Josef Albers - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    Theodore V. Marsters, Litchfield
    New York, Christie's, Post-War and Contemporary Art, November 14, 2002, lot 125
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Literature

    This work is to be included in the forthcoming Catalogue raisonné of the Paintings of Josef Albers, 1914–1976 being prepared by the Anni and Josef Albers Foundation.

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Variant Five Greens and Blue, 1947-54, Joseph Albers empties abstraction of all but its essentials in order to meditate upon the experiential properties of color. He presents the spectator with a reductive, yet visually potent, composition of flat, interlocking rectangular planes. As the title indicates, this cool, geometric arrangement captures one blue hue amidst a spectrum of green tones. Known for using paints straight from the tube, Albers’ blue is a brilliantly saturated cobalt. Hunter, forest and emerald green occupy the rest of the canvas, with electric teal dominating the center. Despite its promise of simplicity, Albers’ work is
    infinitely mysterious. After sustained viewing, colors transform and pulsate, taking on new chromatic potency. Marine blue appears cooler when seen relative to various shades of green. Aqua green takes on a vivid, yellow warmth when set against a dark, emerald setting. Albers reflected, “What interests me most now is how colors change one another according to the proportions and quantities [I use]. I'm especially proud when [I can make] colors lose their identity and become unrecognizable.”(H. Liesbrock, Painting on Paper: Josef Albers in America, exh. cat., Ostfildern, 2011, pp. 32-33).

    In addition to exploring the properties and boundaries of color, Albers manipulates form. In the present lot, Albers shifts shapes minutely in order to avoid perfect symmetry. The work belongs to a group of oil paintings initiated in 1933 called the “Variant/Adobe” that concentrate on this volatility: “…On the whole, variants demonstrate, besides a sincere attitude, a healthy belief that there is no final solution in form; thus form demands unending performance and invites constant reconsideration--visually as well as verbally" (J. Albers, Interaction of Color, New Haven, 1963, p. 74). In every work belonging to this series, Albers presents a unique rearrangement of principle forms.

    The “Variant/Adobe” works take subtle inspiration from the adobe architecture Albers encountered during extensive travels to Mexico and Latin America in the 1930s and 1940s. Variant Five Greens and Blue, 1947-54 vaguely diagrams a low-slung house facade with windows or doors. By making this reference in a decidedly reduced language, Albers probes the relationship between representation and abstraction.Throughout his lifetime, Albers conducted formal experiments that would come to redefine visual perception in the modern era. Variant Five Greens and Blue, 1947-54 demonstrates the analytical mindset of Albers, a critical predecessor of minimalist, conceptual and op art.

  • Artist Biography

    Josef Albers

    German-American • 1888 - 1976

    Josef Albers was a German-American artist and educator, best known for his series Homage to the Square. His rigid, geometric works focus on the interplay of color and shape, and Albers is considered one of the fathers of both Minimalism and Conceptual Art. 

    Albers was born in Bottrop, Germany, and relocated to Munich in 1919 to study at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. Albers began his career as an educator at the famous Bauhaus in 1922, first as a stained glass instructor and then as a full professor in 1925. Working at the Bauhaus brought Albers into contact with many other famous artists of the period, including Kandinsky and Klee. When the Nazis forced the Bauhaus’ closure in 1933, Albers left Germany and settled permanently in the United States. 

    For ten years, Albers (and his wife, fellow artist Anni Albers) taught at Black Mountain College, a progressive school in North Carolina. Between his time there and later at Yale University, Albers taught a number of artists who would later become quite famous, including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Eva Hesse, Ruth Asawa and Richard Anuszkiewicz.

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5 Greens and Blue

oil on masonite
16 x 30 1/4 in. (40.6 x 76.8 cm)
Initialed and dated "A 47-54" lower right; further signed, titled and dated "5 Greens and Blue Albers 47-54" on the reverse.

$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $173,000

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Kate Bryan
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New York
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Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2014 11am