Monday, November 11, 2013
Josef Albers' Fetish for A Colored Square: Prints
At the age of 20, Albers taught school in his home town, then he went to Berlin to study art education at the Königliche Kunstschule, (1913-1915). For three years, 1916-1919, he began to make prints at Essen’s Kunstgewerbschule, and in 1919 he went to Munich, Germany, to study with Max Doerner and Franz Stuck at the Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Kunst.(Try saying that five times fast. See, you can't do it.)
Albers enrolled at the prestigious Weimar Bauhaus in 1920. He joined the faculty of the Bauhaus two years later. The director and founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, asked him to teach Design to introduce principles of handicrafts. In 1925, Albers was promoted to professor, the same year the Bauhaus moved to Dessau. He also married one of the school’s students, Anni Fleischmann, who would become well-known for her own textiles designs. Albers was teaching with Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. Klee and Albers collaborated in glass and crafts for several years. Under pressure from the Nazi party, the Bauhaus closed in 1933 and most of its artists left Germany. Albers then emigrated to the United States.
The famed architect Philip Johnson arranged a position for Albers as head of a new art school in North Carolina, called Black Mountain College. He led its painting program until 1949. Some of Albers’ notable students were Ray Johnson, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Susan Weil. He also invited Willem de Kooning, to teach in the summer session. During this period, Albers produced many woodcuts.
In 1950, Albers left Black Mountain to head Yale University’s department of design. While there, Albers worked to expand their graphic arts program. Some of his notable students were Hal Rogoff, Richard Anuszkiewicz and Eva Hesse. He retired from teaching in 1958.
Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract painter and theorist. Most famous of all are the hundreds of paintings and prints that make up the series, Homage to the Square. This series, begun in 1949, explored color interactions within square formats. Each piece consists of either three or four squares of solid planes of color sitting atop one another.
Albers’ prints draw completely from his painting color studies, although his play with surface and opacity stretched some of his concepts. The prints also have some variety of form and composition, most being hard-edged and clean-looking. There is more spatial depth in his prints than the paintings and the influence of his wife’s designs seems apparent.
Currently, a large part of his estate is held by the Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop, Germany.
J. B. Neumann’s New Art Circle, 1936
documenta IV , 1968
Museum of Modern Art, traveling South America, Mexico, and the US, 1965 - 1967
Metropolitan Museum of Art , 1971
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, 2010
Centre Pompidou, Paris
The Morgan Library & Museum, NY