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The first New York exhibition to focus on photography and the Bauhaus experience is on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Howard Gilman Gallery through August 26, 2001. "Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus (1923–1929)" explores the period of freewheeling innovation—which began when master instructor László Moholy-Nagy arrived at the progressive German art school and ended when photography became an official part of the school's curriculum—through some sixty photographs by a dozen artists. Many of the prints are unique and have never been exhibited; most are from New York area collections.

More about Photography and the Bauhaus Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus was a utopian haven for avant-garde artists during the period of dramatic change and tenuous peace between the two world wars. United in their goal to create new art for a modern industrialized age, the Bauhaus artists, who included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, and Oskar Schlemmer, among others, embraced novel techniques and free experimentation. While architecture, graphic and furniture design, metalwork, weaving, and theater all had official workshops at the Bauhaus before 1929, photography was neither taught nor even organized as an extracurricular activity. Liberated from the requirements and expectations of a formal course, photography was practiced as a form of play; its myriad avenues for exploration and discovery enchanted Bauhaus masters and students alike. Boldly fusing ideas absorbed from Dada, Surrealism, Russian Constructivism, illustrated newspapers, avant-garde film, and even jazz, these artists created images that reflect both the dynamism and turbulence of the era and the optimism, energy, and experimental liberties of life and work at the Bauhaus.

More about Works by Moholy-Nagy Although Moholy-Nagy never formally taught photography during his years at the Bauhaus (1923–1928), he exerted enormous influence through his groundbreaking photographs and through his writings, in which he advocated unusual vantage points, extreme close-ups, radical cropping, negative printing, and cameraless photography. The fourteen works by Moholy-Nagy in "Dancing on the Roof" range from his astonishing new visions of the modern world, such as Pont Transbordeur, Marseilles (1929), to seductive and radiantly mysterious photograms. An extraordinary group of his nudes and negative prints are also on view: his Negative [Portrait of a Woman] (1927/28), with a reversal of tonalities and overhead viewpoint, creates a dreamlike image that belies its source in the ordinary world.

More about Works by Lux Feininger The work of the (then) adolescent student Lux Feininger, son of the painter and Bauhaus master Lyonel Feininger, was more lighthearted than that of the older master and theoretician Moholy-Nagy. Never without his camera, the young Lux, whose nickname is Latin for light, roamed the school in search of activities he could transform into his characteristically exuberant views of student life, exemplified by the sprightly Jump over the Bauhaus (ca. 1927). He combined his love of photography and music in a suite of lively photographs of the Bauhaus jazz band; this includes an energetic rendering of his fellow band member Xanti Schawinsky with the New Saxophone (1928) and Charleston on the Bauhaus Roof (1927), a riff on youth and modern life. Like the spirited pictures that Jacques-Henri Lartigue made as a youth, Lux Feininger's photographs are witty, playful, irreverent, and extremely rare. With more than twenty of his photographs included, "Dancing on the Roof" provides an in-depth display of his best work—a "mini-exhibition" of a remarkable photographer who is relatively unknown but still lively at the age of ninety. BACK TO TOP

More about Works by Other Bauhaus Photographers In addition to providing a fertile environment for the experiments of both the great theoretician and the teen-aged student, the Bauhaus nurtured the visions of many other talented photographers, including Umbo (Otto Umbehr), Lucia Moholy, Herbert Bayer, Irene Bayer, Florence Henri, Werner David Feist, Lyonel Feininger, and Josef Albers. Dizzying overhead shots, disconcerting night scenes, innovative industrial and architectural views, beach scenes, Bauhaus theater photographs, and a series of surprising portraits are among the highlights of "Dancing on the Roof." This remarkable flowering of photographic creativity lost its momentum with the departure of Moholy-Nagy in 1928 and the establishment of a photography department the following year under the leadership of Walter Peterhans, a professional photographer. As it became part of the official curriculum, photography was treated as a technical craft rather than as an expressive medium. Although this new approach, emphasizing exact description of reality and technical perfection, was well-suited to the documentation of other Bauhaus work, it banished the experimental attitude and free play that made the original creations of Moholy-Nagy, Lux Feininger, and their colleagues possible. Although a broad spectrum of photography was produced at the Bauhaus, "Dancing on the Roof" focuses only on that exhilarating moment when utopian dreams, uncertain times, and fresh visions coalesced to produce some of the most compelling photographs of the 20th century.

Exhibition Organizers "Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus (1923–1929)" is organized by Laura Muir, research associate of the Museum's Department of Photographs, and Maria Morris Hambourg, curator in charge. Photograph conservation was directed by Nora Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator of Photographs. Exhibition design is by Michael Langley, exhibition designer, with graphics by Jill Hammarberg, graphic designer, and lighting by Zack Zanolli, lighting designer.

Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus (1923–1929)
Kuratoren: Laura Muir, Maria Morris Hambourg

Künstler: Lux Feininger, László Moholy-Nagy, Umbo , Lucia Moholy, Herbert Bayer, Irene Bayer, Florence Henri, Werner David Feist, Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers