Reviews

The Truest Polyartist

It need hardly be said again that Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was one of Modernism's primary figures, whose art, writing, and life remain for many a continuing inspiration. He was a polyartist, a true polyartist, who made consequential contributions to the traditions of several nonadjacent arts—painting, book design, artistic machinery, and photography—amidst lesser achievements in film, theater design, commercial design, and sculpture. He proceeded through modern arts with admirable abandon, producing first-rate work in arts he was not trained to do. What is special about him is the incomparable range of his achievements.

Given the breadth of his creative experience, complemented by his artistic intelligence, it is scarcely surprising that his Vision in Motion (Chicago, 1946) remains one of the most fertile critical treatments of modernism in the arts. Even after a dozen readings, it reveals new insights to me. Its concluding chapter, on "Literature," remains, no less than two generations later, the best introductory survey to the extreme avant-garde traditions (literary intermedia) as we currently know them. Since he died nearly 40 years ago, the time would seem right for a critical biography updating the memoir Experiment in Totality (1948), done by his widow Sibyl.

One practical problem is that few scholars have sufficient knowledge, critical intelligence, and conceptual language to...

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