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Virtual Cinema “The New Bauhaus” September 16, 2020

By Malcolm Daniel
Tags: houston, film, mfah, movie, virtual-cinema

Inspired by the recently released documentary “The New Bauhaus,” Malcolm Daniel, the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography, dives into László Moholy-Nagy’s influence on modern art and design.

One of the surprise discoveries when I joined the MFAH was our rich collection of photographs by László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946). The mid-20th-century creative genius left his mark on modern art not only through his own photography, painting, sculpture, industrial design, and typography, but also through his dynamic, innovative approach to teaching.

The Bauhaus in Germany
From 1923 to 1928, Moholy-Nagy co-taught the foundation course at the Bauhaus, the innovative German design school, introducing students to materials, technologies, and processes through hands-on experimentation—unfettered by traditional methods and aesthetic principles.

In photography, for instance, he had no formal instruction, no voice in his head whispering “here’s how you’re supposed to make a good photograph.” Moholy-Nagy felt free to make bird’s-eye and worm’s-eye views, photomontages, negative prints, and solarized images, and—most consequentially—abstract “photograms” by placing objects on photographic paper and exposing the paper to light.

The New Bauhaus in Chicago
Fleeing Nazism, Moholy-Nagy moved first to England and then to the United States. In 1937, on the recommendation of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy accepted an invitation to found “The New Bauhaus” in Chicago, based on his own radical approach to art and teaching. Although it was a short-lived endeavor, he soon opened a new incarnation, the School of Design, which was later renamed the Institute of Design and incorporated into the Illinois Institute of Technology. It was an institution that spawned a generation of artists and designers, including noted photographers Harry Callahan, Ray Metzker, Arthur Siegel, and Aaron Siskind.

The New Documentary in Virtual Cinema
All of this is detailed in the 2019 documentary The New Bauhaus, which is streaming now via MFAH Virtual Cinema. The film features footage and photographs from the period; examples of Moholy-Nagy’s art; first-person accounts from former colleagues and students; commentary by leading curators and historians; and recordings of the man himself.

The New Bauhaus WATCH NOW Your purchase ($12) supports the MFAH and provides unlimited access to the film through September 29. SEE THE TRAILER


Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lynn S. Wyatt; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.