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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:15

Video transcript

we're in the Pompidou in Paris and we're looking at lászló moholy-nagy this is a 20 from 1924 moholy-nagy was a member of the hungarian avant-garde but in 1920 he comes to Dessau to germany to walter gropius his Bauhaus and takes over the first year program now what's really important is that when moholy-nagy comes in he comes in almost as a kind of engineer he's often portrayed in work coveralls and he helps the Bauhaus transform into a school that emphasizes the industrial to a much greater extent with the arrival of moholy-nagy we have this new interest in the machine and we certainly have a sense here of very simplified forms it's easy to misunderstand its simplicity unless one spend some time with it ok so at first it simply looks like a number of geometric forms that are overlapping and there's nothing much there but in fact this is a really careful study about space transparency translucency and opacity so if you think about it in terms of light it becomes easier to understand its complexity and this is in fact one of the so-called light paintings let's see if we can work our way through it my eye is led into this canvas by this long plane of glass or what seems like glass this purely transparent form that almost looks like an outsized glass slide that you might use under a microscope and it forms a diagonal line that suggests a recession into space I want to stay with that metaphor of the microscopes glass slide for a moment because I think that there is a kind of scientific investigation here so if we have that transparent glass like shape that forms that diagonal we have another similar form that doesn't appear transparent that emerges into our space almost like it's a budding against the transparent shape but not exactly the right angle yeah it's a bit more open and it goes into a much deeper space and it's remarkable to me how deep a space moholy-nagy has constructed just with these very very simple forms we also have a sense of a path to the and transparency and translucency in the forms around the circle that are overlapping here and also in the two vertical forms what's interesting about those vertical forms is that instead of using orthogonals to create space he's using scale to create space so we have the larger thicker one and then evidently much deeper in space much further away the one that's more narrow and also that circle in the distance it helps to create an illusion of space right and then look at the bands both vertical and horizontal that cross you know those are translucent but when they cross it and sense is enough visual mass so they become opaque but then counter that with what we might take to be opacity but it's not it's reflectivity in the way that the transparent plane actually overlays that translucent vertical and then you have a kind of white negative space but that seems to be the result of a reflectivity as opposed to opacity so we have the opaque which one can't see through the translucent which one can see through somewhat the transparent which one can see through entirely and reflectivity and the different ways that those overlap and affect color and space what's interesting to me is that moholy-nagy has not represented any of those things if you think about the way that painters represent reflectivity and mirrors or transparency with a wine glass and a still-life all of those things are still here but in a very different language well it's almost the language of mathematics this is an abstraction that refers to those things in the purest terms almost in mathematical terms as opposed to the representation of those things