Moholy-Nagy And The Bauhaus
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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and The Bauhaus
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was a Hungarian constructivist who was gifted in most forms of the visual arts. He was born in 1895 and raised in the city of Bachsbarsad, Hungary and studied law in Hungarys capital of Budapest. He began his artistc venture during his service in World War I with sketches on military-issue postcards, and produced a versatile catalog of works throughout his life. He was skilled in design, sculpture, painting, photography, and more. He was also a member of the prestigious Bauhaus faculty in Weimar, Germany. In 1937, Moholy-Nagy became director of the New Bauhaus in Chicago and lived there until he died of leukemia in 1946. Moholy-Nagy was an important figure in 20th century art and concentrated much of his work on the integration of art and technology. Although Moholy-Nagy was one of the most influential artists of his time, his work is only vaguely recalled because it employed so many different mediums and never established a prominence in any one specifically. (Goethe Institute, p. 52)
Moholy-Nagy was a prominent member of the Bauhaus faculty, replacing Johannes Itten as instructor of the schools preliminary course in 1924. Walter Gropius, the schools director, wanted a shift from the Bauhaus current expressionistic style to more of its original aim at industrial engineering. The Bauhaus was very influential on most modern art and architecture and still is today. When Moholy-Nagy began teaching at the Bauhaus, it marked the end of its expressionistic era, and concentrated on architecture and industrial integration. Due largely to the industrial revolution, materials like cast iron and plastics were become easier to work with and faster to assemble. The Bauhaus understood the shift in technology and were pioneers in utilizing this technology in their art. They designed practically with these new materials such things as furniture, setting examples that are still used today. Moholy-Nagy was especially concerned with the integration of art and technology and delighted in the undertakings of the Bauhaus. “They reflected attitudes to art, architecture, and craft which had been shaped by the forces of engineering and technology” (Whitford, p13).
Even more important than the art itself at the Bauhaus was the craftsmanship. Other leading schools in Europe at the time were focused on art and concept, and “trained artists, but not artisans.” (Whitford, p17) They taught art and architecture in the ways of the old masters and antiquity, which were impractical and industrially outdated. The Bauhaus believed that employing new materials and design could be a solution to industrial design problems of things like household appliances to new housing for a growing urban population. The students and faculty at the Bauhaus had to be not only idealistic and innovative, but skilled craftsmen in order to execute their ideas. Behind their new sleek designs were technology, mathematics,and function; a reflection of the era in which they were living. (Whitford, p17)
Moholy-Nagy developed his own theory in one of his main focuses, photography, especially photograms. A photogram is a made image similar to a photograph that is made without a camera by placing or layering objects onto light-sensitive paper then exposing them to light. The end result is a negative image based on the transparency of the objects (See Fig 1 & 2). Moholy-Nagy made many photographic images throughout his career and theorized that through photography, the world could be seen in the way that was not visible to the human eye. (Internet, Source 2).
As the discovery of one-point perspective gave creative impetus to the Renaissance, so Moholy-Nagy realised that technical advances in photography and film would transform social and cultural values as the 20th century progressed. He predicted: “It is not the person ignorant of writing but the one ignorant of photography who will be the illiterate of the future.” (Internet, Source 5)