"Moholy: An Education of the Senses"
When the Nazis drove the faculty and students of the Bauhaus abroad in the 1930s, Germany’s loss was Chicago’s gain. Along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) brought the design school’s modernist fusion of form and function to the Illinois Institute of Technology. His artistic journey from 1920s Berlin to Chicago’s Institute of Design shines in a poetic homage at LUMA, elegantly curated by Carol Ehlers.
Moholy-Nagy called for an “education of the senses,” believing sensory awareness was necessary for building a better world. His aesthetic approach is incorporated into the show’s layout, ably designed by SAIC interior architecture professor Helen Maria Nugent and artist Jan Tichy. They display the Hungarian-born artist’s films in unconventional ways, projecting them onto the floor or screening the same piece on multiple surfaces.
The show’s spare, uncluttered presentation underscores the imaginative qualities of Moholy-Nagy’s photographs and prints. His abstract photograms—made without a camera—are notable for their experimental arrangements of shapes and lines, and his lithographs’ geometric compositions reflect his advancement of Russian Constructivism.
The centerpiece here is a Rube Goldberg–esque “light machine” called Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Light Space Modulator): a kinetic sculpture of metal, mirrors and glass that casts curious light patterns on the walls. This device enabled Moholy-Nagy to create his 1930 abstract film Lightplay: Black-White-Grey, a disorienting montage of churning shapes and shadows. Ehlers’s informative curatorial narrative, combined with Moholy-Nagy’s own words, and Nugent and Tichy’s careful illumination, ensure his works are seen in their best light—in every sense.