February 26, 2024

The documentary “The New Bauhaus” celebrates the legacy of the versatile interdisciplinary artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, perhaps best known for his photography and photograms, and the legacy of his school, which he founded in Chicago. The film, directed by Alysa Nahmias, argues that Moholy-Nagy’s work, although it may seem diffuse because it spans multiple media, deserves it as one of the great artists of the 20th, says Elizabeth Siegel, curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The film argues that Moholy-Nagy was more about the approach than the product; he let his students learn biology, for example, to enable them to see the world in new ways. He did not separate artistic pursuits from commercial interests or economic realities. The film explains how he turned metal rationing into an opportunity to rethink products during World War II. As told here, his influence and the work of his students can be seen in advertising, the credits from James Bond films, and in the form of a Dove bar of soap.

The film contains informative commentary from academics, and in particular from Moholy-Nagy’s daughter Hattula. A former student, Beatrice Takeuchi, says she found an exhibition on Moholy-Nagy too formal – that he was best walking around. In a way, it could relate to this film, which shares the artist’s biography in a conventional way. But it’s a good primer, well illustrated.

The New Bauhaus
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay-TV operators.