Posts Tagged ‘Institute of Design in Chicago


Exhibition: ‘László Moholy-Nagy – Art of Light’ at Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 4th November 2010 – 16th January 2011


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Am 7 (26)' 1926


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Am 7 (26)
Oil on canvas
75.8 x 96 cm
Ernst und Kurt Schwitters Stiftung/ Sprengel Museum, Hannover
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010



My apologies for the paucity of reviews of local exhibitions on the blog recently. It’s not that I haven’t been going to exhibitions far from it, just that nothing has really struck me as worthy of an in depth review!

Recently I went to the new Monash University Gallery of Art (MUMA) and the opening exhibition of the gallery, CHANGE (until 18th December). This is a hotchpotch of an exhibition that showcases the “breadth and depth of the Monash University Collection, reflecting on the changing forms, circumstances and developments in contemporary art practice from the 1960s to the present day – from late modernism to our contemporary situation … the exhibition signals the potential for institutional change that MUMA’s new situation represents.” Avowing an appeal to the senses the exhibition has some interesting works, notably a large canvas by Howard Arkley, Family home – suburban exterior 1993, Daniel von Sturmer’s installation The Field Equation (2006), Mike Parr’s bloody, mesmeric performance Close the Concentration Camps (2002) that you just can’t take your eyes off and part of Tracey Moffatt’s haunting series Up In The Sky (1998), the “part” declamation leaving one unable to decipher the narrative of the work without seeing the whole series on the Roslyn Oxley9 website. This is symptomatic of the whole exhibition – somehow it doesn’t come together, one of the problems of large, non-thematically organised group exhibitions.

The spaces of the new gallery are interesting to wander through but seem a little pokey and confined. A series of smallish intersecting rooms to the left hand side of the gallery leads one around to a big gallery to the right hand side (the best space), before another small front room. Down the spine runs a narrow enclosed area with exposed trusses and ducts that is unimaginative in design and redundant as an exhibiting space. Overall the gallery feels claustrophobic being an almost hermetically sealed environment enclosed by several sliding glass doors at entry points (and yes, I do know that a gallery has to have regulated temperature, light and humidity). This is at odds with the idea of exhibiting fresh, exciting art that breathes life.

I also ventured to Anna Pappas Gallery to see the exhibition of photographic work Endless Days by Vin Ryan (until 23rd December). Nice idea but a disappointment. Featuring grided, colour-coded photographs of the physical artefacts used to plate 20 meals eaten by the Ryan family the information within the prints is almost indecipherable, the selection of plates, cups and objects so small as to become mere colour decoration. I struggled to see what the objects actually were; even in the 5 individual prints of a meal the definition of the objects was weak, the printing not up to standard. The moral of the story is this: if you are going to use the photographic medium for artwork make sure that a/ you know how to construct an image visually using the medium and b/ that you get someone who knows what they are doing to print the photographs for you if you can’t print them well yourself.

On to better things. In this posting there are some outstanding photographs: the imaginative camera angles of Moholy-Nagy (heavily influenced by Constructivism and Suprematism) where truly ground-breaking at the time. The iconic From the radio tower, Berlin (1928) is simply breathtaking in the photographs ability to flatten the pictorial landscape into abstract shape and form.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Eton. Eleves watching cricket from the pavilion on Agar’s Plough' c. 1930


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Eton. Eleves watching cricket from the pavilion on Agar’s Plough
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
15.7 x 20.7 cm / 16.3 x 21.3 cm
Achat 1994. Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Photogram' c. 1938


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
c. 1938
Original photogram from Chicago
204 x 252 cm
Swiss Foundation of Photography, Winterthur
Donation in memoriam S. and Giedion Welcker
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Untitled' 1940’s


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Fujicolor crystal archive print
27.9 x 35.6 cm / 52.1 x 63.5 cm
Courtesy László Moholy-Nagy Estate and Andrea Rosen Gallery Inc., New York
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010



For Moholy-Nagy was always a theoretician and practitioner in equal measure, always wanting to be a holistic artist. He approached his work – painting, photography, commercial and industrial design, film, sculpture, scenography – from a wide variety of aspects and practised it as a radical, extreme experiment, by refusing to place his hugely differing works in any sort of aesthetic hierarchy. He also attached enormous importance to education, which is why, at the request of Walter Gropius, he worked in this field for the Bauhaus in Weimar (1923-1925) and Dessau (1925-1928). In Chicago, where he settled in 1937, he again assumed teaching duties and founded the “New Bauhaus”, which sought to realise the programmes of the German Bauhaus in the United States. Shortly afterwards he founded the Institute of Design in Chicago, where he was to remain active until his death in 1946. The institute was later incorporated in the Illinois Institute of Technology, which offers study courses to this day.

From Weimar to Chicago Moholy-Nagy retained his faith in his pedagogical ideal, which for him meant not only teaching, but the moral education of human beings. He believed in education as a means of developing all the abilities lying dormant in the students and as a means of paving the way to a “new, total human being.”

All of Moholy-Nagy’s theoretical contributions arose out of his artistic and pedagogical work. In his numerous writings he gradually presented his ideas, thus developing a complete artistic and pedagogical aesthetic. In his 1925 landmark essay “Painting, Photography, Film” he developed an aesthetic theory of light – light as a matrix of art and art as light. He applied his aesthetic theory of light not only to painting, photography and film, but also to theatrical and commercial design.

From that point on light became the foundation of Moholy-Nagy’s practical and theoretical work. For him art of whatever kind only acquired meaning when it reflected light. Painting was also reinterpreted on the basis of this criterion. Moholy-Nagy described his development as a painter as a shift away from “painting from transparency” to a painting that was free of any representational constraints and created the possibility of painting “not with colours, but with light.” This theory reached its full potential in photography and film. Etymologically, the word “photography” means “writing with light.” The artistic essence of film consists in the portrayal of “inter-related movements as revealed by light projections.” Although he was not in charge of the photography classes in the Bauhaus, it was there that he wrote Painting, Photography, Film, drawing upon his photographic experience. He invented the “photogram,” a purely light-based form of graphic representation, thus demonstrating an ability to create photographic images without a camera at the same time as the “Rayogram” was invented by Man Ray in Paris. He saw photography as a completely autonomous medium whose potential was still to be discovered. He criticised “pictoriality,” propagating an innovative, creative and productive photography. He regarded seriality as one of the main features of the practice of photography and opposed the “aura” of the one-off work in contrast to the infinite multifariousness of the photographic cliché, thus anticipating one of Walter Benjamin’s theses.

The distinction between production and reproduction is a basic theme of his art. A prominent aspect of every work is its ability to integrate the unknown. Works that only repeat or reproduce familiar relationships, are described as “reproductive,” while those that create or produce new relationships are “productive.” For Moholy-Nagy the ability of a work of art to create something new (a basic feature of Modernism) is a key criterion. He postulated for painting, photography and film a moral and aesthetic imperative – the New. Art had to confront new times and an industrial civilisation. In the systematic implementation of this thesis 1926 turned out to be the year in which his pictorial output was greater than his works in other fields, but 1927 witnessed a positive flood of photographic, scenographic, kinetic and film productions. Painting was something he never abandoned. He decided to drop the representational painting inherited from the past and to devote himself to non-representational or “pure” painting instead. The emergence of photography gave painting the perfect opportunity to free itself from all figurative or representative imperatives. Artists did not have to decide in favour of one medium or another, but should use all media to capture and master an optical creation.

Text from the Martin Gropius-Bau website [Online] Cited 26/11/2010 no longer available online


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Oscar Schlemmer in Ascona' 1926


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Oskar Schlemmer in Ascona
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokio
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Pneumatik' 1924


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Collection E. Zyablov, Moskau
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Flower' c. 1925-27


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
c. 1925-27
Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy. 'From the radio tower, Berlin' 1928


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
From the radio tower, Berlin
Gelatin silver print
28 x 21.3 cm
Private collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy. 'Lago Maggiore, Ascona, Switzerland' c. 1930


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Lago Maggiore, Ascona, Switzerland
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
20.8 x 28.4 cm
Collection Spaarnestad Photo/Nationaal Archief
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010


László Moholy-Nagy / Paul Hartland. 'Carnival: Composition with two masks'
 c. 1934


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) / Paul Hartland
Carnival: Composition with two masks
c. 1934
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010



Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10.00 am – 19.00 pm
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website


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Two exhibitions by photographer John Wood: ‘On the Edge of Clear Meaning’ at Grey Art Gallery, New York and ‘Quiet Protest’ at the International Center of Photography, New York

Exhibition dates

Grey Art Gallery, 12th May – 18th July 2009
International Center of Photography, 15th May – 6th September 2009


Fantastic to see such a talented artist, a truly ground breaking artist, get the recognition he so richly deserves!


Grey Art Gallery

John Wood. 'Untitled' 1986–89


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Stained gelatin silver print from paper stencil


John Wood. 'Beach Drawing' 1983


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Beach Drawing
Gelatin silver print
14 15/16 x 19 1/8″ (37.8 x 48.5 cm)



John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning, on view at the Grey Art Gallery from May 12 through July 18, 2009, is the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date. Featuring the full range of his career from the 1960s to the present, the show includes over 150 photographs, mixed-media works, and artists’ books. A selection of Wood’s photomontages, Quiet Protest, will be on view concurrently at the International Center of Photography.

John Wood (born 1922) has consistently challenged traditional photography, often incorporating painting, drawing, and collage as well as cliché verre, solarisation, and offset lithography. The artist emphasises the role of drawing in his work: “Mark making, calligraphy, the kinetic motion of the movement of the hand, are very important to me; probably more important than anything else.” Transgressing the boundaries of “pure photography,” his eclectic practice has helped usher in alternative approaches to the medium. With their adroit manipulations of picture and text, his diaristic, multi-media compositions anticipate today’s digital imagery. On the Edge of Clear Meaning is Wood’s first museum retrospective, spanning his career from the early 1960s to the present.

His early childhood was marked by the Depression, and his family moved frequently. After serving in the Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot during World War II, he enrolled at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Wood trained as a visual designer and photographer, studying with Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh to hone both conceptual and formal issues in his work. He left Chicago to teach photography and printmaking at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, where he would live for thirty-five years. He now resides in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Laurie Snyder, who teaches photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art. They migrate each summer to their home and studio in Ithaca, New York.

In keeping with the Grey Art Gallery’s tradition of presenting the work of under-represented artists, this exhibition introduces John Wood as a master of various multi-media processes and testifies to his insatiable curiosity about new materials and repeated use of favourite sources. Through disciplined but lively investigation of different media, the artist eroded traditional definitions of photography and produced work that is both powerful and subtle. As Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey, notes, “John Wood has been a life-long teacher, inspiring and training numerous students, artists, and arts professionals. We are honoured to bring the breadth of his work to New York City, home to many art schools, colleges, and universities.”

Text from the Grey Art Gallery website and press release [Online] Cited 10/05/2009 no longer available online


John Wood. 'Eagle Pelt' 1985


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Eagle Pelt
Gelatin silver print
20 1/8 x 15 3/8″


John Wood (American, 1922-2012) 'Pear Tree, Cooling Tower, and Apples' 1991


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Pear Tree, Cooling Tower, and Apples
Collage, gelatin silver print, Polaroid SX70, and paper
19 1/4 x 15 3/8″


John Wood. 'Blackbird, Some Have Hunger' 1986


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Blackbird, Some Have Hunger
Collage, cyanotype, and graphite
20 x 24″



International Center of Photography

Quiet Protest is a series of photographic works by the noted mixed media artist and educator John Wood, spanning a period from the 1960s through the 1990s. Part of a larger retrospective at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, the “Quiet Protest” series explores political and social issues of the day through thoughtful photo montage pieces that exist in marked contrast to more traditional aggressive documentary photography. Rather than offering explanations or promoting solutions, Wood’s manipulated photographs present contemplative routes into issues ranging from the Vietnam War to domestic gun violence to ecological concerns. As Wood wrote in 1970, ” …maybe the time has come for creative photography to encompass the large problems without propaganda or journalism…”

Text from the International Center of Photography website [Online] Cited 10/05/2009 no longer available online


John Wood. 'Rifle, Bullets and Daises' 1967


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Rifle, Bullets and Daises


Triangle in the Landscape: Eleven Second 90 Degree Turn of a Paper Triangle, August 6, 1985 (Hiroshima Day)


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Triangle in the Landscape: Eleven Second 90 Degree Turn of a Paper Triangle
August 6, 1985 (Hiroshima Day)



John Wood (1922-2012)

John Cheney Wood (July 10, 1922 – July 20, 2012) was an American artist and educator who challenged traditional photography and often incorporated other mediums into his work. He was born in California in 1922. In 1943 he volunteered for the Army Air Corps, where he served as a B-17 pilot until 1945. At the time of his death he lived in Baltimore, Maryland, with artist Laurie Snyder.

Wood had the ability to work across a variety of artistic forms, from straight photography, collage, cliché verre, solarization, mixed media, offset lithography to drawing. Wood moved freely between conceptual and visual exploration, not adhering to a single style. Although he often raised questions about political, social and environmental issues, he avoided promoting personal solutions or adding narratives to the images. The artist instead preferred to focus on the viewer’s interpretation and the possibility for multiple meanings.

Text from the Wikipedia website


John Wood. 'Loon, Drawer and Bomb' 1987


John Wood (American, 1922-2012)
Loon, Drawer and Bomb
Collage, cyanotype, and toned silver gelatin print



Grey Art Gallery
New York University
100 Washington Square East

Opening hours:
Tuesdays/Thursdays/Fridays: 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
OPEN LATE Wednesdays: 11.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturdays: 11.00 am – 5.00 pm
Closed Sundays, Mondays, and major holidays.

Grey Art Gallery website


International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Wednesday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Thursday: 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Friday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Closed Mondays

International Center of Photography website



In his introductory essay to this monograph – featuring the diverse photo practice that has characterised John Wood’s nearly 50-year career – David Levi Strauss states, “In photo-historical terms, Wood is thought of as one of those renegades who went against ‘pure photography’ by incorporating drawing, painting, collage and every other technique he could get his hands on (not to mention explicit political content), into his practice, thus ushering in the multi-media of the 1960s that caused crisis in ‘straight photography.’ Long before it became the signal medium of the avant-garde, collage was a folk art, practiced by children, lovers and grandmothers.” This comprehensive volume accompanies a retrospective that begins in Rochester, New York at The George Eastman House, The Memorial Art Gallery and the Visual Studies Workshop, then travels to The International Center for Photography and The Grey Art Gallery in New York before concluding at Syracus’ Light Work gallery.

John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning by David Strauss et al (Hardcover) 2008
Available from the Amazon website




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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


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