Josef Albers: Biconjugates, Kinetics, and Variants, Waddington Custot Galleries, London, United Kingdom

Josef Albers, Variant / Adobe: “Gray Facade,” 1947-54
Oil on masonite
22 x 26 inches

November 2 – December 6, 2011

Waddington Custot Galleries, in collaboration with The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, are pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by Josef Albers, dating from 1931 to 1958. The exhibition includes early monochrome paintings from his Biconjugates and Kinetics series, as well as Variants, dating from the late 40s to 50s. Within these differing compositions, Albers experimented with form, line and colour to explore visual perception.

Steps (1931–1956), the earliest work in the exhibition, made after one of Albers’s glass pieces, has two stair-like constructions in black, white and grey; a larger one in the right foreground and a smaller version in the upper left, which “float” on a black background. Following the “steps”, up and down, in this ambiguous space, the folded forms appear to flip forwards and backwards, sometimes creating the illusion of motion. In Vice Versa (C) (1943), a biconjugate, Albers introduced a landscape format; geometric, interlocking, angular shapes appear to mirror each other on a horizontal plane.

Albers began his Variants series in 1947, the year he spent a sabbatical in Mexico. Also known as Adobes, the Variants derive their basic geometric composition, of multiple, interlocking and apparently overlapping rectangles, from the simple facades of the traditional Adobe houses, with their two windows set either side of the doorway. As well as monochrome paintings in this new format, in the Variant series, Albers used vibrant colour shapes which allowed him to closely examine colour relationships.

Born in 1888 in Bottrop, Germany, Josef Albers trained as a teacher, later moving into art education before studying art at the Kunstgewerbeschule, Essen, where he worked in stained glass and print-making. In 1920, Albers enrolled in the preliminary course at the Bauhaus, which had opened the previous year in Weimar. Within two years he was running the glass workshop and, in 1923, he set up the preliminary course in material and design, later taking charge of this course and rising to the position of assistant director to Mies van der Rohe in 1930. When the Bauhaus was closed down by the Gestapo in 1933, Albers, then aged forty-five, left Germany for the United States to initially take up a teaching post at the newly-formed Black Mountain College in North Carolina, moving to Yale University in 1950. Albers retired as Chairman of Yale University Art School in 1958 but retained his post as Visiting Professor until 1960. In 1959, he was awarded the Ford Foundation fellowship. Interaction of Color, his seminal account of over thirty years of his colour theory teaching, was published by Yale University Press in 1963. In 1971, Albers was the first living artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Josef Albers died on 25 March 1976 in Orange, Connecticut.

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