Werk-Detailseite (Ajax)

Josef Albers

Hommage to the Square


Box with ten screenprints on cardboard
Dimensions: 55 x 55 cm each
Signature, inscriptions, markings: each signed and dated at lower right, numbered at lower left
Copy Number: 113/125
Printer: Herbert Geier, Ingolstadt
Publisher: Eugen Gomringer
Editor: Jospeh Keller, Starnberg
Text: Joseph Albers
Accession Number: 1000283.1-10


{LANG:Josef Albers':de} paintings are simply structured, follow a strict system and are easily reproducible. Creating a unique work of art was not his goal. His goal was higher and has less to do with a work of art than with us. The pictorial structure of his homages to the square - there are more than 1000 versions - is based on three, sometimes four squares lying one inside the other on a central axis, each with equal distance to the sides, only slightly offset downwards, which gives the picture solidity and depth of perspective. The square, a geometric, artificial form that occurs in nature only in salt crystals, serves Albers only as a means of allowing the main subject of the painting, the color, to take full effect.
"I do not paint squares but color relationships."¹ Color is the sole actor in his paintings. On prolonged viewing, the colors begin to interact, to interact and change. Boundaries blur, a homogeneous color seems to become lighter or darker at its edges, to step forward or back spatially, to shine through or to cover another color. Albers illustrates this visual effect with a simple practical example. If one dips one's left hand into cold water, the other into warm water and then both hands into lukewarm water, one will perceive this water with the right hand as cold, the left hand as warm. It is the same with color. Depending on its environment, a color can appear manifold in our perception. Albers distinguishes between the physical reality of a color ("factual fact"), in the example of water the fixed temperature, and the psychological effect ("actual fact") - the sensation of the temperature. In doing so, he notes that color is never seen as it actually is, just as it cannot be assumed that a color is perceived in the same way by everyone. Our perception is deceptive and depends on quite a few components. {LANG:Albers':de} goal was to open our eyes to this.

He wanted to "teach seeing", not only in his pedagogical function at the Bauhaus, but more generally, as he later explained in his book "Interaction of Color", published in 1963: "Whoever sees better, distinguishes more sharply, recognizes the relativity of facts and knows that there is never just one solution for visual formulations, will then probably also change his opinion of others, among other things. Among other things, he will become both more accurate and more tolerant."² In this way, he transfers the insights he has made visible through color experiments to other areas of life and wants to sensitize people to the perception of the world. Using simple artistic means, Albers reveals the reciprocal influence of facts and their change under the respective circumstances. Starting from the "behavior" of color, he transfers these observations in the broadest sense to people and their social relationships.
"In my opinion, color behaves like man - in two different ways: first in self-realization and then in the realization of relationships with others. In my paintings I have often tried to combine two polarities - independence and interdependence. (...) In other words, one must be able to be an individual and a member of society at the same time."³


Sarah Wittig



¹ Josef Abers, quoted after: Cat. of the exhib. Josef Albers. Works on Paper, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn 1998, p. 39.v
² Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, Cologne 1970, p. 13.
³ Josef Albers, quoted after: Cat. Albers 1998, p. 29.