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Moholy-Nagy exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago stuns

Katherine Jossi/The Round Table

Katherine Jossi/The Round Table

The name Làszló Moholy-Nagy is not one often talked about in the arts community. To many the name Moholy-Nagy means little, but, he is one of the most well known international modern artists to have resided in Chicago to date.

An exhibit of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago was an all encompassing look at the life of Moholy from his time in Germany in 1920 until his death in Chicago in 1946. During his time in Chicago he would found the New Bauhaus; a school that is today known as the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He is one of the few artists to have worked with so many different mediums. He experimented with painting, photography, film, sculpture, advertising and product design. Many of his pieces were strongly influenced by the Bauhaus style. This exhibit alone held over 300 pieces of his work. Moholy-Nagy was a pioneer of abstraction during the Industrial Age and believed in the use of materials of one’s time.


Upon entering the exhibit you are introduced to Moholy-Nagy’s work with charcoal and oil paint. Many of his paintings involved dense amounts of layering techniques. The first room of paintings would set the tone for the rest of the show, where you would continually see the influence of Bauhaus in many of Moholy-Nagy’s pieces. The style of Bauhaus works to bring an understanding of the relationship society has with technology. Moholy-Nagy show this relationship through printmaking, wherein he would duplicate an image numerous times to display a certain feeling.

However the most intriguing medium that Moholy-Nagy worked with was plexiglass. He would use it both as a solo medium and with painting. His ability to display character through applying paint to multiple pieces of twisted glass was astounding. He also dabbled in film, where he produced abstract and experimental films lasting no more than five minutes.

At one point in the exhibition I remember questioning how one artist could possibly do so much and work with so many different materials. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I came upon the final room, which displayed his pointillist works.The exhibit reflected his past, his present and the future of art.


Seen throughout the exhibit, Moholy-Nagy was constantly challenging himself to work with new mediums. Within those mediums he would continue pushing the boundaries of what you could do with art. Still, a retrospective on an artist of this caliber was almost too much. After the first four rooms, each widely different from the next, I felt overwhelmed. As in many art museums, sometimes it can be frustrating to wrap your head around that much art. My hat goes off to the Art Institute for introducing me to a mastermind I would’ve never known otherwise. The show will run till Jan. 3 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Remember to leave yourself adequate time to fully immerse yourself in the glory that is a Moholy-Nagy retrospective.

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