Les XX at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2011

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag presented two special exhibitions: paintings of the Belgian Expressionist James Ensor and also photographs, photograms and short films of László Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian of the Bauhaus school in Germany.

As well as a survey of James Ensor's paintings, drawings and masks, the museum showed a special presentation re-enacting one of the exhibitions of "Les XX" (The Twenty), the group of artists who showed impressionist works not accepted for the mainstream salons of their time. Thus we saw in a single room, a fascinating line of pictures by Monet, van Gogh, and other Impressionists as well as James Ensor.

One hears much about the Bauhaus movement but this was the first time I have encountered the work of László Moholy-Nagy. The subtitle of the retrospective was Light as art and art as light, which sums it up nicely. His experiments with radical and unconventional cropping of photographic portraits and extreme close-up revealed aspects of the subject not apparent in a complete view.

László Moholy-Nagy's photograms were new to me and particularly interesting as we move away from wet chemical production of photographs: this is one of a number of techniques which cannot be achieved in Photoshop. Real soft focus, true polaroid and actual infra-red are among the remaining few for which software offers a substitute but not a replacement.

The exhibition was showing good quality transfers of some of huis short films. I was particularly interested by both the conent and style of his Impressionen vom alten Marseiller Hafen, 1929 (Impressions of Marseille Old Port); see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2pqkR6i61s