The New Bauhaus
The Life & Legacy of Moholy-Nagy
In the 1920s, rising artist László Moholy-Nagy taught at the revolutionary Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany, alongside luminaries like Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Gunta Stolzl, Wassily Kandinsky, and Marcel Breuer. An upstart within this esteemed group, Moholy established himself as a visionary, and the approach he developed while teaching became the ethos of his work: training artists to live “happier lives in modernity.”
Forced into exile by the Nazis, Moholy moved to Chicago with his two daughters and his second wife, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, where he found himself inspired by the sense of re-invention in the city. Initially at the New Bauhaus and ultimately through the Institute of Design, Moholy challenged students to create systemic, human-centered design. Motivated by the challenge of creating within the limitations of the Great Depression and then World War II, Moholy’s embrace of artistic versatility and technological possibility continues to reverberate in the artworld today.
Objects that are now ubiquitous in our culture, such as the Dove soap bar, the Honey Bear, and the cover of the first issue of Playboy magazine were designed by students and alumni of The New Bauhaus. Graduates of the Institute of Design became renowned fine art photographers and pioneers of digital design in the internet’s early days.
Moholy’s own output as an artist remained “relentlessly experimental”, with pioneering work created in a range of mediums including painting, photography, typography, collage, sculpture, and film. His central lessons as a teacher were reflected in his own work: the thought behind creation was as important as the work itself.
Unfortunately his creative production was cut short by his untimely death at age 51 from leukemia, but his legacy lives on in his students that now teach his approach themselves, providing inspiration to anyone using art to make sense of the world.
As the former dean of the Institute of Design Patrick Whitney said of Moholy’s teachings, “the attitude and approach to working was more important than what you actually produced; you had to produce something to be of value to the world, but for personal development it wasn’t that you were a maker of this object, it’s that you were a maker of yourself and you lived differently through your work.”
Header image: László Moholy-Nagy photographed in Finland by Alvar Aalto ©Alvar Aalto. Photographer: Alvar Aalto
The New Bauhaus – UK Premiere
Alysa Nahmias, US, 2019, 89′
An odyssey through the life and legacy of László Moholy-Nagy, the innovative artist and educator whose pioneering approach to integrating technology into design continues to influence and inspire.
“By the end of the movie, you won’t just admire Moholy-Nagy—you’ll want to be just like him.” –FORBES
Film Event Guests
Tangen Senior Lecturer in 20th Century Modernism, The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
Robin Schuldenfrei has written widely on modernism as it intersects with theories of the object, architecture, urbanism and especially on the Bauhaus. She was a research consultant and interviewee for The New Bauhaus and has researched and published on both László Moholy-Nagy and his first wife, modern photographer Lucia Moholy. Her publications include Luxury and Modernism: Architecture and the Object in Germany 1900-1933 (2018) as well as numerous articles, essays and edited volumes, including Iteration: Episodes in the Mediation of Art and Architecture (2020) and the co-edited volume, Bauhaus Construct: Fashioning Identity, Discourse, and Modernism (2009).
Director & Producer of The New Bauhaus
Alysa Nahmias is an award-winning filmmaker and founder of Ajna Films. Her directing credits include Unfinished Spaces which won a 2012 Independent Spirit Award, was distributed on Netflix and PBS, and is in the permanent collection at MoMA New York, and The New Bauhaus (2019). Alysa produced the Emmy-nominated and Academy Award-shortlisted Unrest (2017), No Lights and No Land Anywhere (2016), What We Left Unfinished (2019), and Afternoon Of A Faun: Tanaquil Leclercq (2013). She holds degrees from The Gallatin School at New York University and Princeton University and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Programme Director, Graphic Communication Design, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London
Rebecca Ross’s work is concerned with the agency of images, media and data in urban change. She is also increasingly interested in graphic design as a knowledge practice and alternate forms of academic publishing. Ross is co-founder and editor of Urban Pamphleteer (since 2013) and founder of London is Changing (2015). Recent work includes ‘Making Academic Publishing More Public,’ forthcoming in Transverse Disciplines (University of Toronto) and ‘Situating Google’s Alphabet,’ contributed to Articulating Media (Open Humanities). She is currently working on a manuscript about postcodes and cultures of addressing.
Chief Curator, University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art and Associate Professor, School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa
Joyce Tsai, a key interviewee for The New Bauhaus, is an expert on the work and life of László Moholy-Nagy. Her first book László Moholy-Nagy: Painting after Photography (University of California Press, 2018) garnered critical acclaim for its integrated approach to avant-garde art, practice, and theory and is winner of the Phillips Collection Book Prize. Tsai has curated several major exhibitions including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art exhibition Shape of Things to Come: The Paintings of Moholy-Nagy (2015) and edited its eponymous catalog published by Yale University Press.
Head of PhD Programme, School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London
Ines Weizman is the Head of PhD Programme at the School of Architecture, Royal College of Art in London. She is also the founding director of the Centre for Documentary Architecture (CDA), an interdisciplinary research collective of architectural historians, filmmakers, and digital technologists. Her book Documentary Architecture/ Dissidence through Architecture was published with ARQ Editiones (2020). Weizman is the editor of Dust & Data: Traces of the Bauhaus across 100 Years, published with Spector Books, Leipzig (2019). In 2019 together with the CDA she curated the exhibition The Matter of Data, which was shown in Weimar, Tel Aviv and Berlin.