Picturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany
The MIT Press, 1994
excerpt from book cover: Although recognized today as a pioneer in constructivist art, kinetic sculpture, and graphic design, the Hungarian artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) made his most important contribution to twentieth-century art in photography. Picturing Modernism is the first comprehensive treatment of the photographs and theoretical writing of this pivotal figure in modernist photography. Eleanor Hight rejects the traditional approach to modernist photography in which Moholy is seen as merely applying formalist means to his subject matter. Instead, her penetrating study focuses on his intensive program to develop a visual language, which he called the "New Vision," to explore and image the modern world. She examines such issues as the relationship between his theory and Russian formalist criticism, the impact of contemporary physics on his use of light in abstract photography, the new concepts of architectural space that informed his photographs of buildings, and his visual scrutiny of modern urban society. After several years an exile in Berlin, Moholy was invited by the architect Walter Gropius to teach at the Bauhaus from 1923 to 1928, the most fertile period of Moholy's career. His work from this period, Hight observes, represents the first attempt by an artist of the modern movement to develop a cohesive theory of photography and to propose a broad, brilliantly innovative set of applications for photography, film, and light equipment.