Thursday, March 21, 2013

László Moholy-Nagy: “Nuclear I, CH,” 1945

László Moholy-Nagy, (American, born Hungary, 1895–1946)
Nuclear I, CH
Oil on Canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Mary and Leigh Block. 1947.40

This work is on view in AICs Gallery 183 as part of the exhibition They Seek a City and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950 from March 3 to June 2, 2013. The exhibition curator is Sarah Kelly Oehler, and Henry and Gilda Buchbinder, Associate Curator of American Art.

The following information is from the exhibition didactics, which accompany this piece by Moholy-Nagy:
László Moholy-Nagy explored the threat of atomic warfare in Nuclear I, CH, which he painted in response to the bombs that had destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in the fall [August] of 1945. Nuclear I, CH enigmatically depicts a glass sphere, or “Nuclear Bubble,” as Moholy-Nagy’s wife described it, hovering over a rectilinear grid. Reminiscent of a cartographic map of city blocks that evokes the Chicago shoreline, as it would be seen in an aerial view looking south, this grid specifically situates the painting in the city. In the weeks after the bombings in Japan, local newspapers employed such aerial cartographic imagery of Chicago to explain the power of the atomic bomb. These illustrations suggest that Moholy-Nagy might have picked up on this compelling visual theme, which he coupled in the painting with the Nuclear Bubble to signify the force of the explosion.

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