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The Paintings of Moholy-Nagy: The Shape of Things to Come

  • 05 Jul 2015
  • 27 Sep 2015
  • SBMA (1130 State St., Santa Barbara CA 93101)

This represents the first exhibition that explores how the practice of painting served as the means for László Moholy-Nagy to imagine generative relationships between art and technology. Featuring a suite of paintings executed on traditional supports, as well as on new industrial materials like plastics and aluminum, this presentation highlights how Moholy’s deployment of painting served to synthesize the inter-medial practice for which the artist has become so renowned. Organized chronologically and thematically, this exhibition shows the evolution of Moholy’s thought and practice over his career but attends especially to the profound political and technological impact World War II had on him. 

It is undeniable that Moholy made numerous declarations about the end of painting especially at the end of the 1920s. He demanded that artistic production reach beyond the confines of the walls of a bourgeois salon, museum or gallery. He advised artists to exchange brush, pigment, and canvas with camera, television, and searchlight. However, even as he made these radical claims, Moholy returned time and again to painting. In the early ‘20s, he painted a number of works against black grounds, some on highly-polished black wood panels, others on canvas, thickly varnished to mimic the qualities of industrial plastics he began working with at the Bauhaus in the metal workshop. He also experimented with materials developed specifically for aeronautics, with aluminum and later with clear, lightweight, increasingly shatterproof thermoplastics in the thirties and forties. These works in plastic stand at the interstices of his many artistic practices, mobilizing techniques and organizing principles drawn from printmaking, film, photography, sculpture, and crucially painting.

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