This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
“The pictures of Albers are not only a treat for the eye but they also convey meaning. They grow in profundity as they are looked at with eyes uncorrupted, and grasped penetratingly… Like nature they are a mirror. Each of his pictures has a heart.” -Jean Arp, 1957
(Jean Arp, 1957. Quoted in Joseph Albers: A Retrospective, Guggenheim exh. cat., New York, 1988, p. 8).
One of the most influential artists of his generation, Josef Albers’ ideas about color were highly influential during the post-war period. Albers began teaching at the Bauhaus, and after fleeing Germany, joined the faculty of Black Mountain College in North Carolina where he developed an influential course on color. Black Mountain’s experimental and interdisciplinary program attracted many of the period’s emerging talents, among them Kenneth Noland, Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain and Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg was so inspired by Albers that he acknowledged him as one of his most important teachers. Albers left Black Mountain in 1950 to head the Department of Design at Yale University, where he continued to hone his understanding of colors and their interaction. Importantly, his courses, and by implication his paintings, were never meant to be a prescriptive philosophy of color theory but rather “an ongoing inquiry in which solutions were not conclusions, but steps on an endless path” (J. Albers, “Color,” in G. Alviani, ed., Josef Albers, Milan, 1988, p. 105).
From 1949 until his death in 1976, Josef Albers created an expansive series of works entitled Homage to the Square which rigorously explore his fascination with the way colors appear when seen independently and how they interact when juxtaposed. 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 color and the illusion of flat planes of color advancing or receding in space.
In Study for Homage to the Square: “Light Walking” an inner square of warm earth tones rests within three concentric squares of yellows. The central, brown square, most intense of the four, appears to float above or on the surrounding, lighter rectangles. Albers placed these squares in a precise formation that he felt lent his paintings both a sense of weight and of motion. To wit, Albers’ understood this arrangement of color and form to produce what he termed “static fixation,” creating a pulsing sensation, drawing the viewer’s eye both outwards and inwards.