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Moholy: An Education of the Senses

CHICAGO, January 19, 2010

Moholy: An Education of the Senseswas organized by the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), the Mies van der Rohe Society at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). 


Moholy: An Education of the Senses, on view February 11 through May 9, 2010, at the Loyola University Museum of Art (820 North Michigan Avenue), is a celebration of László Moholy-Nagy, Modernism's great pedagogical visionary, artist, and designer. The exhibition brings to life Moholy-Nagy's art and ideas in the community that was his last home—Chicago. 

The exhibition is curated by Carol Ehlers, former photography curator at LaSalle Bank N.A., Chicago, now Bank of America. The exhibition was designed by Helen Maria Nugent (SAIC Professor and Director, Designed Objects) and SAIC alumnus Jan Tichy (MFA 2009), organized by SAIC in conjunction with the Mies van der Rohe Society at IIT, and was generously sponsored in part by a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. 

About the Exhibition 
Moholy: An Education of the Senses presents 54 photographs, films, paintings, books, and prints by Moholy-Nagy (or Moholy, as he was known by his American friends). Included is the return of the artist's kinetic masterpiece Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Light Space Modulator) (1922-30), which has not been on display in Chicago since the 1940s. On loan from the Harvard Museums, the Light Prop is an exhibition replica that was constructed in 2006 through the courtesy of Hattula Moholy-Nagy, the artist's daughter. It will be presented in its many functions: as sculpture, as a theater of light, and as the integral part of Moholy-Nagy's experimental film Lightplay: Black-White-Grey (1930), which will be installed spatially in this exhibition through multiple projections. One of the goals of Moholy: An Education of the Senses is to set the stage for the visitor to experience the artist's transformative vision. The exhibition is designed using Moholy-Nagy's tools: art, design, modern technology, and most importantly, light. Light is central to his work, which is emphasized in the exhibition through his sculpture, films, photographs, and painting.

Exhibition Events and Programs

Opening Reception
Wednesday, February 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
LUMA Members: Free / Non-Members: $15 

Tuesday, February 23, 6 p.m.
Meet the Curator of Moholy: An Education of the Senses
Learn about László Moholy-Nagy, Chicago's great Modernist, from curator Carol Ehlers as she guides visitors through the exhibition. Free admission. 

Tuesday, March 9, 6 p.m.
The Inexhaustible Wonder of Life: László Moholy-Nagy's Utopian Legacy
Dr. Victor Margolin (Professor Emeritus of Design History, University of Illinois-Chicago) will look at Moholy-Nagy's career in terms of his utopian vision. He will begin with Moholy-Nagy's paintings in Hungary and Berlin; consider his involvement with the International Constructivist movement, his teaching at the Bauhaus, and his work as a photographer; and conclude with a discussion of Moholy-Nagy's tenure as director of the New Bauhaus, School of Design, and Institute of Design in Chicago. Free admission.

Friday, March 12, 6:30 p.m.
Education of the Senses: Sonic Inertia Duo, Music for Marimba and Piano
Sonic Inertia Duo's music for marimba and piano embarks on a sonic exploration of modern art. Featuring music composed during the 20th and 21st centuries that evokes or was inspired by visual images, the performance reflects on the importance of Modernism, its message for a better world, and its influence on all the arts. Free admission. 

Tuesday, March 23, 6 p.m.
Moholy-Nagy and Art Education
Lynn Gamwell, PhD, will discuss Moholy-Nagy and art education. Moholy-Nagy designed and taught the core Foundation Course taken by all first-year students at the Bauhaus, in which they learned a language of vision consisting of form and color. Working with Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy also designed the curriculum that was organized to teach increasingly more complex skills and materials. After the closing of the Bauhaus and his relocation to Chicago, Moholy-Nagy's curriculum was subsequently adopted by studio art schools in the city, the Midwest, and West. Dr. Gamwell is the author of Exploring the Invisible: Art, Science, and the Spiritual and Dreams 1900 - 2000: Science, Art, and the Unconscious Mind. Free admission.

Tuesday, April 6, 6 p.m.
History of the Bauhaus: Germany and Beyond
The Bauhaus was Germany's most important and avant-garde art and design school. Radically breaking with the past, the Bauhaus was an important 20th-century shape-giver. Its 13 years of existence drew a faculty of unique individuals, all of whom were famous in their own right. After the Bauhaus closed in 1933 because the faculty refused to give in to Nazi demands, people spread the school's ideas and ideals across the United States, western Europe, and Israel. The impact was profound and changed the fiber of everyday life from the 1940s to the present. Join us for an investigation of the Bauhaus's history by Rolf Achilles, adjunct associate professor, art history, theory, and criticism, the School of the Art Institute. Free admission.

Moholy-Nagy Introduction
László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946, American, b. Austria-Hungary) arrived in Chicago on July 5, 1937, to establish a new school based on the Bauhaus, the already-famed German school of architecture and design. He came at a time of social upheaval, during the Great Depression and on the dawn of the Second World War. Today, as we are experiencing another cultural and technological transition, Moholy: An Education of the Senses intends to inspire audiences with the work of this modern figure dedicated to artistic and social change. 

Moholy-Nagy's Origins in the German Bauhaus
Moholy-Nagy's vision had its origins in the German Bauhaus. He came to Chicago on the recommendation of Walter Gropius, founder and director of the Bauhaus, where a radical new approach to art education had been developed. Moholy-Nagy was a faculty member of the Bauhaus from 1923 to 1928, first in Weimar, then in Dessau, Germany. The school's aim was to educate the whole person so that students could solve problems not by rote learning or copying the example of their professors, but instead through experiential learning by doing and the development of personal expression through experimenting with materials and forms. 

In April 1923, Moholy-Nagy joined the Bauhaus in Weimar upon Gropius's request. Though only 27 years old, the Hungarian émigré had already achieved an unprecedented synthesis of the art and ideas of his time: Expressionism, Hungarian Activism, Berlin Dada, Dutch DeStijl, Suprematism, and Constructivism. He was a pivotal participant in the international artistic movements that sought to free art and, thus, society from the oppression of history and tradition. During his time at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy helped establish Constructivist art (universal and communal values through geometric form) and ideals (art and artists as active agents in reshaping society) within the school's curriculum through the two courses he taught, the Preliminary Course and the Metal Workshop, and in his 1925-30 collaboration with Gropius, publishing the fourteenBauhausbücher (Bauhaus Books). 

Because of the rising restrictive political situation in Germany, Gropius and Moholy-Nagy resigned from the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1928 and moved to Berlin. In 1934, Moholy-Nagy went to Holland, where he studied the newly marketable color photography. Later, Moholy-Nagy moved to London before finally immigrating to America.

Moholy-Nagy in Chicago
Moholy-Nagy brought to Chicago a pedagogical blueprint designed to transform society. He was sponsored by the Association of Arts and Industries to direct a school that, like the Bauhaus, would combine art and technology. Originally named the New Bauhaus-American School of Design, it closed after just one academic year (October 1937-June 1938) due to financial reasons. Then in 1939, with the support of Walter Paepcke, founder of the Container Corporation of America, Moholy-Nagy reopened his own school, called the School of Design in Chicago. In 1944, it was reorganized as The Institute of Design, retaining that name when incorporated into Illinois Institute of Technology in 1949. The legacy of these educational experiments cannot be overstated. Moholy-Nagy's pedagogy changed art and design education in America forever. At the same time it carried an important message about the transformative role of art in society: 

This emotional prejudice—or inertia—is the great hindrance to necessary adjustments and social reforms. The remedy is to add to our intellectual literacy an emotional literacy, an education of the senses, the ability to articulate feeling through the means of expression. (L. Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion, 1947, foreword) 

In the cafés and art journals of Hungary and Austria, Moholy-Nagy discussed art's transformative powers in relation to politics. In the scholastic community of Germany his focus changed to art in relation to society and to creating a "total theater." But it was in America that Moholy-Nagy described art's ability to build economic and social responsibility. 

One remedy for such a distortion [an artificial stimulation of business in America] is the re-education of a new generation of producers, consumers and designers, by going back to the fundamentals and building up from there a new knowledge of the socio-biological implications of design. The new generation which has gone through such an education will be invulnerable against the temptations of fads, the easy way out of economic and social responsibilities.(L. Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion, 1947, p. 62)

A Walk through the Exhibition
Continuing in this experiential mode, Moholy: An Education of the Senses is designed to encourage the viewer to personally experience the art and ideas of Moholy-Nagy. 

To this end, two exhibition designers, Helen Maria Nugent and Jan Tichy, have created an installation that is consistent with Moholy-Nagy's aim to create an environment that alters perspective and, by doing so, engages viewers in the dynamics of the unknown. 

Moholy-Nagy had offered this guidance to artists:
A "non-objective" painter needs no special courage to embrace the art or creative presentation as provided today by photography and film. Man's interest in getting to know the whole world has been enlarged by the feeling of being-at every moment-in every situation-involved in it. (L. Moholy-Nagy, Malerei, Fotografie, Film, 1925, p. 13) 

In the first room of the exhibition, viewers will encounter Moholy-Nagy's famous perception-bending photographs, along with an installation of three of his films:Marseille vieux port (1929), Berlin Still-life (1931), and Urban Gypsies (1932). 

In the next room, visitors will enter a three-dimensional installation of Moholy-Nagy's avant-garde abstract film Lightplay: Black-White-Grey (1930). Multiple viewings of Lightplay: Black-White-Grey will fill the space while works on paper—photographic light abstractions or "photograms" (early 1920s-1940) along with black-and-white wood engravings and linoleum cuts (1921-25)—will act as points of contemplation. 

In the third room, a series entitled Konstruktionen (Design) from the 1923 portfolio Kestner-Mappe 6 will be presented. These eight, color lithographs (six from the portfolio and two rare variations) were completed in the spring of the year Moholy-Nagy joined the Bauhaus. They are prime exemplars of Moholy-Nagy's Constructivist investigations, demonstrating the ideas he brought to the Bauhaus and incorporated into the school's models of learning and making, addressing artistic and social identity, as well as civic responsibility to build a forward-thinking society. 

The heart of the exhibition is found in the fourth room, where Light Prop for an Electric Stage takes center stage. Not since Moholy-Nagy's death in 1946 has this kinetic sculptural masterpiece been on display in Chicago. When the original was displayed at Chicago's Katherine Kuh Gallery, a review was headlined "If art is moving, then this is it" (Daily Times, Chicago, January 9, 1940). Conceived as a theater of light, Moholy-Nagy's Light Prop activates light, color, forms, and shadows in space. Light and space and time are the Gestaltung, or universal elements, of Moholy-Nagy's art. He approached them as integral units that could be combined like building blocks to form a new vision.
Then we know that our wish to express ourselves with optical means can only be satisfied by a thorough knowledge about light. We must become familiar with colorimetry, wavelengths, purity, brightness, excitation of light, and with the manifold possibilities of the artificial light. (L. Moholy-Nagy, "Light: A New Medium of Plastic Expression," Broom IV, 1923) 

Finally, the last room presents works Moholy-Nagy made between 1937 and 1946 in Chicago, where he continued and advanced his work with color photography and film. A group of his color slides will be projected along with a video version of Do Not Disturb (1945), a 16mm color film with soundtrack that Moholy-Nagy made with a film class at the Institute of Design. 

About the Curator
Carol Ehlers is currently an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and is well known for the time she spent as photography curator for LaSalle Bank N.A., Chicago, (2001-2008), now Bank of America. Specializing in photography, she has been the director of three galleries in Chicago: Allan Frumkin Gallery (1978-1980), Ehlers Caudill Gallery (1989-1998), and Carol Ehlers Gallery (1998-2001). Among her publications in the field are: Rineke Dijkstra: Beach Portraits (2002, LaSalle Bank N.A.); Chicago Photographs: LaSalle Bank Photography Collection (2004, LaSalle Bank N.A.); and In Sight: Contemporary Dutch Photography from the Collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2005, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam). 

Credits
Moholy: An Education of the Senses is organized in conjunction with the Mies van der Rohe Society at Illinois Institute of Technology and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is generously sponsored in part by a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. 

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)
A nationally accredited leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to nearly 3,200 students from across the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC's educational philosophy is built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC's resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit www.saic.edu. 

About the Mies van der Rohe Society and Illinois Institute of Technology
One of the most influential architects of the 20th century and director of the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) for 20 years, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe expressed his modernist vision in the IIT campus, which he designed in the 1940s and 1950s. IIT's Mies van der Rohe Society is restoring his masterworks on the campus, enhancing the buildings to serve educational needs, and reinforcing Chicago's international reputation for architectural distinction. The Mies Society is a membership organization whose fundraising has supported the award-winning restoration of S. R. Crown Hall, Wishnick Hall, and currently, Carr Memorial Chapel (Mies's only religious building). IIT is a university with more than 7,700 students in engineering, sciences, architecture, psychology, humanities, business, law, and in design at the Institute of Design, originally founded by László Moholy-Nagy as the New Bauhaus. The celebrated Bauhaus education is woven into IIT's heritage of innovation. For more information, please visit www.iit.edu. 

About the IIT Institute of Design
Founded in 1937, as the New Bauhaus, the Institute of Design (ID) is a graduate school of design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The school is dedicated to humanizing technology and improving the process of innovation, by developing and teaching a more methodological and human-centered approach to design. While most new products and services today are created in response to technology, marketing, or design trends, leading to a dizzying array of consumer choices that complicate peoples' lives, ID believes that real innovation starts with users' needs and employs a set of reliable methods, theories, and tools to create solutions to their problems. 

Calendar Listing
Moholy: An Education of the Senses
February 11-May 9, 2010
Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 North Michigan Avenue
Hours: Tuesday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: $6 Adult, $5 Senior, Free on Tuesdays, Free to students under 25 with ID, LUMA members, military families, museum professionals, clergy, and NARM members

About LUMA
Opened in 2005, the Loyola University Museum of Art is dedicated to exploring, promoting, and understanding art and artistic expression that illuminates the enduring spiritual questions of all cultures and societies. As a museum with an interest in education and educational programming, LUMA reflects the University’s Jesuit mission and is dedicated to helping people of all creeds explore the roots of their faith and spiritual quests. Located at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus, the museum occupies the first three floors of the University’s historic Lewis Towers on Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue. For more information, visit the museum’s website at LUC.edu/luma.

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