Galerie Tarica, Paris (acquired circa
Acquired from the above by the present owners
Linz, Kunstmuseum, Bayer und die Moderne
, 2009, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, László Moholy-Nagy Retrospective, 2009-10, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Madrid, Circulo de Bellas Artes; Berlin, Martin-Gropius Bau & The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, László Maholy-Nagy, The Art of Light, 2010-11, illustrated in color in the catalogue
The luminous Gal Ab I
represents the culmination of Moholy-Nagy's experiments with light and color that had been his obsession at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Created in 1930 at the same time as his revolutionary Light-Space Modulator
, this extraordinary work evidences how the radical manipulation and integration of light and form could create wholly unexpected and unprecedented images. For this work, the artist has incised and painted a yellow-tinted sheet of galalith, a sturdy plastic material popularized in the early 20th century 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. Galalith derives its name from the greek word for milk (gala
) and stone (lithos
), as this durable plastic was engineered with the milk protein, casein. For Moholy-Nagy, the lusterous properties of galalith 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 lustruous result we see in the present composition. He has also applied oil paint heavily in areas to create a texture and density that appears in sharp relief to the transparency and visual recesses of the support.
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 in to 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).