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  • Provenance

    PaceWildenstein, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 1961, the present lot is a prime example of Josef Albers’ most famous body of work, the Homage to the Square series. He first began working on the basic scheme of nested concentric squares, each hovering above the bottom edge of the last, in 1950 – and it was an endeavour he would pursue until his death 26 years later. Producing hundreds of variations of this arrangement, Albers used the conceptual bounds of the humble square to explore a personal geometry of great sophistication. The squares within each painting related mathematically to one another, and Albers carefully planned his palette to juxtapose shades which reacted interestingly with each other, cleverly exploiting to the way the human eye processes colours which echo or oppose each another.
    In direct contrast to the Abstract Expressionists of his generation, Albers executed these paintings with a deliberate, precise technique, employing a minimum of tools and avoiding any sort of painterly chaos. Instead, he would apply a single base coat on masonite, upon which he squeezed unmixed paints directly from the tubes, spreading each square as evenly and thinly as possible with a palette knife. The earlier Homages are chromatically playful, boldly eschewing academic colour theories, while later examples become more subtle in their colour schemes.
    But whatever their aspect, the Homages should not be viewed as a inward-looking exercises in mere formalism; rather, each one induces a powerful and individual charge of visceral visual pleasure, no matter how long one gazes at it. For Albers, in the true spirit of the Bauhaus, created these works with a high moral purpose: he believed that if he could heighten a viewer’s perception, then that person would gain a greater awareness of the whole world.

  • 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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16

Homage to the Square

1963
Oil on masonite.
40 x 40 cm. (15 3/4 x 15 3/4 in).
Signed with monogram and dated 'A 63' lower right.

Estimate
£80,000 - 120,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

29 June 2010
London