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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Josef Albers

(1888 - 1976), Germany

Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator who remains one of the most influential abstract painters of the 20th century. As a student and later a professor at the Bauhaus in Weimar and later Dessau, Germany, he played a significant role in introducing the tenets of European Modernism to America when he fled Nazi Germany in 1933. His colour theories and paintings, which emphasised the role of colour over that of form, promote an approach to painting that is based on observation and experimentation.

Albers' three-decade teaching career began in 1922 when the Bauhaus hired him to work in the glass workshop. From 1923, he taught design in the institution's Preliminary course. By 1925, he was teaching alongside Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky as a professor, whilst he continued to work in glass as well as furniture design and typography. Upon his emigration to America in 1933—forced by Nazi hostility to the Bauhaus for its modernist tendencies, which they considered to be 'un-German'—Albers was appointed as head of the art department at Black Mountain College, in North Carolina, and stayed there until 1949. Although the new liberal arts college was to close prematurely in 1957, it was instrumental in exposing the minds of many young American artists, such as Ray Johnson, Kenneth Noland and Robert Rauschenberg, to the principles of Modernism and abstraction. While Albers continued the teachings of the Bauhaus at Black Mountain College, his colour theories were also influenced by his contemporaries there, including the philosopher John Dewey. From 1950 until his retirement in 1958, Albers was the chair of the Department of Design at Yale University.

As a painter, Albers is most remembered for his 'Homage to the Square' series, which he began in 1950 and worked on for 26 years. The paintings in this series are defined by a successive superimposition of squares upon one another, sometimes in varying shades of a single colour (Departing in Yellow, 1964) and sometimes in complementary colours (a painting in red and blue, titled Homage to the Square: Against Deep Blue, from 1955). Albers painted directly from the tube with a palette knife as a way of creating a 'pure' painting, free of brushstrokes. Through their abstracted forms and solid colours, his paintings contemplate human emotion and the light of different times of day and season. Albers was particularly interested in the nuanced chromatic or tonal juxtaposition of colours, once remarking that although midnight and noon cannot exist together in life, they can in a painting.

A prolific writer and a multidisciplinary artist during his lifetime, Albers published poetry, articles and art theories and worked in painting, printmaking, murals and architecture. He designed Two Portals (1961) at the Time and Life Building in New York, then Manhattan (1963) at the Pan Am Building in the same city. Both works reflect his exploration of the relationships between colours and adopt his signature rectangular motifs. Of his published writings, Interaction of Colour (1963) is arguably the most cited.

During his lifetime, Albers had solo exhibitions at numerous institutions, including the San Francisco Museum of Art (1940); The Germanic Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge (1936) and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover (1935). In 1955 and 1968, he participated in documenta 1 and 4 respectively, and in 1971 he was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Recent exhibitions include Josef Albers in Mexico, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017–2018), Josef Albers: Minimal Means, Maximum Effect, Fundación Juan March, Madrid (2014) and Painting on Paper: Josef Albers in America, Pinakothek der Modern, Munich (2010). The two exhibitions travelled to various cities in seven countries. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded in 1971, has also organised exhibitions and publications to preserve and promote the Albers' legacy.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Structural Constellation by Josef Albers contemporary artwork Josef AlbersStructural Constellation, c. 1950 Machine-engraved plastic laminate mounted on wood
17 x 22 1/2 inches
David Zwirner
Homage to the Square: Indirect Answer by Josef Albers contemporary artwork Josef AlbersHomage to the Square: Indirect Answer, 1963 Oil on Masonite
12 x 12 inches
David Zwirner
Interlinear N 65 by Josef Albers contemporary artwork Josef AlbersInterlinear N 65, 1962 Zinc plate lithograph, offset to stone for printing
22 x 30 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery
Transformation D by Josef Albers contemporary artwork Josef AlbersTransformation D, 1950 Engraving from machine-engraved brass plate on Corinthian Wove paper
12 x 15 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery
SP VII by Josef Albers contemporary artwork Josef AlbersSP VII, 1967 Screenprint on Schöllers Hammer Board
61.6 x 61.6 cm
Krakow Witkin Gallery
Variant: Pale Yellow Facade (JAAF 1959.1.70) by Josef Albers contemporary artwork Josef AlbersVariant: Pale Yellow Facade (JAAF 1959.1.70), 1959 Oil on masonite
71.1 x 102.6 cm
Waddington Custot

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, max bill. bauhaus constellations at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich
9 June–14 September 2019 Group Exhibition max bill. bauhaus constellations Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
Contemporary art exhibition, Josef Albers, Sonic Albers at David Zwirner, New York
8 January–16 February 2019 Josef Albers Sonic Albers David Zwirner, 20th Street, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A Luta Continua at Hauser & Wirth, New York
26 April–27 July 2018 Group Exhibition A Luta Continua Hauser & Wirth, 22nd Street, New York

Represented By

In Related Press

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The Colors of the Sixties Related Press The Colors of the Sixties Hyperallergic : 6 April 2019

The eighth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, as David Breslin, the Director of the Collection, sees it, is 'a place for surprises.'The elegant spaces of the museum's top floor, catching the light off the river through its skylights and glass walls, have felt enchanted ever since it opened in 2015 with the Early Modernist 'Forms...

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Albers opens eyes to Mexico Related Press Albers opens eyes to Mexico The New Criteron : 28 February 2018

It is possible that society has never been more poorly prepared than in the present cultural moment to appreciate an artist like Josef Albers (1888–1976). The German-American painter's deliberate, introspective, and contemplative art seems in many ways to be utterly incompatible with our overriding fascination with the big, the 'now,' the...

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Homage to Mexico: Josef Albers and His Reality-Based Abstraction Related Press Homage to Mexico: Josef Albers and His Reality-Based Abstraction The New York Times : 14 December 2017

Art rarely thrives in a vacuum. It is by definition polyglot and in flux, buffeted by the movement of art objects, goods and people across borders and among cultures, and also by individual passion. This much, especially the passion part, is demonstrated by "Josef Albers in Mexico," a quietly stunning exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum...

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Homage to Josef Albers: Writers Pay Tribute to a Pioneer of Minimalism Related Press Homage to Josef Albers: Writers Pay Tribute to a Pioneer of Minimalism Hyperallergic : 3 May 2017

In Josef Albers: Midnight and Noon, David Zwirner has put together a comprehensive book that looks both generally and specifically at Albers' seminal Homage to the Square series, by way of various writers, including Nicholas Fox Weber, Elaine de Kooning, and Colm Tóibín. The contributors discuss their relationships to both the series and the...

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In Related Video

A Luta Continua. The Sylvio Perlstein Collection Related Video & Audio A Luta Continua. The Sylvio Perlstein Collection Hauser & Wirth : 8 May 2018

Unfolding across all three floors of Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street, A Luta Continua is the first United States presentation of the Sylvio Perlstein Collection. Curated by David Rosenberg, the exhibition presents more than 360 works by some 250 artists. Among these are Josef Albers, Carl Andre, Diane Arbus, Hans Bellmer, André Breton,...


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