This work will be included in the forthcoming Josef Albers Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by The Anni and Josef Albers Foundation.
'For me, abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. I'll go further and say that abstraction is nearer my heart. I prefer to see with closed eyes.'
(Josef Albers quoted in: Arts/Canada, Vol. 23, 1966, p. 46)
Josef Albers' interest in making series of colour or tonal variations using a standardized abstract composition began in 1932-1935 with his Treble Clefs and culminated with his series Homage to the Square as a systematic exploration of colour. This series would become a body of more than a thousand works executed over a twenty-five year period, including paintings, drawing, prints and tapestries.
The Homage to the Square works are variations on the basic compositional scheme of three or four squares set inside each other, with the squares slightly gravitating towards the bottom edge. This geometric abstraction was Albers' template for exploring the subjective experience of colour and the illusion of flat planes of colour advancing or receding in space.
The colour composition for Study for Homage to the Square: Dark Plays Lighter is comprised of an inner square of grey and three enveloping squares in varying tones of yellow. The grey square, the palest of the four, seems to float against its more vivid background. This arrangement draws the viewer's eye outwards from the centre of the composition.
What may at first appear to be a very narrow conceptual framework reveals itself as one of extraordinary perceptual complexity: 'They all are of different palettes, and, therefore, so to speak, of different climates. Choice of the colours used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction - influencing and changing each other forth and back. Thus, character and feeling alter from painting to painting without any additional "hand writing" or, so-called, texture. Though the underlying symmetrical and quasi-concentric order of squares remains the same in all paintings - in proportion and placement - these same squares group or single themselves, connect and separate in many different ways' (artist quote from: 'On my Homage to the square', Josef Albers, in, Homage to the square. Josef Albers, MOMA, New York 1964, unpaged).