The Upcoming Moholy-Nagy Exhibit at SBMA


On display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art from July to September, The Shape of Things to Come is an exhibition that explores the work of László Moholy-Nagy, one of the most artists from the Bauhaus movement. While his work is largely recognized for its unique take on the relationship between art and technology, as well as his use of various media, this exhibition emphasizes one of Moholy-Nagy’s most under-recognized art forms: the traditional painting. While he experimented with reproductive media like film and photography, paint remained one of the driving forces behind his artistic sensibilities.

Joyce Tsai of the University of Florida, Gainesville, has guest-curated the exhibition, which walks visitors through Moholy-Nagy’s work in chronological order to show how his ideas and artistic process shifted over the years. The exhibition includes 33 works of art that were completed in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. While paintings are the main theme, guests will also see photograms, video projections, and a replica of his famous sculpture “Light Prop for an Electrical Stage,” as well as a set of Kodachrome slides. Guests first see the abstract paintings that Moholy-Nagy completed in the 1920s and then witness his progression toward a more industrial aesthetic.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Moholy-Nagy began experimenting with the new medium of thermoplastics, which allowed him to create works that walk the line between painting and sculpture. He used the medium to explore the relationship between color photography and painting. The transparent works feature painting on both the front and back and a perforation that would admit unfiltered light into the sculpture to strike the background and illuminate the painted surfaces. When viewers move around the work, the shadows change and create a sort of “spatial kinetics” that bring the painting to life.

Individuals can learn more about The Shape of Things to Come and other exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art online at