William Larson, 1973
Eugene and Dorothy Prakapas, 1980
Sotheby’s New York, 27 April 2005, Photograms by László Moholy-Nagy from the Collection of Eugene and Dorothy Prakapas, Sale 8150, Lot 81
Collection of Dana and James Tananbaum, San Francisco
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 2008
Valencia, Spain, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Centre Julio González, László Moholy-Nagy, February - April 1991, and traveling to: Fridericianum Museum at Kassel, Germany; and Musée Cantini at Marseille, France, through September 1991
Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts, Vol. 4, No. 4, March 1923
László Moholy-Nagy, Malerei Photographie Film (Munich, 1925), p. 63
László Moholy-Nagy, Painting Photography Film (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1987 reprint of the original 1925 edition), cover and p. 71
Das Deutsche Lichtbild (Berlin, 1927)
Fronta, internationaler Almanach der Aktivät de Gegenwart (Brno, 1927)
J. L. Martin, et al., eds., Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art (London, 1937)
Leland D. Rice and David W. Steadman, Photographs of Moholy-Nagy from the Collection of William Larson (Claremont College, 1975), p. 47, top illustration (this unique object)
Catherine David, Gianni Rondolino, Andrei Boris Nakov, and Veit Loers, László Moholy-Nagy (Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, 1991), pl. 56 (this unique object)
Catherine David, Gianni Rondolino, Andrei Boris Nakov, and Veit Loers, László Moholy-Nagy (Marseille: Musée Cantini, 1991), p. 186 (this unique object)
Renate Heyne, Floris M. Neusüss, and Herbert Molderings, László Moholy-Nagy: Fotogramme 1922 - 1943 (Munich, 1995), p. 155, cat. entry 11 (an enlargement in the collection of Museum Folkwang, Essen)
Moholy-Nagy and the New Vision (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 1990), pl. 2 (an enlargement in the Museum’s collection)
Herbert Molderings, Collection Photo Poche: László Moholy-Nagy (Paris, 1998), pl. 1 (an enlargement in the collection of Museum Folkwang, Essen)
Moholy was first and foremost a painter—he called himself a Lichtner, or light-painter—who believed that new methods of interacting with light would extend the range of human vision. His many years of making photograms were a continuous experimentation with the form, from his days in Germany, where the present image was made, to his larger, more expansive Chicago work (see Lot 23). His photograms number in the hundreds, and some are known only in reproduction. Yet the early photogram offered here—one of his first to be published—was kept by him as he moved across continents, decade by decade, from Germany to Holland, and then to London, and finally to Chicago.
The image was included in two notable publications during Moholy’s early career and has been anthologized in the Moholy literature many times since. It was one of four Moholy photograms published in the March 1923 issue of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts, a notable ‘little magazine’ of arts and letters that featured the work of, among others, Gertrude Stein, e. e cummings, Picasso, and Man Ray. This Broom issue marked the first publication of Moholy’s cameraless work. The image was again reproduced two years later, in the artist’s seminal Malerei Fotographie Film (Munich, 1925), amongst a plethora of pictures that demonstrated the new uses of the medium: X-ray photography, night photography, sports photography, wire-transmitted photographs, and more. In both instances, the present photogram showed Moholy staking out a position against the old uses of the medium in favor of the new. As he wrote in his Broom essay, only when traditional lenses and perspective are discarded will a revolution in vision be possible.
The letters that appear in the upper portion of the present image, OW, are notable as a nascent example of Moholy’s use of typophoto, the combination of picture and text that, he predicted, would be the basis of future communication in the world of print. The letters are prominent in the enlargements Moholy made for exhibition: one such enlargement of the photogram can be seen in an installation view of the Berlin venue of the Film und Foto exhibition of 1929, and another, even larger, in his one-man show at the Künstlerhaus Brno in 1935 (cf. Heyne and Neusüss, pp. 216-17 and pp. 220-21).
The photogram offered here has an illustrious history. It was acquired by the photographer William Larson from an associate of Moholy at the Institute of Design, Chicago. In 1975, the photographer Leland Rice, along with David Steadman, director of the Galleries of the Claremont Colleges, curated Photographs of Moholy-Nagy from the Collection of William Larson, one of the first and most important exhibitions of Moholy’s work after the artist’s death. This landmark show and its catalogue featured the photogram offered here, as well as the one in Lot 20. These two photograms were subsequently acquired by the pioneering gallerists Eugene and Dorothy Prakapas for their personal collection, and in April 2005, they were offered in these rooms in an unprecedented single-artist auction, Photograms by László Moholy-Nagy from the Collection of Eugene and Dorothy Prakapas.
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