Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Josef Albers



Josef Albers, also associated with the Bauhaus, was born in Germany and moved to the United States in 1933. He made a considerable number of prints, including colour silk screens. Rolf Nesch was born in Germany, where he started printmaking with the encouragement of Kirchner.…

JOSEF ALBERS: Munich Academy. He was very famous. He wrote that famous book on Painting Materials. He was really competent. And then I also went to the Hofmann School in the evenings - Hans Hofmann. He was there too. But I purposely chose to go to his school in the evenings because then he didn't criticize. I didn't want him to talk into my stuff. Now, you see the atmosphere of Munich at that time was very sympathetic to me. But then came the propaganda from the Bauhaus. And that seemed to me more challenging, more modern, more new.



After moving to the United States, Albers concentrated on several series of works that systematically explored the effects of perception. In his series of engravings on plastic Transformations of a Scheme (1948–52) and in the series of drawings Structural Constellations (1953–58), he created complex linear designs, each subject to many possible spatial interpretations. His best-known series of paintings, Homage to the Square (begun in 1950 and continued until his death), restricts its repertory of forms to coloured squares superimposed onto each other. The arrangement of these squares is carefully calculated so that the colour of each square optically alters the sizes, hues, and spatial relationships of the others. These works were exhibited worldwide and formed the basis of the first solo exhibition given to a living artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, in 1971.



JOSEF ALBERS: I understand. But, you see, I am more interested to stimulate the creative process. In my basic courses I have always tried to develop discovery and invention which, in my opinion, are the criteria of creativeness. I have tried to make people aware and ready to recognize - that's again observation, the word I used before, and in articulation what is then the reaction to it. The creative process as such I have tried to lead back to the most basic attitude, and that is by presenting, and there I feel very instrumental, by presenting to my students material as such without telling them what to do, how to handle it, but ask them to find a new --

Josef Albers (American, born Germany, 1888–1976) is a central figure in 20th-century art, both as a practitioner and as a teacher at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale University. Best known for his iconic series Homages to the Square, Albers made paintings, drawings, and prints and designed furniture and typography. The least familiar aspect of his extraordinary career is his inventive engagement with photography, which was only discovered after his death. The highlight of this work is undoubtedly the photocollages featuring photographs he made at the Bauhaus between 1928 and 1932. At once expansive and restrained, this remarkable body of work anticipates concerns that Albers would pursue throughout his career: seriality, perception, and the relationship between handcraft and mechanical production.

At Black Mountain, his students included Ruth Asawa, Ray Johnson, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Susan Weil. He also invited important American artists such as Willem de Kooning, to teach in the summer seminar. Weil remarked that, as a teacher, Albers was "his own academy" and she said that Albers claimed that "when you’re in school, you’re not an artist, you’re a student", although he was very supportive of self-expression when one became an artist and began her or his journey. Albers produced many woodcuts and leaf studies at this time.

Albers initially jointed the Bauhaus as a maker of stained glass and in 1922, as a Bauhausgeselle (journeyman), he was charged with running the Bauhaus glass workshop. In 1923 he began to teach the Vorkurs, a basic design course. When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925, he became Bauhausmeister (professor), teaching alongside fellow artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. In addition to working in glass and metal, he designed furniture and typography.

Accomplished as a designer, photographer, typographer, printmaker, and poet, Albers is best remembered for his work as an abstract painter and theorist. He favored a very disciplined approach to composition. Most famous of all are the hundreds of paintings and prints that make up the series, Homage to the Square. In this rigorous series, begun in 1949, Albers explored chromatic interactions with nested squares. Usually painting on Masonite, he used a palette knife with oil colors and often recorded the colors he used on the back of his works. Each painting consists of either three or four squares of solid planes of color nested within one another, in one of four different arrangements and in square formats ranging from 406×406 mm to 1.22×1.22 m.

JOSEF ALBERS: That's like how one gets to know a human being. It so happens that I've always had a preference - as everyone has prejudices and preferences - for the square as a shape in preference to the circle as a shape. And I have known for a long time that a circle always fools me by not telling me whether it's standing still or not. And if a circle circulates you don't see it. The outer curve looks the same whether it moves or does not move. So the square is much more honest and tells me that it is sitting on one line of the four, usually a horizontal one, as a basis. And I have also come to the conclusion that the square is a human invention, which makes it sympathetic to me. Because you don't see it in nature. As we do not see squares in nature, I thought that it is man-made. But I have corrected myself. Because squares exist in salt crystals, our daily salt. We know this because we can see it in the microscope. On the other hand, we believe we see circles in nature. But rarely precise ones. Mature, it seems, is not a mathematician. Probably there are no straight lines either. Particularly not since Einstein says in his theory of relativity that there is no straight line, rod knows whether there are or not, I don't. I still like to believe that the square is a human invention. And that tickles me. So when I have a preference for it then I can only say excuse me.

JOSEF ALBERS: He was an expressionist and dictated all evaluation. Anyway, he was in the way of my going into glass. So I did it on my own. And Gropius took me by the shoulder and said, "Albers, if you don't submit to our rules then we must send you home." The rule was that after the basic course, you have to go into the workshop and try to become a designer journeyman. Do you know what that is?

JOSEF ALBERS: I do not know. I do not see it yet. I haven't thought too much about it. But I don't see right away why the role of the artist has changed. Because the role of art for me is the visualization of attitude, of the human attitude towards life, towards the world. And I think I've said before that there is no difference between science and art when it comes to creativeness, productiveness, to come to conclusions and to formulations. That's the same I think. And scientists can be just as creative as an artist. Though many people don't think so today. But I would say when art is art that means presenting a mentality of a certain time that will remain art because that mentality will be read by a recurrence of that attitude or mentality. So what is art will remain art. Whereas science does not remain in its content what it was before. A hundred years ago, more than a hundred years ago, scientists believed that flying was not possible because we could not overcome gravity. But since then we learned that speed can overcome gravity and therefore man has learned that flying is possible. I remember as a youngster when the first airplanes were flown. And this was a terrific experience that man could suddenly fly. You see, that is not any excitement for a child today - it's a matter of course, it's "swallowed" as you drink water, you see, as a matter of course. There's nothing to wonder about anymore. But at that time it was breathless to see this wonder, this great wonder. And then when they made that loop the loop. People went by train to go where that could be seen, that somebody in the air could move better than a bird is able to do.

SEVIM FESCI: Of course not. It's a result of all the years, yes, (reading) "The content of art is visual formulation of our relation to life. The measure of art, the ratio of effort to effect, the aim of art revelation and evocation of vision." Yes. I was just thinking, in an interview you did - I don't know, it might be for a French paper I think for Realites - I can show you, I have it here if you want to -

Albers enrolled as a student in the preliminary course (Vorkurs) of Johannes Itten at the Weimar Bauhaus in 1920. Although Albers had studied painting, it was as a maker of stained glass that he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus in 1922, approaching his chosen medium as a component of architecture and as a stand-alone art form. The director and founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, asked him in 1923 to teach in the preliminary course ‘Werklehre' of the department of design to introduce newcomers to the principles of handicrafts, because Albers came from that background and had appropriate practice and knowledge.

SEVIM FESCI: Maybe we can talk, Mr. Albers, a little bit more about your ideas on teaching art in universities. At the end of our last interview I remember you said that what you want to teach is to teach how to look, how to see.

Josef Albers is best known for his seminal “Homage to the Square” series of the 1950s and '60s, which focused on the simplification of form and the interplay of shape and color. “Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature,” he once said. “I prefer to see with closed eyes.” His abstract canvases employed rigid geometric compositions in order to emphasize the optical effects set off by his chosen color palettes. Albers was highly influential as a teacher, first at the Bauhaus in Germany alongside Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, and later with posts at Black Mountain College, Yale, and Harvard; he taught courses in design and color theory, and counted among his students such iconic artists as Eva Hesse, Cy Twombly, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Robert Rauschenberg. He is often cited among the progenitors of Minimalist, Conceptual, and Op art.

JOSEF ALBERS: I do not consider self-expression as important. It's not important as a method of teaching. And it's not important as an aim of any art branch. When we are honest - that's my saying - if we are honest then we will reveal ourselves. But we do not have to make an effort to be individualistic, different from others. You see that is the nonsense of the last 15, 20 years, the two decades, the great famous American decades. What is wrong there is that everyone wants to be different from the already different ones. And then they ended up all alike. And we are tired of that. And the youngsters feel that now.

Biography Josef Albers was an American-German artist best known for his iconic color square paintings—the Homage to the Square series. These works along with his writings are considered invaluable contributions to color theory. “Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon—it is the very heart of painting,” Albers once explained of color relationships. “Repeated experiments with adjacent colors will show that any ground subtracts its own hue from the colors which it carries and therefore influences.” Born on March 19, 1888 in Bottrop, Germany, he was a student of the famed colorist Johannes Itten at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Joining the Bauhaus in 1922 as a stained glass maker, he later became a professor at the Dessau location of the school in 1925. It was during this time that Albers took over Itten’s course and co-taught with László Moholy-Nagy, alongside other members of the faculty Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinksy. Emigrating to the United States after the Nazi regime closed the Bauhaus school in 1933, Phillip Johnson a curator at The Museum of Modern Art found positions for both Albers and his wife Anni Albers at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He served as the head of the painting program at the school from 1939–1949, teaching Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg among others. After his time at Black Mountain College, Albers became the head of the design program at Yale University during the 1950s. Published in 1963, his book Interaction of Color remains one of the most influential texts used in contemporary arts education. The artist died on March 25, 1976 in New Haven, CT at the age of 88. Today, Albers’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.

JOSEF ALBERS: Well, I would say the aim of art is a constant, and a continuous job to reveal visually the attitude of our mentality. And the less we disturb the influence of our mentality the more I believe we come close to the truth. And therefore the last 15-20 years in which everyone tried to be different from everyone else with the result that in their work, they all look alike, there is an artificial and not true relationship because honesty and modesty are forgotten. The more eccentric one behaved the more he was considered a personality. On the other hand, the, more you obey your constitutional inclinations, your constitutional preferences and prejudices, the more you are yourself. You have not to force so-called individuality. You have to avoid everything that makes you a Wagnerian blowing up your gestures, blowing up your verbal formulations. Therefore I recommend simplicity because it is honest against all over-dramatization.

JOSEF ALBERS: Again, you see, I have to criticize that word "theory". I have not built any theory. I have only tried to build up sensitive eyes, as my book says. And I have tried to achieve that by aiming at very distinct color relationships again - like how do they influence each other? Change each other in light and in intensity, in transparency, opacity? How do they change each other in all different directions? That we make all the students aware, through experience, that color is the most relative medium in art, and that we never really see what we see. All neighboring means which occur every minute different, not only in changing light but also by our changing moods. And in the end, the study of color again is a study of ourselves. And to anyone today who tries to predict to me what two colors will do, I will say, "Please stop. I do not trust you. Because anyone who predicts the effect of colors proves that he has no experience with color." Color is fooling us, cheating us, deceiving us - you can call it if you want - all the time.

JOSEF ALBERS: Yes. I went there in 1920. Then in 1921 I was supposed to go into a workshop. And I was a free lance man on the dump places. And then I was permitted to open up the glassworks again; that was in 1922, And in the summer of 1923 Itten left. He had started the entrance reception room to the office of the Director of the Bauhaus. He left that and Gropius said he would like me to continue it. I said, "Yes, okay. I'll make a glass window. I'll make some vitrines." "Okay," he said. And then in that summer he held a student meeting and he announced that "We have now an additional house in the park" that was formerly the "Reithaus" house for the horses of the family of the Grand Duke Reithaus - "refit" means riding. That was the Refit House. "And in that we will have all the lower floors, for additional space. And we will have a new basic course and Albers will teach there." I said, "What, Me?" He had never told me a word of this. "Yes, I want you to teach handicraft." I said I had left school and wanted never to go back to teaching. But he said, "Do me the favor and start." And so I did. But I discovered soon that teaching has the handicap of retrospection. And that I don't believe in. So I started instead a method of handling material with the material itself. So that was my main change. Whereas Itten before had only spoken about the appearance, "matiere" - (the French word) and I said I would turn from matiere, the outside, to the inside, to the capacity of the material, before the appearance. And that changed the attitude basically I think. And as I said, I'm quoted in that catalogue, I have gone from collage, what was in Itten's days of the main studies, collage (but not under that word) - I said, "I have gone from collage to montage." That is for me a basic change in attitude. And from that time on I have introduced construction in paper. What later also others have claimed to have done; it is not so.

JOSEF ALBERS: No, it didn't. No, I wasn't producing things which I could say "That's my work." No. I was very pleased to help others and to see the trick of using a handsaw. And I had quite an interest in mechanics and technical things. How to hammer a nail properly and such things was very interesting for me. And at the Bauhaus, Gropius and others saw that I had an eye for using materials. And so after I had been there three years he asked me to teach handicrafts. And I tried. But again I saw that that was retrospection, and, you see, I do not consider retrospection as a creative attitude.

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BiographyJosef Albers is best known for his seminal “Homage to the Square” series of the 1950s and '60s, which focused on the simplification of form and the interplay of shape and color. “Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature,” he once said. “I prefer to see with closed eyes.” His abstract canvases employed rigid geometric compositions in order to emphasize the optical effects set off by his chosen color palettes. Albers was highly influential as a teacher, first at the Bauhaus in Germany alongside Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, and later with posts at Black Mountain College, Yale, and Harvard; he taught courses in design and color theory, and counted among his students such iconic artists as Eva Hesse, Cy Twombly, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Robert Rauschenberg. He is often cited among the progenitors of Minimalist, Conceptual, and Op art. German-American, 1888–1976, Bottrop, Germany, based in Dessau, Germany, Black Mountain, North Carolina and New Haven, Connecticut

Josef Albers was born March 19, 1888, in Bottrop, Germany. From 1905 to 1908 he studied to become a teacher in Buren, teaching in Westphalian primary schools from 1908 to 1913. After attending the Konigliche Kunstschule in Berlin from 1913 to 1915, he was certified to teach art. Albers studied lithography in Essen and attended the Academy in Munich. In 1920 at the age of 32, Albers entered the Bauhaus, a school in Weimar that was committed to exploring the relationship between the arts and technological society and emphasized the integration of architecture, fine art, and craft.

In 1925, Albers was promoted to professor, the year the Bauhaus moved to Dessau. At this time, he married Anni Albers (née Fleischmann) who was a student there. His work in Dessau included designing furniture and working with glass. As a younger art teacher, he was teaching at the Bauhaus among artists who included Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. The so-called form master, Klee taught the formal aspects in the glass workshops where Albers was the crafts master; they cooperated for several years.

JOSEF ALBERS: I would like to add a little bit on my teaching. And I would like to say what I have somewhat already said before, in my teaching what I did for about 40 years - and here again I had the biggest classes there were - I have not taught art. Instead of art I have taught philosophy. Though technique for me is a big word, I never have taught how to paint. All my doing was to make people to see, as it says in that little thing -

The first serious exploration of Albers’s photographic practice occurred in a modest exhibition at MoMA in 1988, The Photographs of Josef Albers. In 2015, the Museum acquired 10 photocollages by Albers—adding to the two donated by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation almost three decades ago—making its collection the most significant anywhere outside the Foundation. This installation celebrates both this landmark acquisition and the publication of One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers, which focuses exclusively on this deeply personal and inventive aspect of Albers’s work and makes many of these photocollages available for the first time.

"Art is revelation instead of information, expression instead of description, creation instead of imitation or repetition. Art is concerned with the HOW, not the WHAT; not with literal content, but with the performance of the factual content. The performance - how it is done - that is the content of art."

In an article about the artist, published in 1950, Elaine de Kooning concluded that however impersonal his paintings might at first appear, not one of them “could have been painted by any one but Josef Albers himself.” Although their relationship was often tense, and sometimes, even combative, Robert Rauschenberg later identified Albers as his most important teacher.

From 1908 to 1920 Albers studied painting and printmaking in Berlin, Essen, and Munich and taught elementary school in his native town of Bottrop. In 1920 he enrolled at the newly formed Bauhaus, which was to become the most important design school in Germany. His most important creations of that period included compositions made of coloured glass, as well as examples of furniture design, metalwork, and typography. After 1925, when he became a “master” at the Bauhaus, Albers explored a style of painting characterized by the reiteration of abstract rectilinear patterns and the use of primary colours along with white and black.

In 1962, as a fellow at Yale, he received a grant from the Graham Foundation for an exhibit and lecture on his work. Albers also collaborated with Yale professor and architect King-lui Wu in creating decorative designs for some of Wu's projects. Among these were distinctive geometric fireplaces for the Rouse and DuPont houses, the façade of Manuscript Society, one of Yale's secret senior groups , and a design for the Mt. Bethel Baptist Church . Also, at this time he worked on his structural constellation pieces.

Homage to the Square is the signature series of over 1000 related works, which Albers began in 1949 and continued to develop until his death in 1976. Such sustained attention to a single aspect of painting reflects his conviction that insight is only attained through "continued trying and critical repetition." This early work exemplifies his basic approach to exploring the mutability of human perception and the range of optical and psychological effects that colors alone can produce depending on their position and proximity. Albers chose a single, repeated geometric shape, which he insisted was devoid of symbolism, to systematically experiment with the "relativity" of color, how it changes through juxtaposition, placement, and interaction with other colors, generating the illusion of attraction, resistance, weight, and movement. As in his earlier monochromatic and linear studies, this series explores the potential of static two-dimensional media to invoke dynamic three-dimensional space.

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He was known to meticulously list the specific manufacturer's colours and varnishes he used on the back of his works, as if the colours were catalogued components of an optical experiment. His work represents a transition between traditional European art and the new American art. It incorporated European influences from the Constructivists and the Bauhaus movement, and its intensity and smallness of scale were typically European, but his influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and the 1960s. "Hard-edge" abstract painters drew on his use of patterns and intense colors, while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in perception.

Josef Albers was instrumental in bringing the tenets of European modernism, particularly those associated with the Bauhaus, to America. His legacy as a teacher of artists, as well as his extensive theoretical work proposing that color, rather than form, is the primary medium of pictorial language, profoundly influenced the development of modern art in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Encyclopædia Britannica articles are written in a neutral objective tone for a general audience. You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered. Any text you add should be original, not copied from other sources. At the bottom of the article, feel free to list any sources that support your changes, so that we can fully understand their context. (Internet URLs are the best.) Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions.

JOSEF ALBERS: Yes, To some extent I fallow my hand. Though I have a general idea where it may lead to. But I don't get senseless drunk and let just a brush and my elbow do it. There we have a terrific misunderstanding is also called movement. From this time of the last 15 years most are inclined to believe that when I let my elbow go the elbow grease produces movement. The movement of the arm was movement but the form that results as a result is after the arm is down is a fixed form, which is a stabile, static, you see, just as wrong as the name for Calder's sculpture are not mobiles. Mobile is a furniture. We are mobiles. Because they never change their place. They use their elbows in the beginning in great surprise. And I don't tell you who gave that name. Purposely not. They are moving stabiles. Let's be precise with our words, with our verbal -

JOSEF ALBERS: -- to find out what it is able to do, by presenting it with a new function. Therefore, I came furthermore to the conclusion just at the end of my formal teaching - I usually say I taught for a hundred years - that all art studies are in the end basic and that at art schools there are no graduate studies. The graduate studies come when they leave the school and are working their whole life and demonstrate that also in other fields. Graduate students don't want to be led by professors. They want to find their own "nonsense". So I have come to the conclusion that the graduate art school is an error. And I have experienced that in another way, also, When I was called to Yale Art School here I was expected to teach mainly the older - graduate students. But I made a point that I took first and mostly the beginners because the babies need more education than the grownups. And so the students out of the graduate class came into my basic courses without being asked to do that. Therefore I had such large classes in the basic courses in color and in drawing and later also when I gave basic design again. I'm very rough in the treating of my students. And in saying it now, I have said to my students "I am putting you into a vacuum and ask you to breathe." But at the school we came to new discoveries, to new formulations, and that, I think, has been followed up more or less everywhere in the world.

JOSEF ALBERS: You see, that is his formulation. I would say, "My things have the look of icons." Unconsciously they look at you not as my face is now - you see me in profile - icons are only this way. And so are my paintings. And he says in a gloomy French way maybe "That I want to make the icons of the 20th century." I'm not insulted by it. When he sees it that way I say okay, that's your way of verbal formulation. It's not wrong. But I wouldn't say it that way.

JOSEF ALBERS: Well, then I finally had the opportunity to have real art school training in a very old conservative sense; I was able to go to a gymnasium. But I didn't. I went back to my much lower task of teaching in public school. Because there I had much more free time. I had to teach only two afternoons -there were four afternoons. So I could go to the very good Applied Art School in Essen. On the tram it was half an hour to get there. I went there to study, but not really under somebody. I did figure drawing. I made woodcuts, those little ones that you see.

Albers was born into a Roman Catholic family of craftsmen in Bottrop, Westphalia, Germany. He worked from 1908 to 1913 as a schoolteacher in his home town; he also trained as an art teacher at Königliche Kunstschule in Berlin, Germany, from 1913 to 1915. From 1916 to 1919 he began his work as a printmaker at the Kunstgewerbschule in Essen. In 1918 he received his first public commission, Rosa mystica ora pro nobis, a stained-glass window for a church in Essen. In 1919 he went to Munich, Germany, to study at the Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, where he was a pupil of Max Doerner and Franz Stuck.

In addition to painting, printmaking, murals, and architectural commissions, Albers published poetry, articles, and books on art theory. His best-known book, Interaction of Color, was and is still a widely used text in art education and has recently been reissued by Yale University.

JOSEF ALBERS: It was my family that wanted me to be a teacher. That was safe, you see. To be a painter was terrible. I wanted to stop really when I was in a teachers' seminary, a teachers' college as it's called now, it's called there now a pedagogical academy. I was there. And I would like to stop, you see. Oh, boy, my parents just got mad, you see, I finished and became a public school teacher.

JOSEF ALBERS: That is the Pittsburgh of Westphalia, of Germany. But a hundred times bigger; a hundred Pittsburghs all together. One never sees a boundary between the cities. And everywhere there are mines and furnaces and metal melting there. It was loud and very dirty, and unpleasantly ugly. The whole region is. Except at night when you go on the train through that country the fireworks are just incredible. So that's where I came from.

In 1959, a gold-leaf mural by Albers, Two Structural Constellations was engraved in the lobby of the Corning Glass Building in Manhattan. For the entrance of the Time & Life Building lobby, he created Two Portals , a 42-feet by 14-feet mural of alternating glass bands in white and brown that recede into two bronze centers to create an illusion of depth. In the 1960s Walter Gropius, who was designing the Pan Am Building with Emery Roth & Sons and Pietro Belluschi, commissioned Albers to make a mural. The artist reworked City, a sandblasted glass construction that he had designed in 1929 at the Bauhaus, and renamed it Manhattan. The giant abstract mural of black, white, and red strips arranged in interwoven columns stood 28-feet high and 55-feet wide and was installed in the lobby of the building; it was removed during a lobby redesign in c. 2000. Before his death in 1976 Albers left exact specifications of the work so it could easily be replicated. In 1967, his painted mural Growth as well as Loggia Wall , a brick relief, were installed on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Other architectural works include Gemini , a stainless steel relief for the Grand Avenue National Bank lobby in Kansas City, Missouri, and Reclining Figure , a mosaic mural for the Celanese Building in Manhattan destroyed in 1980. At the invitation of a former student, the architect Harry Seidler, Albers designed the mural Wrestling for Seidler’s Mutual Life Center in Sydney, Australia.

JOSEF ALBERS: Well, not to produce, as I said, so-called art. That was not my idea. My father painted all those stage sets, you see. I found in the woods little mushrooms. And I learned very early how to make imitation of wood grain. This is something I have in common with Braque. Braque also learned very early from his father how to imitate marble or wood grain. So I could easily make the appearance of oak or walnut on pine. That is very easy; a very simple technique. And I learned how to imitate marble. I never made such a good joke as Braque died. When he was in the Mediterranean he fooled his friends. He painted a rowboat that had wood on one side and marble on the other side. You see, when he'd row out of the city it looked as if he were in a boat of a different material than when he came back, you see, one side was imitation wood and the other side was imitation marble.

The Josef Albers papers, documents from 1929 to 1970, were donated by the artist to the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art in 1969 and 1970. In 1971 (nearly five years before his death), Albers founded the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, a nonprofit organization he hoped would further "the revelation and evocation of vision through art." Today, this organization not only serves as the office for the estates of both Josef Albers and his wife Anni Albers, but also supports exhibitions and publications focused on the works of both Albers. The official foundation building is located in Bethany, Connecticut, and "includes a central research and archival storage center to accommodate the Foundation's art collections, library and archives, and offices, as well as residence studios for visiting artists."

Josef Albers was an American-German artist best known for his iconic color square paintings—the Homage to the Square series. These works along with his writings are considered invaluable contributions to color theory. “Simultaneous contrast is not just a curious optical phenomenon—it is the very heart of painting,” Albers once explained of color relationships. “Repeated experiments with adjacent colors will show that any ground subtracts its own hue from the colors which it carries and therefore influences.” Born on March 19, 1888 in Bottrop, Germany, he was a student of the famed colorist Johannes Itten at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Joining the Bauhaus in 1922 as a stained glass maker, he later became a professor at the Dessau location of the school in 1925. It was during this time that Albers took over Itten’s course and co-taught with László Moholy-Nagy, alongside other members of the faculty Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinksy. Emigrating to the United States after the Nazi regime closed the Bauhaus school in 1933, Phillip Johnson a curator at The Museum of Modern Art found positions for both Albers and his wife Anni Albers at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. He served as the head of the painting program at the school from 1939–1949, teaching Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg among others. After his time at Black Mountain College, Albers became the head of the design program at Yale University during the 1950s. Published in 1963, his book Interaction of Color remains one of the most influential texts used in contemporary arts education. The artist died on March 25, 1976 in New Haven, CT at the age of 88. Today, Albers’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.

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Joseph Albers' book "Interaction of Color" is widely influential but, according to Alan Lee, has not received close critical attention. Lee undertakes to refute Albers' general claims about colour experience (that colour deceives continually) and to show that Albers' system of perceptual education is fundamentally misleading (Albers 'places practice before theory'). Four topics in Albers' account of colour are examined critically: additive and subtractive colour mixture, the tonal relations of colours, the Weber-Fechner Law and simultaneous contrast. In each case Albers is shown to have made fundamental errors with serious consequences for his general claims about colour and his pedagogical method. It is suggested that Albers' belief in the importance of colour deception is related to a misconception about aesthetic appreciation (that it depends upon some kind of confusion about visual perception). It is suggested that the scientific colour hypothesis of Edwin H. Land should be considered in lieu of the concepts held by Albers. Finally, there are implications for a reassessment of Albers' artworks that might follow a loss of faith in his colour concepts that seem to have been their foundation.

JOSEF ALBERS: When they called me right after the closing of the Bauhaus in Berlin, 1933, to teach in U.S. A., first I didn't speak English. And the students asked me what I was going to do. I said, and stuttered, "To open eyes." And this became the rule for my life. I have taught to learn to see. In my color book there is no new theory of color. But in it there is a way how to learn to see. That is what I want to say.

While teaching at Black Mountain College, Albers continued to develop his aesthetic theories through his art practice. He began the Variant/Adobe series (ca. 1947), which systematically explored the range of visual effects made possible by subtle variations in color, shape, and positioning. He also mounted more than 20 solo shows in various media in American galleries, including glass work from the Bauhaus period, as well as graphic art, drawings, and oil paintings.

JOSEF ALBERS: Well, it became known. It was started in 1919. This was 1920 when I was in Munich. And I said I'll go there. I had no money and my parents couldn't help me. They had to help my brothers and sisters. They had supported me to become a teacher. So I went to Weimar with very little money. But that didn't disturb me. I made what you see in this new book here - these collages. My glass paintings. That was my aim. I had to go to the Bauhaus to the basic course that was given by Itten. And I submitted to that although I was a little older than Itten. But I have not the best memories of my studies there. So when that course was over everyone had to exhibit his work and then it was decided whether or not one could continue. I was accepted to continue. But I wanted to go into a workshop and I wanted to make stained glass. That was my old dream. Glass pictures. But Itten thought I was not ready for that. Certainly to delay my study in glass, Itten said, "Glass painting is a branch of wall painting and you should go first to our wall painting workshop," And I said, "That's nonsense. Wall painting has to do with reflected light and glass painting with direct light." So I said, "Sorry, I'll do my own stuff on my own." I had no money. Just a Rucksack and a hammer. And I started these assemblages. That was in 1921, But in all books on assemblages these things are not mentioned. They are here quite big in a big book.

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In 1963, he published Interaction of Color which presented his theory that colors were governed by an internal and deceptive logic. The very rare first edition has a limited printing of only 2,000 copies and contained 150 silk screen plates. This work has been republished since and is now even available as a cell phone app. Also during this time, he created the abstract album covers of band leader Enoch Light's Command LP records. His album cover for Terry Snyder and the All Stars 1959 album, Persuasive Percussion, shows a tightly packed grid or lattice of small black disks from which a few wander up and out as if stray molecules of some light gas. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973. Albers continued to paint and write, staying in New Haven with his wife, textile artist, Anni Albers, until his death in 1976.

JOSEF ALBERS: Yes, it's what it is. Now there you see quite a number of these things (Turning over pages in a book). Here you see a matte gray. That is of course not in the glass because it's black, the gray is only frosted black. Where the gloss is taken away it becomes gray. You see here grays between the white and the black that is just the result of soft treatment, not as a thorough treatment of sandblasting when you go really fast then it eats away the black and produces real whites. But the grays are just softly, softly dulled down.

JOSEF ALBERS: I think it's true, as many say, I have dealt for many years with the problems that Op art, so-called, is dealing with. For many years I have studied the logic and magic of color. And so I know what's involved when it comes to the interaction of colors, more than many who refuse to study it. But I found a way to study it, I think, that's all. And besides I refuse to be the father of a new bandwagon

JOSEF ALBERS: That question is so big that there is no end. You see, they have just you cannot participate with it if you have not lubricated your eyes very thoroughly to see the little changes produced in our eye that has another action than any optical apparatus like photography. We must know that we have two ways of seeing. For instance, when-we are indoors another part of the retina is engaged compared with when we are outdoors. If we are in warm light or cool light, in higher light or lower light. Our eye is such a wonderful machine we cannot conceive that greatness that this little retina of our eye which is less than a square inch big has 157 million little particles, as an English scientist found out; and that they are working in different conditions differently. And recently, to learn that the only part of the human organism which has no blood pressure, blood increase and decrease, is the eye. Because the eye has no pulse. It would disturb the finesse of perception, it's amazing, so incredibly a great wonder, that we just have to shut up!

Albers's most profound impact on the history and practice of modern art was his transformation of art education and pedagogy, which he believed was the key to developing a future audience for art. Central to this pedagogy was a non-dogmatic, un-hierarchical, "scientific" approach based on observation and experimentation. As a teacher his stated goal was to "open the eyes," of students by disrupting ingrained habits of perception and considering forms apart from their conventional associations, reduced to their basic characteristics (line, shape, material, color). His strategies of "defamiliarization," such as drawing with the non-dominant hand, mirror writing, exploring optical illusions, and representing "negative" spaces, sharpened visual observation, precision, and awareness and are now an accepted part of the academic training of visual artists.

JOSEF ALBERS: You have to fulfill all the demands and obey. I liked very much to teach drawing. But I had to teach gymnastics, too, and everything. When we were in the seminary we got a stipend direct from the government and for that stipend we had an obligation to stick to our teaching job for five years. So in those five years I collected a little money so that after I could afford to go to Berlin and study.

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After leaving Yale University in 1958, Albers continued to teach, giving guest lectures at colleges and universities throughout the country. An exhibition of Homage to the Square, organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, traveled from 1965 to 1967 to parts of South America, Mexico, and the United States. In 1971 Albers was the first living artist to be honored with a solo retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

While teaching at Black Mountain College, Albers continued to develop his aesthetic theories through his art practice. He began the Variant/Adobe series (ca. 1947), which systematically explored the range of visual effects made possible by subtle variations in color, shape, and positioning. He also mounted more than 20 solo shows in various media in American galleries, including glass work from the Bauhaus period, as well as graphic art, drawings, and oil paintings.In 1949 Albers left Black Mountain College to serve as the chairman of the Design Department at Yale University from 1950 to 1958 where he taught Richard Anuszkiewicz and Eva Hesse. While lecturing at Yale, Albers began his most famous body of work, the series Homage to the Square, an exercise on the optical effects of color within the confines of a uniform square shape.After retiring from Yale in 1958 at the age of 70, his former teacher and colleague Walter Gropius invited Albers to design a mural for the interior of the new Graduate Center at Harvard University. This led to other important mural commissions, including Two Portals at the Time and Life Building and Manhattan at the Pan Am Building, both in New York.In addition to painting, printmaking, murals, and architectural commissions, Albers published poetry, articles, and books on art theory. His best-known book, Interaction of Color, was and is still a widely used text in art education and has recently been reissued by Yale University.Late Years and Death After leaving Yale University in 1958, Albers continued to teach, giving guest lectures at colleges and universities throughout the country. An exhibition of Homage to the Square, organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, traveled from 1965 to 1967 to parts of South America, Mexico, and the United States. In 1971 Albers was the first living artist to be honored with a solo retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.Albers lived and worked in New Haven, Connecticut, alongside his wife and fellow artist, Anni Albers, until his death on March 25, 1976.

The executive director of the foundation is Nicholas Fox Weber. Later the foundation was instrumental in having four fakes from Italy, represented as the work of Albers and on sale in auction houses and galleries in France and Germany, seized by the police.

In 1949 Albers left Black Mountain College to serve as the chairman of the Design Department at Yale University from 1950 to 1958 where he taught Richard Anuszkiewicz and Eva Hesse. While lecturing at Yale, Albers began his most famous body of work, the series Homage to the Square, an exercise on the optical effects of color within the confines of a uniform square shape.

JOSEF ALBERS: Ah, we are victims of prejudices and preferences. And there is my book. When somebody says "When you take these two colors they will have that effect," I will tell him, or somebody else, he has no idea. Color is fooling us all the time. All the time, like women do, you see, life is interesting.

JOSEF ALBERS: Well, you see, that question will come up this month. Somebody who is writing a book on the creative process wants to see me. At first I said I was not inclined to have that meeting. And then I said, "Let's have him." Not that I have an answer to what the creative process is. I'm not a psychologist. I couldn't say it. But I'm interested not in clarification, what it is, with the result of a definition.

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JOSEF ALBERS: Well, you see, tradition in art, when you ask me that then I have to quote again myself because I have printed it several times, "Tradition in art is to create, not to revive." You see, that was the good thing there where I was a late student, namely at the Bauhaus. We had masters like Klee and Kandinsky and Schlemmer - I consider these the most important ones - they were the kind of masters who had studied first themselves; instead of looking at their teachers and continuing their work. No. As son and father are opponents in their attitude and in their aims - what is today very obvious - so it is in learning. We had good masters because they did not repeat what others told them to do but they had developed themselves first. And recognizing that was for me an important experience. I must say once more - I think I've said it before - that I did not study with Klee or Kandinsky. I never took their courses, though we were colleagues and good neighbors and good friends. I did not study with them. And I respect them particularly for their attitude of not trying to make disciples. And with this I say some criticism against art history. Which is dominated by a backward-looking attitude. And in my opinion it's really not right that historians should direct art schools or art museums. It is good to remember that this whole business only dates from the 19th century in which retrospection was more or less invented, and with that museums came up. And therefore today there is a great opposition against over-estimating what is old, It is the same, wrongness as to over-estimate the hand-made compared with the machine-made. But from this we are already cured today more or less.

JOSEF ALBERS: He has traced them on tracing paper and then has transferred the tracings on new canvases, precisely the same shape. Every flower and leaf form is repeated precisely. This mad man undertook a method to save time and traced and transferred it on another canvas again and again, and filled out the contours with other colors. So we have multiplied sunflowers - I have photographed them, I have slides on it that prove that he made the same contour of sunflowers in other colors. We have two l'Arlesiennes. Why two? Because he was not satisfied with the first one. He said there is another possibility, you see. And that is what Picasso has said this way, I quote now, "When we are honest we have to admit that we never get what we want." So I am excused when I make now several hundred squares. Yes? Or when you go downstairs and see - I am now in my red period. I was for years in the yellow period, you know. But now I am with the reds, it was hard for me to get into the reds. Very hard, how I am tickled to death to make more reds. Which one is the best I don't know. But this is to show why I am promoting serial image. Because like Cezanne has demonstrated it, like Picasso has said it, "We don't get what we want." And therefore we continue, and therefore my saying is, "A painter paints because he has no time not to paint." And I am a teacher because I teach all the time - now you are my victim - I teach and I have no time not to teach. And I'm a little bit disturbed when I have to play retrospective, as I did before. You see that I've changed my viewpoint.

…University by German American painter Josef Albers, then chairman of that university’s art department, and she graduated from Yale with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1952. At Yale Flack was influenced by her mentor’s Abstract Expressionist style, which can be seen in her early work. Thereafter she returned…

With the closure of the Bauhaus under Nazi pressure in 1933 the artists dispersed, most leaving the country. Albers emigrated to the United States. The architect Philip Johnson, then a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, arranged for Albers to be offered a job as head of a new art school, Black Mountain College, in North Carolina. In November 1933, he joined the faculty of the college where he was the head of the painting program until 1949.

JOSEF ALBERS: There was a gallery director there. She took my hand, "Albers, come." I said, "Okay." She led me to the aisle on the side and when we got around we went the other way. I said, "For what reason are you showing me that? I knew that long before you because I am so many years older than you. That's the only reason." I said, "Now come with me." I took her hand. And I had in that exhibition a little chapel of my own, you know, the Albers Chapel it was called. In that exhibition there were exclusively 4 or 5 or 6 of my paintings and 2 of these were hanging at the entrance. And I said, "Now come stay here. Don't move. Don't move that way and don't move that way. But you will see that here you look upwards and here you look downwards. Here you look to the right and there you look to the left. You see, you don't need to be led by the hand to have that experience. You can stand in one point and I move you inside, period" You see, I don't need physical movement because I can move you psychologically. You see here that way again. You see here that way. You see here underneath. You see here above. And have not to move a bit.

JOSEF ALBERS: I'll get it right away. You see, I have in my teaching - I always say I've done it for a hundred years and have had thousands of students - I have always spoken against just falling onto your knees for so-called accidents, I mean a result you are not responsible for. I have received a question I have expected, "Don't you deal with accidents?" Yes, I deal with accidents, just as Arp admits it all the time. And I admit it, too. But I like to have them under my command and not sign them because they are accidents. If it remains only accident then sign it "accident" or "fate" or "the Lord", whatever you prefer. It's not you because you have not visioned it. You see visual formulation deals with vision, visual information and visual reaction. So I speak differently from all those who deliver themselves to uncontrolled accidents. The gyre accidental the more it is self-expression. It's a joke. Just a joke.

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