- László Moholy-Nagy
- NEGATIVE/POSITIVE PHOTOGRAM PAIR
- photogram/ photograph
- 11 3/8 by 15 in. (29 by 38 cm.)
11 1/8 by 14 7/8 in. (28.5 by 37.8 cm.)
To his widow, Sybil Moholy
By descent to the present owner
Valencia, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Centre Julio Gonzalez, László Moholy-Nagy, February – April 1991, and traveling thereafter to Museum Fredericianum, Kassel; and Musée Cantini, Marseilles, through September 1991
Hayama, Museum of Modern Art, Moholy-Nagy in Motion, April – July 2011, and traveling thereafter to National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura, through December 2011
Herbert Molderings, Floris M. Neusüss, and Renate Heyne, Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné (Ostfildern, 2009), fgm 87 and 87A, and p. 91
Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy (London and New York, 1985), pls. 116-17
Intact negative/positive photogram pairs, such as that offered here, are rare. Renate Heyne, in Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms: Catalogue Raisonné, locates eight pairs, all in institutional collections. It is believed that an intact photogram pair has never before appeared at auction. Heyne knows of no other print of the positive photogram offered here (fgm 87A).
The photogram process, for Moholy, was the essence of photography, as it involved the direct manipulation of light. If one could master the challenge of controlling the action of light by hand onto photo-sensitive material, he reasoned, making images with a camera would come naturally. Moholy made photograms throughout his long career, and his work with the process was always executed with characteristic adventurousness and rigor. His exploration of the photogram extended past the making of unique originals to using them as a point of departure for new works. The second photograph offered here is one of a number of examples of Moholy’s reinterpretation of a photogram as a positive image. Moholy made this photograph by contact printing the original photogram (fgm 87) onto a sheet of photographic paper, producing an image (fgm 87A) whose tonal values are reversed from the original. While the resulting print is inextricably related to its source, it presents a new aesthetic experience. Moholy called this process ‘revaluation’ and began experimenting with it during his years in Weimar, between 1923 and 1925.
The notations on the reverse of the photogram and its positive counterpart indicate that Moholy intended both images to be viewed together. The numbering (‘1.’ on the photogram, ‘2.’ on the positive), the directional ‘oben’, and the notation ‘untereinander’ indicate that these photographs were to be exhibited and/or reproduced one on top of the other. Several other positive/negative photogram pairs by Moholy from this period are marked with similar instructions, indicating if they are to be shown side by side, or one of top of the other (cf. fgm 84 and 84A, and fgm 86 and 86A).