JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)

Homage to the Square: Michoacan

JOSEF ALBERS (1888-1976)
Homage to the Square: Michoacan
signed with the artist's initial and dated 'A 59' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'Homage to the Square: "Michoacan" Albers 1959' (on the reverse)
oil on masonite
30 x 30in. (76.2 x 76.2cm.)
Painted in 1959
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
PaceWildenstein, New York.
Austin / Desmond Fine Art, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Los Angeles, Ferus Gallery, Paintings by Josef Albers, 1962.
Columbia, Columbia Museum of Art, Ascendancy of American Painting, 1963.
Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Icon Ideas, 1969.
Miami, Arevalo Gallery, From Absolute to Minimal: Avant-Garde Movements of Latin American Modernism, 2010.

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Post lot text
This work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Josef Albers currently being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation under number JAAF 1959.1.10.

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Lot Essay

Concentric squares of opulent colour fold onto one another in Josef Albers’s Homage to the Square: Michoacan (1959). At the centre, a vibrant emerald gives way to a forest green which is in turn surrounded by a golden orange and then a halo of burnt sienna. Albers’ jewel tones pulse with an intoxicating intensity. The work forms part of Albers’s iconic Homage to the Square series, a chromatic exploration which the artist had begun in 1950 and would continue to until his death over two decades later. Employing the deceptively straightforward composition of three or four embedded squares, Albers created hundreds of variations in an array of dizzying, luminous colour. For Albers, the interest resided in the interplay between colours, and his painterly juxtapositions reveal a chromatic volatility; for colour to remain stable, its context must be fixed. As the artist himself explained, ‘When you really understand that each colour is changed by a changed environment, you eventually find that you have learned about life as well as about colour’ (J. Albers, Josef Albers: The American Years, Washington 1965, p. 28).

Although the Homages to the Square represent a prolonged investigation into the properties of colour, the present work is also a personal tribute to the Albers’ many journeys throughout Mexico; the title of the painting refers to the coastal state located in the southwest of the country. Fascinated by pre-Columbian sculptures and ceramics, Albers and his wife Anni first travelled to Mexico in 1935, and by the 1960s, they had returned more than thirteen times. In the stepped structures of such archaeological sites as Monte Albán, Mitla and Uxmal, Albers found himself drawn to the ‘spaces between the pyramids’ where the play of light produced new architectural forms (J. Albers, quoted in R. Smith, ‘Homage to Mexico: Josef Albers and His Reality-Based Abstractions’, New York Times, 14 December 2017). This spatial fluctuation would form the foundation of his Homages to the Square. Indeed, the geometric dignity of Homage to the Square: Michoacan evokes the grandeur of these ancient temples and like its forebears, Albers’ work emanates a serene yet enduring strength.

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