Light as an Artistic Medium 1930/2005
László Moholy-Nagy and Thomas Bartels
September 22, 2005 –January 18, 2006
From the glowing hues of Rubens to the expansive skies of the Hudson River School, artists have shown a remarkable appreciation for the quality and power of light. But it wasn’t until the twentieth century—well after Edison’s 1879 invention of the light bulb—that artists began experimenting with light itself as the medium. The Exploratorium presents Light as an Artistic Medium 1930/2005, an installation featuring both early and recent works investigating the subtle and spectacular phenomena of light. The exhibition includes László Moholy-Nagy’s Lightplay; Black/White/Gray (1930) and Thomas Bartels’ Aequator (2005). Moholy-Nagy is often credited with the first real artistic experimentation using light in the 1930s; Bartels is currently working with light as a sculptural medium.
Innovative artist Moholy-Nagy was a photographer, filmmaker, typographer, painter, sculptor, writer, graphic and stage designer, and teacher. He began his work during World War I, creating more than 400 drawings on military-issue postcards and first exhibiting works at 1918’s National Salon. He became active in Budapest’s artistic circles and fled the city in 1919 amidst political upheaval. He landed in Berlin and joined the faculty of the German Bauhaus School in 1923. He was a teacher of Bauhaus until 1928, then became assistant to architect Walter Gropius. In 1937, Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago as Director of the New Bauhaus, a school that promulgated Bauhaus doctrines in America. When it folded, he joined other former faculty to establish the School of Design, which in 1944 became the Institute of Design in Chicago. He died in 1946.
Thomas Bartels was born in 1960 in Göttingen, Germany, studied film at the Academy of Arts in Braunschweig, and in 1986 became a founding member of the artists’ group Laboratorium. With Martin Hansen, he founded the film production and distribution company Karofilm. In 1996, he was awarded a prize for young artists from the Lower Saxony Ministry of Culture. Bartels works as a media artist, filmmaker, and teacher of film and fine arts and is currently artist-in-residence with the Exploratorium’s Film Program.
This exhibition was made possible by support from Grants for the Arts/SF Hotel Tax Fund. Aequator is co-presented by the Goethe Institut.