Morgan Library & Museum opens Josef Albers paintings on Paper exhibition

Morgan Library & Museum presents Josef Albers in America: Painting on Paper, on view from July 20 to October 14, 2012.

Josef Albers (1888–1976) is best known for his series of paintings Homage to the Square, in which he repeatedly explored color relationships within a similar format of concentric squares. Much less familiar, however, are the painted studies on paper that Albers made for his paintings. Expressively experimental, the works offer a revealing look at the artist’s investigation of form and color.

Josef Albers, Color Study for White Line Square, oil on blotting paper with gouache, pencil and varnish, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, inv. no. 1976.2.22.

The exhibition begins with studies for abstract geometric compositions from the late 1930s, when Albers—a onetime instructor at the Bauhaus— returned to painting after having devoted his recent years to working with glass. Albers’s studies for the Variant / Adobe series, from the 1940s, reveal the influence that his time in Mexico, and specifically the country’s pre-Columbian architecture, had upon his art. The majority of the exhibition—over fifty works—is devoted to the Homage to the Square series (1950–1976). These vibrant sketches—never exhibited in the artist’s lifetime and rarely seen after his death—provide important insight into Albers’s working method and, in contrast to the austerity and strict geometry of the finished paintings, are remarkable for their freedom and sensuality.

Born in Bottrop, Germany in 1888, Albers came from a family of craftsmen, and the virtues of craftsmanship—precision, discipline, and technical proficiency—were of central importance to his work. Whereas his paintings themselves took only a few hours to complete, Albers’s preparatory work entailed producing series upon series of meticulous studies.

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405

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