Press Release: Before Bauhaus, the Beginnings of a Utopian Vision "Technical Detours: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered"

"Technical Detours: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered" will be on view in the Art Gallery of the Graduate Center, City University of New York, from March 1 to April 22.  Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) astonishing creativity embraced painting, sculpture, graphics, typography, photography, film, stage design, industrial design, and commercial design. The exhibition --- including more than 200 items in various media --- opens a window on the Hungarian-born artist’s nascent utopian vision, as well as his interdisciplinary approach, which he would later put to work at the Bauhaus.  Located in The Graduate Center at 365 Fifth Avenue/34th Street, the gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 6 pm.  Admission is free.  (The press is invited to an opening reception on February 28, 5-7 pm.)

The exhibition focuses on the early years of Moholy-Nagy's career, from just after World War I, when his ambitions were as much those of a poet as of an artist, up to the time that he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1923.  Included are two major oil paintings on cardboard from 1918-19, a set of sketches on postcards of 1918 depicting Budapest café society, and two works by Kurt Schwitters given to Moholy-Nagy, never before seen or published.  Perhaps most importantly, The Salgo Trust for Education's newly discovered, early painting on linen from Moholy-Nagy's Dada period will be introduced, one that had been hidden for some 75 years on the verso of his early International Constructivist masterpiece Architekur 1. Many of the works in the exhibition are of a documentary nature, such as period books, journals, manifestos and postcards, placing Moholy-Nagy into his various contexts in Hungary, Vienna, and Germany.  

Moholy-Nagy's early literary ambitions, his role during the 1918-19 revolutionary period, his relations to organized politics, and his connections to the Lebensreform movement of early Weimar Germany will be examined.  The exhibition will also look at his interest in alternative and new media, and will include the first-ever digital model of his plans for a Dynamic-Constructive Energy System.

Moholy-Nagy was a signal figure in the history of Modernist art, with an uncommon intellect as well as a deep commitment to the social value of art.  One of the legendary teachers of the twentieth-century – initially at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau from 1923 to 1928, and later at the New Bauhaus and Institute of Design in Chicago from 1937 to 1946 – he was a prolific and articulate writer whose books and essays had a significant impact on his contemporaries and, in many ways, anticipated artistic developments that began to surface in the 1960s.  He was born in Hungary in 1895 and served as in Austro Hungarian army in WWI, turning to art while recuperating from a wound.  He fled Germany with the rise of the Nazis in 1934 and came to America in 1937, where he lived until his death in Chicago in 1946 at the age of 51.

In addition to pieces by Moholy-Nagy, artworks by Béla Uitz, Lajos Kassák, Sándor Bortnyik, János Mattis-Teutsch, Kurt Schwitters, Oskar Kokoschka, and Lazar El Lissitzky will be shown.

The exhibition is curated by Oliver A. I. Botar, associate professor of art history at the University of Manitoba, and presented in collaboration with The Salgo Trust for Education and the Art Gallery of The Graduate Center (Diane Kelder, curator).  A 192-page catalogue authored by Dr. Botar will accompany the exhibition.  “Technical Detours” will travel to The Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick (September 1 to October 31).

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York.  The only consortium of its kind in the nation, the school draws its faculty of more than 1,700 members mainly from the CUNY senior colleges.

Established in 1961, The Graduate Center has grown to an enrollment of about 4,000 students in 32 doctoral programs and six master's degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  The Graduate Center also houses 28 research centers and institutes, administers the CUNY Baccalaureate Program as well as a number of other university-wide academic programs, and offers a wide range of intellectual and cultural programs of interest to the general public.

Submitted on: FEB 1, 2006

Category: Press Room