visit the museum online at: guggenheim.org

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