As a painter, sculptor, graphic designer, photographer, filmmaker, theorist, and teacher, László Moholy-Nagy was a virtual Renaissance man of modernism. After emigrating from Hungary following a Bolshevik coup in 1919, he lived from 1920 until 1923 in Berlin. There his experience of Dadaism, de Stijl, and Russian Constructivism influenced his own revolutionary ideas about space, time, motion, and light. In 1923 he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus in Weimar (and later in Dessau) and was instrumental in transforming the school from a crafts-workshop model into a center for industrial design and production. His innovative typography and page layouts for a series of Bauhaus books (1925-30) set a new standard for modern graphic design. Similarly remarkable were his poster designs, in which he placed different typefaces, type sizes, and geometric forms in imaginative arrangements. His experimental photographs and photograms were also influential. After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, Moholy-Nagy practiced design in Berlin, Amsterdam, and London. In 1937 he immigrated to the United States to direct the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and a year later founded his own school of design.
Moholy-Nagy’s involvement with printmaking was never as extensive as his design work or photography, although he did make several small geometric woodcuts, linoleum cuts, and drypoints between 1919 and 1925. His most monumental print project was Constructions, a relatively rare example of Constructivist printmaking. It was the last of six portfolios by different artists published in 1923 by the bookseller Ludwig Ey in conjunction with Eckart von Sydow, artistic director of the Kestner-Gesellschaft, a contemporary art institute founded in Hannover in 1916. Constructions’ compositions of intersecting planes and floating shapes are related to Moholy-Nagy’s abstract paintings and his groundbreaking kinetic assemblage of metal and transparent plastic, Light-Space Modulator (1922-30). In the plate shown, for example, the gradations of tone in the overlapping strips and half-moons suggest transparency, depth, and motion.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Starr Figura, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 83.