Josef Albers (1888-1976)
Josef Albers (1888-1976)

Homage to the Square: Distant Alarm

Josef Albers (1888-1976)
Homage to the Square: Distant Alarm
signed with monogram 'A66' (lower right); signed again, titled and dated 'Homage to the Square: "Distant Alarm" Albers 1966' (on the reverse)
oil on masonite
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1966.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Galerie Agnés Lefort, Montreal
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1967
Sale room notice
Please note that this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

Josef Albers' Homage to the Square: Distant Alarm displays a mastery of both color and form. This series was the culmination and focus of his late career and methodically examines the way in which the viewer perceives and experiences color. Here, the artist presents rich layers of crimson, undulating over the surface of the painting. Such applications of color call into question the mechanics of our own optics. How might a red appear more vibrant when paired with another shade of red? How might one tone appear more vibrant or dull when laid down adjacent to another tone? In Albers' own words, "Seeing several of these paintings next to each other makes it obvious that each painting is an instrumentation in its own. This means that they are all of different palettes, and, therefore, so to speak, of different climates. Choice of the colors used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction - influencing and changing each other forth and back." (J. Albers "On My Homage to the Square", in Josef Albers, exh. cat., The Mayor Gallery, London, 1989, p. 31)

Albers came to develop four templates for his studies, each based on square forms in units of ten. The present lot illustrates an example with three colors; three squares placed in a precise formation that the artists felt gave weight and movement to his paintings in such a way that the viewer experiences a "static fixation" when standing before an Homage to the Square. While the forms and arrangements remain the same in this series, Albers' paintings bring to life the connections between the squares, "In consequence, they move forth and back, in and out, and grow up and down and near and far, as well as, enlarged and diminished. All this, to proclaim color autonomy as a means of plastic organization" (Ibid, p. 31.).

Albers' works also lend themselves to a spiritual nature, as explained by Wieland Schmied, "Josef Albers went an empirical and more rational way. He doesn't appeal to those areas of feeling of our consciousness that we declare to be the realm of the soul. Hans Arp said about Josef Albers' paintings: 'They contain simple, great statements such as: I'm standing here. I'm resting here. I'm in the world and on earth. I'm in no hurry to move on. While Mark Rothko sought transcendence, Albers looked for fulfillment here on earth. Mark Rothko approached the ethereal through art. Josef Albers realized 'the spiritual in art'" (W. Schmied, "Fifteen Notes on Josef Albers" trans. by B. Barrett and Claudia Deniers in ibid., p. 9-10.)

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