Joyce Tsai a clinical associate professor in the College of Education, a curator at the Stanley Museum of Art, and director of the Intermedia Research Initiative at the University of Iowa. Her curatorial, pedagogical, and scholarly work addresses questions of technology, politics, and philosophy in modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in German and Art History and earned her doctorate from the Humanities Center at the Johns Hopkins University. Her book László Moholy-Nagy: Painting after Photography (2018) is the winner of the Phillips Collection Book Prize. She was guest curator of The Paintings of Moholy-Nagy: Shape of Things to Come (2015) at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and editor of the catalogue of the same title distributed by Yale University Press. She was recently co-curator of Dada Futures (2018) at the Stanley Museum of Art. Her research has been supported with grants and fellowships from, among others, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collection, the Dedalus Foundation, and the Fulbright Program.
László Moholy-Nagy and the Epochal Traces of Self-Portraiture
László Moholy-Nagy served as an Austro-Hungarian artillery reconnaissance officer in World War I. That early experience fundamentally shaped his sense of self as a soldier, artist, and participant in civilian life. On the battlefield, he witnessed the destructive powers of new weapons but also learned how technology could extend the reach and scope of the body’s perceptual faculties. In his time off the field, he plied his hand at art and emulated an expressionist style, generating gestures and lines that sought to capture inner rather than external vision. This talk focuses on a few self-portraits executed prior to his arrival as metal workshop form master at the Bauhaus in Weimar as well as one he finished near the end of his life in Chicago in the 1940s. These figurative portraits reveal how Moholy negotiates hand, touch, and vision as carriers of epochal forces in his early and late career. In these drawings, he begins to develop some of his most radical theoretical interventions on art, technology, and society.