Lot 20
  • 20

László Moholy-Nagy

700,000 - 1,000,000 USD
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  • László Moholy-Nagy
  • CH P. Space Modulator or Iridescent Space Modulator
  • Signed L. Moholy-Nagy and dated 40 (upper right); signed again L. Moholy-Nagy, dated 40 and inscribed CH P (40) (lower right)
  • Oil and incised lines on Plexiglas
  • 35 3/4 by 24 in.
  • 90.8 by 61 cm


Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist)

Thence by descent


New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago & Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Moholy-Nagy, Future Present, 2016, no. 340, illustrated in color in the catalogue (exhibited only in New York)

Catalogue Note

The intricate CH P. Space Modulator or Iridescent Space Modulator represents the culmination of Moholy-Nagy's experimentation with light and color that began during his tenure at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Executed in 1940 following the completion of his revolutionary Light-Space Modulator, this extraordinary work evidences how the radical manipulation and integration of light and form can create unexpected and unprecedented images. For this work, Moholy-Nagy incised and painted, on each side, a translucent sheet of Plexiglas, a sturdy acrylic material developed in 1928 and widely used in Art Deco design. The recesses of arced incisions, the transparency of the support itself and the painted lines that project from the surface create a depth of field that could not otherwise have been achieved with canvas, board or even glass. For Moholy-Nagy, the lustrous properties of Plexiglas presented new possibilities for photo-experimentation. Using the exposed surface of this hardened material, he could create "light paintings," whereby the reflection and refraction of light colored and toned the plastic, creating the lustrous result we see in the present composition. 

The remarkable technique exhibited in the present composition helped establish Moholy-Nagy as a groundbreaking new media artist. His unrivaled experimentation was recognized by the renowned co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Hilla von Rebay. In 1941, a year after the present work was completed, von Rebay gave Moholy-Nagy a solo exhibition at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting and would soon after become his most devoted collector.

The artist explained his fascination with plastics and how his experiments with these materials in the early 1930s transformed his approach to art forever. "In working with these materials, uniformly colored, opaque or transparent plastics, I made discoveries which were instrumental in changing my painting technique. This had inevitable repercussions on my thinking concerning light problems. To produce true, primary relationships, my former idea of an objective painting, was not the only reason for my use of smooth flat surfaces. It was also nearest to the transition of light into color and color into light, something like an objective texture invention for a delicate and evasive medium. By producing real radiant light effects through transparent dyes on plastic and through other means, one has no need for translating light into color by painting with pigment" (L. Moholy-Nagy, reprinted in Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, London, 1985, pp. 382).