Like many émigrés fleeing from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, László Moholy-Nagy sought refuge in various countries: the Netherlands, England and, finally, the United States. Wherever he and his family went, they took an enormous metal and glass machine, which looked so odd that it always caused a rumpus at customs. The problem was describing what it was. Telling the truth did not work. Custom officers snorted in disbelief when Mr. Moholy-Nagy explained that he had designed the Light Space Modulator, as the machine was called, to create pools of light and shadow so he could study their movement. They were almost as skeptical when he tried passing it off as a robot, fountain and mixing machine. Eventually he fobbed them off by claiming that it was “hairdressing equipment.”
Moholy-Nagy explains: This piece of lighting equipment is a device used for demonstrating both plays of light and manifestations of movement. The model consists of a cube-like body or box, 120 x 120 cm in size, with a circular opening (stage opening) at its front side. On the back of the panel, mounted around the opening are a number of yellow, green, blue, red, and white-toned electric bulbs (approximately 70 illuminating bulbs of 15 watts each, and 5 headlamps of 100 watts). Located inside the body, parallel to its front side, is a second panel; this panel too, bears a circular opening about which are mounted electric lightbulbs of different colors. In accordance with a predetermined plan, individual bulbs glow at different points. They illuminate a continually moving mechanism built of partly translucent, partly transparent, and partly fretted materials, in order to cause the best possible play of shadow formations on the back wall of the closed box. (When the demonstration occurs in a darkened space, the back wall of the box can be removed and the color and shadow projection shown on a screen of any chosen size behind the box.) The mechanism is supported by a circular platform on which a three-part mechanism is built. The dividing walls are made of transparent cellophane, and a metal wall made of vertical rods. Each of the three sectors of the framework accommodate a different, playful movement study, which individually goes into effect when it appears on the main disc revolving before the stage opening.
The Highlight of the upcoming African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby’s in Paris, is this Bamana sculpture with its profound understanding of form. Early 20th century painters and sculptors were influenced by the “Negro” art which was to profoundly change creativity in the modern world. It was also magnificently apparent in the exhibit entitled Primitivism displayed along with works by Max Ernst.
The Kònò mask can not simply be reduced to the powerful wild animals which its forms evoke in this case probably the hyena (long ears embodying the predator’s sentiency) and the elephant (wisdom, intelligence) the combination of which is remindful of the polymorphism of the powerful divinities whom the priests must influence favourably.
…brilliantly translated by the sculptor through the paradox of its absolute formal purity, and in this respect it resembles no other Kònò mask. Above and beyond the obviously perfectly accomplished work and the significant fact that the roots of its forcefulness delve into the subconscious, the emotions aroused in us by the arresting beauty of this masterpiece of Bamana art are the ultimate confirmation of its importance.
Lot 58: A Bamana Masterpiece: Kònò Society Mask, Mali, Estimate €300,000 – €400,000, African & Oceanic Art Auction, Thursday, Dec 3, at Sotheby’s, Paris
Update: Hammer Price €1,408,750
MoMA presents an interactive website on its current exhibition on the Bauhaus. It it the Museum’s first major exhibition since 1938 on the subject of this school of avant-garde art. Founded in 1919 and shut down by the Nazis in 1933, the Bauhaus brought together artists, architects and designers in a conversation about the nature of art in the age of technology. Aiming to rethink the very form of modern life, the Bauhaus became the site of an array of experiments in the visual arts.
A book, “Bauhaus: A Conceptual Model“ will accompany the exhibition, documenting some of the most important works, including the newly re-discovered Marcel Breuer and Gunta Stölzl’s early Bauhaus African Chair and Laszlo Moholy Nagy’s Light Space modulator – a kinetic sculpture from the 1930’s; paintings and sculpture by Kandinksy, Albers and Klee as wells as works by Walter Gropius, Hannes Mayer and Mies van der Rohe.
Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity, November 8 – January 25, at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA
Buy the Book: Amazon
The primary medium of Californian artist James Turrell is light. Probably the best-known artist in his field, Turrell’s entire oeuvre since the 1960s has been devoted to exploring the diverse manifestations of this immaterial medium and working towards a new, space-defining form of light art. The Artist is creating the largest museum installation he has made to date at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, producing a light-filled space of experience in the tradition of his Ganzfeld Pieces.
Exhibition: James Turrell The Wolfsburg Project, October 24th – April 5th,
at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Although Aeon Flux director Karyn Kusama and the film’s producers originally thought they would shoot in the modernistic Brazilian capital of Brasilia, they soon decided on Germany instead. Berlin offered several advantages. One was excellent film facilities with experienced crew members. Another equally important consideration was the city’s vast array of architectural attractions, old and new, that offered interesting, ready-made settings for the movie’s futuristic city.
Locations and Set Design for Aeon Flux, Directed by Karyn Kusama
Over a year in planning and production, The Age of the Marvellous was inspired by the Wunderkammer or more commonly known as The Cabinet of Curiosities to me or you. The notion of a cabinet filled with natural wonders, artificial exotica and relics is enough bait for the most uninspired of artists, let alone some of the most highly regarded in the industry.
The Shark (Le Requin) at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris. Another prehistoric animal, five meters long, reconstituted from the latest technology – in this case the folding of a very thin layer of polished stainless steel.
The Shark (Le Requin) by Xavier Veilhan
The British sculptor Peter Randall-Page is concerned with the underlying principles determining growth and the forms it produces. In his words “geometry is the theme on which nature plays her infinite variations, fundamental mathematical principle become a kind of pattern book from which nature constructs the most complex and sophisticated structures.”
Sculpture, by Peter Randall-Page