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From 1949 onward, Josef Albers had embarked on a truly remarkable mission for an abstract painter by producing the inimitable series Homage to the Square. With discipline and an uncompromising outlook, Albers had radically defined and in a way, purified, abstract painting. Homage to the Square consists of variations on a uniform idea and method, the format being the paint applied straight from the tube to a white ground of one of four differently sized canvases. Concentric squares is the sole compositional element.
In the 1920s at the revolutionary art school, the Bauhaus, Albers was an instructor of a basic design course which stressed the analysis of materials and form. He developed his theory based on the subordination of form to the properties and perception of materials. In Homage to the Square, chromatic relationships of the adjacent squares affect the way the eye perceives two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. In Homage to the Square: From Afar, the autumnal colors of the squares, from the outer edge to inner (red/brown, gray, teal blue, brighter blue), shift from warm to cool tones. Because the cool tones are clustered in the center, the area recedes while the outer edge pulls forward. Therefore, the overall effect of the painting is that one of visual pulsation, the perfect illustration of the optical play between two and three dimensions.
Fig. 1 Albers in his studio