László Moholy-Nagy worked in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s as an avant-garde painter, designer, sculptor, editor and writer. From 1923 to 1928 he was an influential teacher at the Bauhaus design school, and in 1937 he moved to the United States of America.
In 1922 Moholy-Nagy began using a photographic process without the use of a camera, which produced silhouettes in negative form by exposing objects on light-sensitive paper. He called these one-off pictures ‘photograms’.
His self-portrait, Photogram self-portrait of the inventor of the photogram, is one of a number of similar images from this time possibly made by combining paper cut-outs and projected lights. The image, which appears to have involved curving the photographic paper around his face, shows Moholy-Nagy’s long, distinctive nose and prominent jaw, transforming the artist into a kind of quivering crescent-moon ghost.
The multilayered process of his self-portraits fits Moholy-Nagy’s then radical views that new technologies, such as film and photography, would dissolve the divisions between different artforms and lead the way to a new world of experience.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008
Bauhaus teacher and artist Moholy-Nagy’s photography elaborated his notion of the New Vision, which posed a new way of seeing the world merging art and technology. In photography, radical vantage points and printing processes embodied this new way of seeing. In 1922 he began exploring camera-less processes, producing silhouettes in negative form by exposing objects on light-sensitive paper. Although the technique went right back to the dawn of photography, Moholy-Nagy’s experimental approach took it to new heights. This self-portrait is one of a number of pictures from this time possibly made by combining paper cut-outs and projected lights.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra