A LIFE OF LIGHT AND SHADOW
“The camera has offered us amazing possibilities, which we are only just beginning to exploit. The visual image has been expanded and even the modern lens is no longer tied to the narrow limits of our eye; no manual means of representation is capable of arresting fragments of the world seen like this.” – Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Like many émigrés fleeing from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy sought refuge in various countries: the Netherlands, England and, finally, the United States. Wherever he and his family went, they took an enormous metal and glass machine, which looked so odd that it always caused a rumpus at customs.
The problem was describing what it was. Telling the truth did not work. Custom officers snorted in disbelief when Mr. Moholy-Nagy explained that he had designed the Light Space Modulator, as the machine was called, to create pools of light and shadow so he could study their movement. They were almost as skeptical when he tried passing it off as a robot, fountain and mixing machine. Eventually he fobbed them off by claiming that it was “hairdressing equipment.”
Mr. Moholy-Nagy had labored over his strange machine throughout the 1920s, paying for more of it to be made whenever he could afford it. It was worth it. His Light Space Modulator observations helped to formulate the theories of the moving image that he propagated as a designer, artist, writer and teacher in the 1930s and 1940s.
After decades of playing a “best supporting” role in 20th-century art and design, albeit an intriguing and seductive one, Mr. Moholy-Nagy is being bumped up to a leading role. Long praised for pioneering film and photography, as well as for working across different creative disciplines, he is now recognized as a critical influence over the increasingly important medium of digital imagery that flickers across our computer and mobile telephone screens.
Excerpted from the Oct 18 NYTimes feature on Dadaist/Surrealist/Bauhaus artist Moholy-Nagy. Read the full article at the NYTIMES