Tate Modern Level 4 West
9 March – 4 June 2006
Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy were two of the greatest pioneers of Modernism in the twentieth century. This exhibition, sponsored by BMW (UK) Ltd, focuses on the posthumous dialogue between their oeuvres and examines their groundbreaking moves towards abstraction in the early 1920s, the creative explosion of their Bauhaus years and the transition of Modernist ideas from 1930s Europe to America in the wake of their emigration.
Spanning four decades and comprising more than 300 works in a diverse range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, film and furniture design, this is the first Tate exhibition dedicated to early Modernist abstraction for more than two decades. Highlights include Albers’s eye-catching glass constructions from the 1920s and early 1930s, examples of his largely unknown photographic work, his machine engravings and a startling group of early Homage to the Square paintings. It also features a wide selection of Moholy-Nagy’s innovative photography including his ‘camera-less’ photograms and photomontages, his rarely exhibited forays into colour photography and film, and his experiments with aluminium as well as with novel synthetic materials such as Perspex and Rhodoid.
Tate has reconstructed Moholy-Nagy’s Light Prop for an Electric Stage 1930 specially for the exhibition. Dramatically lit, this kinetic work comprises several rotating elements on a plinth which cast lights and shadows on the surrounding walls. It is being exhibited at Tate Modern more than seventy-five years after the original was first displayed at the Grand Palais in 1930 and is arguably one of the earliest examples of installation art.
Though the paths of German-born Josef Albers (1888-1976) and Hungarian-born László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) only overlapped for five years, between 1923 and 1928 when both were teaching at the Bauhaus, their artistic practice was informed by similar concerns including an emphasis on experimentation, the subversion of traditional boundaries between media, high and applied art and a probing into the status of the work of art in an age of mass production.
This exhibition takes as its starting point the years following the First World War, when Albers and Moholy-Nagy independently abandoned representation in favour of a rigorously abstract language. It then follows their work through the 1920s with a particular focus on their involvement with the Bauhaus, Weimar Germany’s hot-house for Modernist art and design education. For both artists this time was marked by technical innovation with Albers adopting industrial processes such as sandblasting to create an extraordinary series of flashed glass works and Moholy-Nagy exploring new synthetic materials, such as Perspex, as well as experimenting with photography and film.
The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to the work Albers and Moholy-Nagy produced following their emigration to the US, when Albers took up teaching posts first at Black Mountain College and then at Yale University, and Moholy-Nagy set to revive the Bauhaus with the short-lived New Bauhaus in Chicago before founding his own school, The School of Design in Chicago (subsequently The Institute of Design). Their work from the 1930s and 1940s reveals how both men built on earlier experiences while ceaselessly pushing the boundaries of their artistic practice.
Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World is curated by Tate Curator, Achim Borchardt-Hume. It is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue which contains essays by Hal Foster, Achim Borchardt-Hume, Nicholas Fox Weber, Hattula Moholy-Nagy, Terence A Senter and Michael White. The exhibition will travel to Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany and then to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Uwe Ellinghaus, Marketing Director, BMW (UK) Ltd said:
’BMW (UK) Ltd is pleased to be working with Tate Modern and sponsoring this important exhibition. The teachings of the Bauhaus school were of great influence during the first years of BMW’s motorcycle and car design and production in Germany, and much of BMW’s early design and engineering principles are still in evidence today. We look forward to a rewarding and enjoyable relationship.’