Even though photography was not part of the Bauhaus curriculum until 1928, it was hotly debated throughout the mid 1920s. Much of this was a result of Moholy’s innovative use of the medium.
One of the key questions was whether photography was only a documentary tool, and therefore limited to reproducing external reality, or whether it could create a new kind of fictional or metaphorical visual language. Moholy addressed this question in his photograms – unique photographic images made without film or a camera. He then had these photograms rephotographed and enlarged to the size of an easel painting, a process that blurred the traditional distinction between an original and its reproduction.
In the same spirit, Moholy’s traditional, lens-based photography rendered the familiar strange by introducing unusual perspectives that were inspired by the diagonals of constructivist art, and he also printed negative and positive versions of the same image. ‘Photoplastics’, Moholy’s take on photomontage, combine found imagery with drawing to create striking visual compositions. With their delight in visual puns, biting social commentary and not least a readiness to ridicule the imperial pretensions and narrow-mindedness of Weimar Germany, these images show the lasting influence of Dada on Moholy’s work.
Although Moholy became increasingly ambivalent about painting in his writing, especially in his book Painting Photography Film, he also created some of his most striking canvases in the mid 1920s. Many of these works, including A20 1927, the painting displayed in this room, are conceived at the interface between painting and photography, and seek to translate experiences from one medium into the other.