Albers / Albums

Josef Albers, Provocative Percussion (Volume 3), 1961
Provocative Percussion (Volume 3) 1961
Enoch Light and The Light Brigade
Command Records (RS 821 SD)
© 1961 Grand Award Record Co., Inc., New York, NY
© 2009 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation /
Artists Rights Society, New York

December 12, 2009 
- January 30, 2010

MINUS SPACE is delighted to announce a new exhibition of seven album covers designed by Josef Albers (1888-1976) for Command Records between 1959-1961. The exhibition will also include additional Command Records album covers designed by other artists, such as Charles E. Murphy, Barbara Brown Peters, and Gerry Olin, as well as photographic reproductions of materials from The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation’s archives.

About Command Records
This is the most unusual record you have ever put on your turntable. It is a unique mixture of entertainment, excitement, beauty and practicality.” — Persuasive Percussion (1959) liner notes

Command Records was founded in 1959 by Enoch Light (1905-1978), a classical violinist, bandleader, and sound recording engineer. Light went to extraordinary technical lengths, and often great expense, to create recordings of the absolute highest quality possible that took full advantage of new technical capabilities of home audio equipment in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Light specifically perfected stereo effects that bounced sounds between the right and left channel speakers, which was called a “ping-pong effect”.

On each album sleeve, Light would include lengthy technical descriptions about each song, the musicians, the depth and breadth of the sounds, and how they were recorded. In order to fit his descriptions, he doubled the size of a standard album sleeve and enabled it to fold open like a book, thereby inventing the gatefold-packaging format. The gatefold sleeve became highly popular in following decades.

Light’s first Command Records LP, Persuasive Percussion, which featured an Albers cover, was a highly successful popular hit. The album was listed as one of the 25 best-selling albums of the modern era by Joel Whitburn. For further information about Light, please see the Enoch Light web site (

Josef Albers’ Designs
Command Records was distinguished by its highly modern, boldly graphic, abstract album cover designs. Charles E. Murphy was the label’s art director and he worked closely with a number of artists, including Albers, Barbara Brown Peters, and Gerry Olin, on designs for the label. Enoch Light’s daughter, Julie Light, first made the connection to Albers -– she studied with him at Black Mountain College.

Albers’ designs for Command Records in 1959-1961 came at a pivotal and highly-productive point in his professional career. In 1958, at age 70, he had just retired from his position as chairman of the Department of Design at Yale University. In the short period between 1959-1961, he completed many, large-scale public commissions, including for the Corning Glass and Time & Life Buildings in New York City; the Manuscript Society Building in New Haven, CT; and St. Patrick’s Church in Oklahoma City, OK. Several years later, in 1963, he published his seminal book Interaction of Color.

By 1959, Albers had been working on his Homage to the Square series for nearly a decade. He would continue to work on this series until his death in 1976. His designs for the Command Records, however, were a bit of a stylistic anomaly for him. Although references to music do appear in his work 25 years earlier, in works such as Keyboard (1932) and his Treble Clef series (1932-1935), his designs for Command Records prominently featured new formal elements for the first time, specifically circles and grids of circles. There are only two other instances of Albers using circles in his work: first, in the Christmas/New Year’s greeting cards he designed for his personal use (1952, 1957); and second, the sand-blasted glass door panels he designed for the Todd Theater in Chicago (1957).

Albers designed the following seven album covers for Command Records:

* Provocative Percussion (Volume 1), 1959
* Provocative Percussion (Volume 2), 1960
* Provocative Percussion (Volume 3), 1961
* Persuasive Percussion (Volume 1), 1959
* Persuasive Percussion (Volume 3), 1960
* Pictures at an Exhibition, Mussorgsky – Ravel, 1961
* Leonid Hambro and Jascha Zayde, Magnificent Two-Piano Performances, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert, 1961

About Josef Albers
Josef Albers (1888-1976) was an influential artist, teacher, and writer. He is widely known for his painting series Homage to the Square (1950-1976), his innovative publication about color theory Interaction of Color (1963), and the legacy of his teaching at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale University.

Interestingly, a short biography about Albers was included on many of the Command Records albums he designed. It read: “JOSEPH ALBERS is one of America’s foremost contemporary painters, was born in Westphalia, Germany in 1888. After studying in Berlin, Essen and Munich he taught at the famous Bauhaus school from 1923-1933. When the Bauhaus was closed by order of the German government in 1933 Mr. Albers came to the United States to head the Art Department at Black Mountain College where he remained until 1950. After leaving Black Mountain, Mr. Albers took over the direction of the Department of Design at Yale University. At the present time, Mr. Albers lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut.

For further information about Josef Albers, please see The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation’s web site (

Albers’ Record Jackets: Doing an Artful Job, by Joseph Masheck (The Brooklyn Rail, December 2009/January 2010)
Josef Albers Cover Art (Generation Next blog, January 18, 2010)
Josef Albers for Command Records (The Silver Lining blog, February 4, 2010)
Josef Albers Album Covers (AisleOne blog, February 4, 2010)
Josef Albers (Crew Design blog, February 5, 2010)
Josef Albers Album Covers (Bridging the Gap blog, February 6, 2010)
Tangents: Gordon’s Psycho, Gordon’s Miami, Albers’s Covers (Disquiet blog, February 12, 2010)
MINUS SPACE: Josef Albers (Workpath blog, February 12, 2010)

We greatly thank the wonderful staff at The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation, especially Nicholas Fox Weber, Brenda Danilowitz, Oliver Barker, and Andres Garces, for their tremendous support of this exhibition. We would also like to thank artists Mark Dagley and Gilbert Hsiao for their assistance.

MINUS SPACE’s programming is made possible by the generous support of The Golden Rule Foundation, as well as individual donors. We thank you!