Madrid’s Fundación Juan March presents Josef Albers: Minimal Media, Maximum Effect until July 6, 2014. This is the first retrospective on the German-born American artist, Josef Albers, who was instrumental in the “continuation of geometrical abstraction” in response to Abstract Expressionism.
According to Fundación Juan March, the retrospective is not a “simple chronological journey through the artist’s work because Josef Albers’ art as a whole is the result of “true economy of form” overall.
The retrospective also studies the artistic process, theoretical and practical, of Albers. It delves into his life as a Bauhaus student and instructor in Germany, North Carolina and Connecticut. With Josef Albers’ strong art education background, the exhibit also focuses on his Bauhaus and Yale students and their work utilizing the artist’s theory on Interaction of Color.
More than 100 works and other items such as photographs, furniture, and documentary material are on display. The writings of Josef Albers are also surveyed through translated texts, poems, his views on the economy “regulating artistic creation” and testimonies from scholars, historians, essayists and other writers. It also looks at Albers’ theoretical reflections on life, meaning of existence, teaching and the practice of art.
Josef Albers was one of the leading pioneers of Modernism. His comprehensive theoretical and applied studies of the structure of color perception were central to the progress not only of “hard-edge painting,” but also as an art of optical perception. He devoted a lifetime surveying methods to deceive the eye through “perspectival ambiguities” and our insensitivity to separate tone, hue, and color value.
First as a student, and then in 1925, as an art instructor at the Bauhaus School of Art, Albers fostered his skills, and began creating glass assemblages from debris and stained glass. From there, his artistic exploration moved on to sandblasted glass constructions and designing large stained-glass windows for buildings and houses. In addition, he also designed furniture, household objects and an alphabet.
At the end of the 1920s, he produced photographs and photo-collages that detailed Bauhaus life. However, by 1933, the Nazis had compelled Bauhaus to shut down or obey their rules and regulations. Josef Albers was one of the instructors that decided the school should close.
He immigrated to the United States, first to North Carolina, and then to Connecticut where he taught at Yale University. With his exodus, Albers conveyed his Bauhaus and personal artistic philosophy to a new generation of artists. He published the influential dissertation, Interaction of Color, a color theory analysis that was extensively used in art education.
In 1950, Josef Albers began his Homage to the Square series, which would exceed 1,000 works carried out over 25 years. These artworks included drawings, paintings, prints and tapestries based on a mathematically controlled configuration of several squares that seemingly nested within one another. These geometric concepts became Albers’ model for studying the subjective experience of color such as the outcome that adjacent colors have on one another.
The Fundación Juan March retrospective surveys Josef Albers’ artwork, his aesthetic values and 20th century modern and contemporary art as a whole. The museum explores how the perceptual experience is described in Albers’ words “as a process of economy of form,” or more reasonably as an “economization of forms.” His theory is characterized by imposing particular aesthetic and conscious limitations on art as to what is important and what is not.
Josef Albers once said that one of his life and art objectives was to achieve the “maximum effect” through the minimum means” – a calculation between effect and effort that was sought in all works, from painting and photography to furniture design and typography.
By: Dawn Levesque