By descent to Shub’s son
Acquired from the above by Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Inc., New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, November 2010 - January 2011
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, January - May 2011
Budapest, Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, June - September 2011
László Moholy-Nagy, Painting Photography Film (M. I. T. Press reprint of the 1925 original, 1987), p. 110
Offset Buch und Werbekunst, Vol. 7, 1926, p. 202
ReD. Ročnik 1, 1927-1928, p. 287
Hans M. Wingler, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago (M. I. T. Press, 1979), p. 276, fig. b
Irene-Charlotte Lusk, Montagen ins Blaue: László Moholy-Nagy, Fotomontagen und -collagen 1922-1943 (Berlin, 1980), p. 127
Drawn and collaged variant:
Hans M. Wingler, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago (M. I. T. Press, 1979), p. 449, fig. c
Achim Borchardt-Hume, ed., Albers and Moholy: From the Bauhaus to the New World (Tate Modern, 2006), pl. 50
Moholy used Pneumatik to illustrate this new ‘visual literature’ in his manifesto. Conceived of by Moholy as a quintessential typophoto, rather than an advertisement for an actual product, Pneumatik demonstrated the tremendous potential for creativity when typography was liberated from the strictures of letterpress. In the object offered here, a car races along the curved letters of the word Pneumatik, hurtling toward the viewer from a vanishing perspective. It is the dynamic shape of the letters as well as the speeding car that conveys the message.
Like Moholy’s Fotoplastiks, this composition was created not as a singular original, but for reproduction. Reproduction was its raison d’être. In the present object, Moholy has accentuated the lettering with black and gray pigment, modulated the background with gouache, and painted in details of the car. The result is an image that combines photography, typography, and handwork into a seamless visual experience—one that, in the new world of typophoto, could be reproduced on the printed page without losing any of its impact. With advanced printing techniques that would utilize photography’s methods of reproduction, Moholy believed this would be eminently possible. ‘In the future every printing press will possess its own block-making plant,’ Moholy predicted, ‘and it can be confidently stated that the future of typographic methods lies with the photo-mechanical processes’ (ibid., p. 138).
The work offered here is likely based upon a drawn and collaged design in the collection of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humblebaek, Denmark (cf. Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World, pl. 50). The importance of Pneumatik within Moholy’s oeuvre is underscored by its early illustration and exhibition history: in his groundbreaking 1925 volume, Malerei Fotografie Film; in the Offset Buch und Werbekunst in 1926; in the Czech avant-garde publication ReD in 1928; and at the 1929 Film und Foto exhibition in Stuttgart and later in Berlin, where installation views show a very large and prominent photograph of Pneumatik.
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