New York

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

There is a great deal to say about Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who was a brilliant and fascinating figure, but not about the show consisting largely of his paintings at the Guggenheim Museum. Moholy was not an easel painter of any kind. I admit that a show that was really representative of Moholy’s work would seem odd in a museum, because Moholy’s ideas were antithetical to the classic practice (but perhaps not the classic theory) of what a museum is; but this is probably true of the greater part of what is shown in museums today, and should not have prevented it from being done.

Anyway, certainly the paintings of about 1920 are the best, and they are saved from being academic exercises in the Constructivist mode by just the right dose of Dada—Lissitzky with a touch of Ernst! That is a good indication of how very intelligent Moholy really was. Perhaps after that time he was unable to take easel painting seriously enough. Whatever the case, his later work in this medium is very tentative, and it suffers from being executed so well: one is induced by the facture into the error of thinking that it was also assured in concept, although this cannot have been so. The work suggests a hundred ideas. Two that I learned from looking at it are that its color is on the borderline between Post-Impressionism and “tasteless,” and so is very actual today; and that Dada strain continued in his work long after I had thought it did.

Jerrold Lanes