Light Prop For An Electric Stage (Light-Space Modulator)
rotation 2 © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

One of the earliest electrically powered kinetic sculptures, Light Prop for an Electric Stage holds a central place in the history of modern sculpture. Representing the culmination of Moholy-Nagy’s experimentation at the Bauhaus, it incorporates his interest in technology, new materials, and, above all, light. Moholy sought to revolutionize human perception and thereby enable society to better apprehend the modern technological world. He presented Light Prop at a 1930 exhibition of German design as a mechanism for generating “special lighting and motion effects” on a stage. The rotating construction produces a startling array of visual effects when its moving and reflective surfaces interact with the beam of light. The sculpture became the subject of numerous photographs as well as Moholy’s abstract film Lightplay: Black, White, Gray (1930). Over the years the artist and later the museums made alterations to the sculpture to keep it in working order. It is still operational today.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
BR56.5
People
László Moholy-Nagy, Hungarian (Bacsborsod, Hungary 1895 - 1946 Chicago, Ill., USA)
Title
Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Light-Space Modulator)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Bühne
Classification
Sculpture
Work Type
sculpture
Date
1930
Culture
German
Location
Level 1, Room 1520, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art in Germany Between the Wars
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
aluminum, steel, nickel-plated brass, other metals, plastic, wood and electric motor
Dimensions
151.1 x 69.9 x 69.9 cm (59 1/2 x 27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in.)
Provenance
Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, gift; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1956.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy
Copyright
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Accession Year
1956
Object Number
BR56.5
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 410, repr. p. 410 as fig. 7

Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), pp. 12, 61, repr. pp. 60-63

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 357, p. 301, repr.

Peter Nisbet and Emilie Norris, Busch-Reisinger Museum: History and Holdings, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1991), p. 67, ill.

Robert Atkins, Artspoke: A guide to Modern Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1848-1944, Abbeville Press (New York, 1993), p. 69, b/w

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 344-345, repr. color

Seiyo Bijutsukan [The History of Western Art], Shogakukan Inc. (Tokyo, Japan, 1999), p. 1039, repr. in color

Gary Garrels, ed., Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA, 2000), fig. 62, b/w illus.

Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 119

Peter Galison, Gerald Holton, and Silvan Schweber, ed., Einstein for the 21st Century, Princeton University Press (Princeton, New Jersey, 2008), pp. 112, 114, fig. 8.7, ill.

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 207, ill.

Leah Dickerman and Barry Bergdoll, Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity, exh. cat., ed. David Frankel, Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York, 2009), cat. no. 374, p. 275, color repr.

Philip F. Palmedo, Lin Emery, Hudson Hills Press (Manchester, VT and New York, 2012), p. 124-125, fig. 7.2, ill.

Linda Henderson, The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2013), p. 35, ill. (black and white)

Matthew S. Witkovsky, Carol Eliel, and Carol Vail, ed., Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 2016), p. 190

Exhibition History

19th- and 20th-Century Paintings and Sculpture from the Museum's Collection, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 06/11/1980 - 08/31/1980

Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011

Re-View: European and American Art Since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/03/2011 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 1520 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Interwar and Bauhaus), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

The Bauhaus

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