J o s e f =A l b e r s- - 1 8 8 8 - 1 9 7 6
Josef Albers was among Europe’s most influential artist-educators to immigrate to the United States during the 1930s. Following early academic training, Albers turned in 1920 to the innovative atmosphere of the Weimar Bauhaus, where he began his experimental work as an abstract artist. After only three years as a student, he was hired to teach the Vorkurs—the introductory class that immersed students in the principles of design and the attributes of the materials they worked with. Albers directed his students to develop an understanding of "the static and dynamic properties of materials...through direct experience." In his work, Albers investigated color theory, composition, and mathematical proportions as a means of achieving balance and unity. Yet, Albers did not approach his work from a purely intellectual perspective; he believed that “Art is spirit, and only the quality of spirit gives the arts an important place in life."
Initially an expressionist, Albers began experimenting with abstract principles and diverse materials in 1923. Through his sophisticated glass assemblages of these formative years he explored the qualities of balance, translucence, and opacity.
Faithful to the Bauhaus throughout the institution’s moves from Weimar to Dessau, and then to Berlin, Albers’ association with the renowned institution endured for more years than any other artist. In 1933, when the Nazis forced the closing of the Berlin Bauhaus, Albers left for America, where he introduced Bauhaus concepts of art and design to the newly formed experimental community of Black Mountain College in North Carolina. After fifteen years at Black Mountain, in 1950, he became chairman of the Department of Design at Yale.
In 1949, Albers began his now famous Homage to the Square series. Always a careful craftsman, he often noted the pigments, brands, varnishes, and grounds he used, as well as documented his spatial proportions and the mathematic schemes he incorporated in each work. Although concerned with a highly formal regiment in his own work, Albers supported other approaches: "Any form [of art] is acceptable if it is true," he stated. "And if it is true, it's ethical and aesthetic." Albers believed art to be a means for the "adjustment of the individual as a whole to community and society as a whole" and in the particular validity of "learning to see" not only for artists and designers but to be "beneficial for all, including doctors and lawyers." He challenged engineers to be "imagineering." As a theoretician and teacher, he was an important influence on generations of young artists.
In addition to painting, printmaking, and executing murals and architectural commissions, Albers published poetry, articles, and books on art. A major Albers exhibition, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, traveled in the United States, South America, and Mexico from 1965 to 1967. A retrospective of his work was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1971. Albers’ work is held in numerous important private and museum collections throughout the United States and Europe.
Segments - 1934, Linoleum Cut.
Edition 20, 25, plus proofs; Danilowitz 79. Signed, titled, dated and annotated (proof) in pencil.
Image size 9 3/8 x 11 1/8 inches (238 x 283 mm); sheet size 11 1/8 x 14 9/16 inches (432 x 370 mm).
A fine, richly-inked impression, on cream wove Japan paper, with margins (3/4 to 1 3/4 inches), in very good condition. Printed at Black Mountain College with the artist's original label, Black Mountain Art Week, Nov. 17- 23, 1941, completed and signed by the artist.
Exhibited and reproduced: The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock, Stephen Coppel, The British Museum, 2008.
Collections: The British Museum, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Museum of Modern Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum (London).
Interim- from the series Graphic Tectonics- 1942, Zinc Plate Lithograph.
Edition 30, Danilowitz 101. Signed, titled, dated and numbered 3/30 in pencil.
Image size 7 9/16 x 15 3/16 inches (192 x 386 mm); sheet size 17 x 23 3/4 inches (432 x 603 mm).
A fine impression, on Seri Whitewove paper, the full sheet with wide margins (4 to 6 inches). Minor glue stains at the top sheet edge, verso, where previously hinged, otherwise in excellent condition.
Albers’ ambitious printmaking project Graphic Tectonics was inspired by his enchantment with the ancient (ca. 500 BC) monumental architecture of Monte Albán in Oaxaca, southern Mexico. In this series the artist has reduced the hundreds of man-made terraces surrounding the ceremonial center of the site to a system of linear geometry. The two-dimensional rendering both reveals the precise balance unifying the structures, and succeeds in suggesting their volume. The parallel black lines create a visual vibration; the negative spaces they surround consequently implying openings or doors, perhaps to other dimensions.
Collections: The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, North Carolina Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery.
Interlinear K50- 1962, Zinc Plate Lithograph offset to stone for printing.
Edition 20, Danilowitz 151. Signed, titled, dated and numbered 14/20 in pencil.
Image size 18 3/4 x 24 inches (476 x 610 mm); sheet size 21 3/4 x 27 1/8 inches (552 x 689 mm).
A superb, richly-inked, deep black impression, on Rives BFK wove paper, with margins (1 to 1 3/4 inches), in excellent condition.
Printed by Irwin Hollander at Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles. Blind embossed chop of Tamarind Lithography Workshop, lower right sheet corner.
Published by Tamarind Lithography Workshop.
Collections: Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, San Diego Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Yale University Art Gallery.