Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)

Space Modulator with Yellow Aura

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Space Modulator with Yellow Aura
signed and dated 'Moholy=Nagy 45' (lower right)
oil on incised Plexiglas mounted in the artist's frame
Plexiglass: 36 x 24 in. (91.4 x 61 cm.)
Frame: 48½ x 36 in. (123.3 x 91.3 cm.)
Executed in 1945
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 20 October 1971, lot 67.
Galerie Tarica, Paris.
Hubertus Wald, Hamburg, by whom acquired from the above on 15 May 1972.
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, May - July 1969, no. 61; this exhibition later travelled to New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Santa Barbara, Museum of Art; University of California, Berkeley, University Art Museum and Seattle, Art Museum.
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, November 1976 - January 1977.
Hamburg, Die Sammlung Hubertus und Renate Wald, Hamburg, 1998 (illustrated p. 77).
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Summlung Wald, September - November 2003.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Sale room notice
Please note that the illustration of this work has been reversed in the catalogue. Please refer to the department or frontispiece of the catalogue for the correct orientation.

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Lot Essay

'My belief is that mathematically harmonious shapes, executed precisely, are filled with emotional quality, and that they represent the perfect balance between feeling and intellect' (Moholy-Nagy, quoted in New Vision and Abstract of an Artist, New York, 1947, p. 88).

Space-modulator with Yellow Aura is one of a rare series of paintings made on Plexiglas that Moholy-Nagy made in the 1930s and 1940s as painterly extensions of the pioneering developments he had made with light, motion and space in his famous Light-Space Modulator. Inspired by the effects he had observed and filmed in this seminal work which he had made during his time as a master at the Bauhaus, his Space Modulator paintings reflect Moholy-Nagy's continued attempt to translate and extend these ephemeral effects into colour and material form.

Through a mechanical 'modulation' of the light and space projecting around the room into which it was set, Light-Space Modulator was intended to subvert traditional notions of the innate separateness of light and space and thereby prompting in the viewer a more holistic vision and awareness of the world. This was an essentially holistic vision of the world that, like the artist's own vision, seemed to promise the potential for extending the ideal of constructivist principles of art beyond the conventional boundaries of art directly into the realm and experience of daily life. In a similar vein, Moholy-Nagy's Space Modulator paintings begun in the early 1930s and continued until the artist's death in 1946, were intended as an expansion of the traditionally two-dimensional field of painting into a more holistic, inclusive and multidimensional realm.

'Art crystallizes the emotions of an age' Moholy-Nagy wrote in 1922. 'Art is mirror and voice. The art of our time has to be fundamental, precise, all-inclusive. It is the art of Constructivism. Constructivism is neither proletarian nor capitalistic. Constructivism is primordial, without class or ancestor. It expresses the pure form of nature - the direct colour, the spatial rhythm, the equilibrium of form' (Moholy-Nagy, quoted in S. Moholy-Nagy, Moholy-Nagy: Experiment in Totality, New York, 1950, p. 19). Rooted in the pure, classless and egalitarian principles of Constructivist geometry, Moholy-Nagy sought by painting on Perspex to allow the constructions he created on this surface to cast shadows beyond the two-dimensional picture plane and to extend them into moving dimensions according to changing light conditions.

Through the addition of colour, as in this work with its carefully incised semi-circles of yellow lines surrounding the two dominant and open circles at the centre of the work, Moholy-Nagy was also able to encourage an emotional response to his constructivist play of form, space and light. His description of this work as having a 'yellow aura' even invests his Constructivist forms with a sense of their having a mystical potential. 'The reality of our century' Moholy-Nagy declared 'is technology; the invention, construction and maintenance of machines. To use machinery is to act on the spirit of our century... [In the art of Constructivism] the pure form of nature finds expression - unbroken colour, the rhythm of space, the balance of form... It is independent of picture frame and pedestal. It extends to architecture, objects and relationships. Constructivism is the socialism of seeing' (Moholy-Nagy, quoted in S. Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Ein Total Experiment, Mainz-Berlin, 1972, p. 30).

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