Wholly Moholy

Posted online: July 2015

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Detail of László Moholy-Nagy’s Leuk 5, 1946, oil and pencil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 38 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Maholy-Nagy’s Untitled (Space Modulator), 1946, oil on Plexiglas, 14 1/2 x 8 1/2 in., McMaster Museum of Art, McMaster University.

THE FLIRTATION BETWEEN ART AND TECHNOLOGY continues today, despite continued predictions that painting as an art form will succumb in technology’s wake. Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)—whose innovative use of technology to manipulate light and space presaged the work of contemporary artists like Robert Irwin—also prophesized painting’s demise, yet continued to make paintings throughout his life. “The Paintings of Moholy-Nagy: The Shape of Things to Come” at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from July 5 through September 27, skillfully examines this apparent conundrum. Guest curated by art historian Joyce Tsai and overseen by the museum’s chief curator Eik Kahng, the show postulates that Moholy’s paintings—often integrating “new” materials like Formica and Plexiglas—enabled him to depict artistic concepts that technology was unable to achieve during his lifetime. In the scholarly catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Kahng deems Moholy’s approach “a very functional alternative for an artistic mind so far ahead of existing technology.”

Renowned Santa Barbara industrial designer Alex Rasmussen, nealfeay.com, is lending his talents to the exhibition’s installation with custom-made anodized aluminum “interventions” (partitions, benches, and other items) inspired by Moholy’s own artistic experimentation with aluminum. No doubt Moholy would have approved. –L.D. PORTER

SANTA BARBARA MUSEUM OF ART 1130 State St., Santa Barbara, 805-963-4364, sbmuseart.org.

 

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