Posts Tagged ‘Josef Albers’

Exhibitions | Josef (& Anni) Albers’ Homage to Mexico

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Detail of stonework,
Mitla, c1937
Gelatin silver print.
The Josef and Anni
Albers Foundation



Josef Albers in Mexico
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
3 November 2017
> 18 February 2018



Study for Homage to
the Square: Consent, 1971
Oil on Masonite.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum, New York.
Gift, The Josef
Albers Foundation, Inc,
91.3895



Josef and Anni Albers liked to travel. Between 1927 and 1933 when the Bauhaus – where he was professor of art and design and she taught weaving – was officially closed and their move to the USA, the pair had visited Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Barcelona in Spain, Avignon, Biarritz, and Paris in France, and Geneva and Ascona in Switzerland. No sooner had they arrived in America than they took a trip to Cuba, before, in 1935, they packed their bags for the first of their eventual fourteen visits to Mexico and Latin America.

In truth the German-born duo had known far more about Central and South America than they did about the United States, having fallen in love with the pre-Columbian art they saw in the collections of German museums. Once Josef was established in a teaching post at the newly founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina, they took advantage of their first opportunity – he even learned to drive just so they could make the journey – to go to Mexico.

Untitled (Great Pyramid,
Tenayuca, Mexico), c1940
Gelatin silver print.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum, New York.
Gift, The Josef and
Anni Albers Foundation



Prismatic II, 1936
Oil on wood
composition panel.
The Josef and Anni
Albers Foundation



‘For the Albers, art and the visual had to be everywhere in your life, and in Mexico, art was everywhere,’ Josef & Anni Albers Foundation director Nicholas Fox Weber, who knew the couple, was quoted as saying in a fascinating article on the Artsy website in January of this year, ‘They felt that people there were living with visual flair, even if they were living in simple huts – the jewellery that women wore, the serapes, the blankets, the earthenware pottery. They just felt that it was the most natural thing in the world in Mexico to make the visual environment beautiful, which was the dream of the Bauhaus.’

Over the years, the couple amassed a collection of around 1,400 objects, some dating back as far as 1200 BC, including 16th century Aztec pottery as well as ancient and modern Mexican textiles.

In its forthcoming show the Guggenheim has chosen to focus exclusively on the influence Mexico exerted on Josef Albers’ (1888 > 1976) work.

Variant / Adobe,
Orange Front, 1948–58
Oil on Masonite.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Foundation, Gift,
The Josef and Anni Albers
Foundation in honour
of Philip Rylands for his
continued commitment
to the Peggy Guggenheim
Collection 97.4555



Untitled (Uxmal,
Mexico), c1940
Gelatin silver print.
Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum, New York,
Gift, The Josef and
Anni Albers Foundation



‘Mexico is truly the promised land of abstract art,’ Josef wrote to his former Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky. Although he never simply appropriated what he saw, the influence Josef derived from pre-Columbian art, objects and architecture is clear in the spirit in which he arranged the geometric shapes in his paintings and also in his photographs. The same can be said of Anni’s fabric and jewellery designs. The colours Josef saw while travelling around Latin America had a big impact on his palette too, just as they did on Anni’s.

Josef Albers in Mexico at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum will feature a selection of rarely seen early paintings from Albers’ Homage to the Square and Variant / Adobe series, as well as a selection of works on paper, photographs and photo-collages, many of which have not been on public display.

All images artwork and photographs by Josef Albers, © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York


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Exhibitions | Josef Albers’ Bauhaus Photocollages

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Untitled (Bullfight, San Sebastian), 1930/1932
Gelatin silver prints mounted on board



El Lissitzky, Dessau, 1930/1932
Gelatin silver prints mounted on board



One and One Is Four:
The Bauhaus Photocollages
of Josef Albers
Museum of Modern Art
NYC | USA
23 November 2016 > 2 April 2017



Anyone interested in the roots of modern graphic design will be aware of the ground-breaking work of Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer at the Bauhaus in the 1920s; the name of their fellow Bauhaus master, Josef Albers (American, born Germany 1888 > 1976, best-known for his signature Homage to the Square series, 1950 > 1976) wouldn’t come immediately to everyone’s mind. A new exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and a new book, however, while demonstrating Albers’ importance as a modernist photographer – an aspect of his work that remained largely hidden until after his death – more importantly, shows how Albers’ dynamic juxtaposing of images, assembled with the object of relating a story in immediate, visual terms, foreshadowed the photojournalistic layouts which would begin to appear in the mid-1930s in magazines such as the legendary and highly-influential VU.

Marli Heimann, All During an Hour, 1931/1932
Gelatin silver prints mounted on board



Paris, Eiffel Tower, 1929/1932
Gelatin silver prints mounted on board



Paul Klee, Dessau, 1929/1932
Gelatin silver prints mounted on board



One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers, a new installation featuring 16 photocollages, is on view at The Museum of Modern Art, while the book of the same title by Sarah Hermanson Meister, with 140 pages and 120 colour and duotone illustrations, is published by MoMA and by Thames & Hudson outside the US and Canada.

All images by Josef Albers, from the Museum of Modern Art collection, courtesy MoMA, © 2016 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo John Wronn


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Culture | From Bauhaus to Black Mountain

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Hazel Larsen Archer, Merce Cunningham dancing,
contact sheet, c1952-53
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Leap Before You Look:
Black Mountain College 1933-1957

The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | California | USA
21 February > 15 May 2016



Josef Albers, Tenayuca, 1943
Oil on fibreboard
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



Adolph Hitler did modernism a great service. Paradoxically, in trying to stamp out the movement’s philosophies, in particular by systematically harassing the Bauhaus, whose staff eventually decided to close the school rather than compromise with the Third Reich, he guaranteed the international dissemination of modernist teaching.

Some of the key Bauhaus figures passed through London, leaving a legacy of teaching ideas that would be a major influence on institutions such as the Royal College of Art in the postwar period. But sooner or later, the majority of them emigrated to the USA.

When former director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe arrived in Chicago in 1938, where he was appointed head of the architecture school at the Armour Institute of Technology (later, Illinois Institute of Technology/IIT), László Moholy-Nagy had already established the New Bauhaus there the previous year. Walter Gropius, would become a senior professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, while Marcel Breuer taught at Yale. In 1933, the year the Bauhaus had ceased operations, Josef Albers, speaking no English, had also begun teaching at Yale. However, via a recommendation from the Museum of Modern Art, he was soon hired as the first head of Black Mountain College, a new art school in the relative obscurity of Ashville, North Carolina.

Far less well-known internationally than the New Bauhaus – only scant references are made to it via any currently available UK sources – 10 years ago London’s Arnolfini gallery held an exhibition of a limited selection of the school’s works – the Tate website honours it with just 200 words  – by the 1940s, Black Mountain College became the ideal of experimental arts education in America.

Anni Albers and Alexander Reed, Neck Piece, 1940
Aluminium strainer, paper clips, and chain
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society New York.
Photo Tim Nighswander/Imaging 4 Art



Buckminster Fuller, Black Mountain College,
1948/1990, Nancy Newhall

Gelatin silver print
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
©1948, Nancy Newhall, ©2014 The Estate
of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall.
Permission to reproduce courtesy of
Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd, Santa Fe, NM



John Cage, Hazel Larsen Archer
Gelatin silver print
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Conceived by the – by all accounts – brilliant scholar John A Rice, BMC was a completely new type of college based on US philosopher John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. Dewey – reputedly the most significant educational thinker of his era in America – believed that human beings learn through a ‘hands on’ approach and that teachers and students must learn together. Bauhaus students and staff had lived and eaten side by side and embraced a modern lifestyle that included the whole person – body, mind and soul. In the 1919 Bauhaus manifesto Walter Gropius had announced that theatre, lectures, poetry, music, and costume parties, were all part of the programme. The parties promoted contact between the college and the public, an idea that Dewey also endorsed.

Josef Albers, despite his language difficulties, would quickly develop a system that successfully combined both Dewey’s and Bauhaus educational principles, and assemble a board of directors that included Albert Einstein. With great aplomb he put together a formidable and diverse faculty made up of, among others, his talented textile-designer wife Anni Albers, Walter Gropius, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, R Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, and Cy Twombly. Famous alumni would include Robert Rauschenberg, who would describe Albers as having influenced him to do ‘exactly the reverse’ of what he had previously been taught, and John Cage, who staged his first ‘happening’ at the school.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S 272), c1955
Copper and iron wire
Private Collection. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.
Photo Laurence Cuneo



Albers left in 1949. As a result of a shift in trends that saw students and faculty drawn towards the cities of San Francisco and New York, in 1953, BMC, having endured 10 years longer than the Bauhaus, closed. A powerhouse, modern educational establishment, the college’s revolutionary and influential methods and ideas would fundamentally change the way in which the visual arts were taught across America, and leave behind a lasting legacy.

Presenting a broad selection of paintings, sculpture, textiles and photography, and including over 250 objects by nearly 100 artists, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 at The Hammer Museum is the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the school.

All images courtesy The Hammer Museum


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Books | The Op-Art of the Invisible

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Singular Point


Poemotion 2
Takahiro Kurashima
Designed by Takahiro Kurashima
Lars Müller Publishers / 2013
64 pp / 30 images / hardback
170 x 230 mm / 6 3/4 x 9 ins
ISBN 978-3-03778-351-1
English text

Red Square


When this beautiful, finely-crafted little book arrived we thought ‘Yes, isn’t it nice,’ but we’ve been looking at op-art since Josef Albers started playing around with it at the Bauhaus, closely followed by Victor Vasarely. In the 1960s and 70s Bridget Riley’s mind-bending compositions made us woozy and weak at the knees. So what’s so special about these images?

Covers of Poemotion 1 and Poemotion 2


Had we seen Japanese advertising art director Takahiro Kurashima’s black and white bestselling Poemotion 1, prequal to the all colour Poemotion 2, we would immediately have realised that something was missing. As it happened, the all important sheet of etched black film – required to make the images interactive – that must be laid over the graphic abstract patterns to create the moiré effects that set them wildly spinning and vibrating, was accidently left out of the package.

Untitled

Penrose Triangle


For all its small proportions and lightness of touch, the concept of Poemotion 2 is based in philosophy. Kurashima quotes Galileo, who in 1623 wrote: ‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language. The letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.’ The design of the book is both minimal and warm, which makes it feel very much of the moment, but Kurashima was strongly influenced by Hans Knuckel and Jurg Nanni’s Seesaw (1994), also produced by Swiss masters of the modern book, Lars Müller Publishers, which he says taught him about the sense of invisibility.

All images © 2014 Takahiro Kurashima & Lars Müller Publishers


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Sculpture | Ruth Asawa: Line as Form

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions
Christie’s Private Sales
Rockefeller Center
New York City, USA
Exhibition 6th -31st May, 2013

Associated with the formulation of modernism, the concept of line as form is an ineffable paradox that was first explored at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and early 30s. Unlikely then, in 1947, for high-school graduate Ruth Asawa, to stumble upon a language that expressed the complex notion in the looped-wire baskets used for selling eggs in Mexico’s markets. But the promising and curious student, born in 1926 of Japanese immigrant parents, who had grown up during The Great Depression and began studying drawing and painting with professional Japanese artists in the internment camps, where she and her family were confined during World War II, had already travelled to Mexico two years earlier to study Spanish and Mexican Art, and by the time her return visit came around had come under the influence of former Bauhaus master Josef Albers and architect Buckminster Fuller, both teachers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she had enrolled. ‘The artist must discover the uniqueness and integrity of the material’, Albers had explained, and intrigued with the idea of experimenting with wire as a medium, Asawa began to loop and twist it in a similar fashion to the Mexican basket makers, producing 3D forms – essentially, drawings in space – made from a single continuous wire. ‘I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line,’ Asawa said, ‘making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent.’ Many of these sculptures were designed to be hung from the ceiling, and later Asawa hit upon the idea of creating transparent forms within the transparent forms, increasing the complexity and playfulness of her creations.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Asawa began exhibiting her work – in the meantime having been married and given birth to two of the six children she would have by 1959 – in solo and group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of Modern Art and at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time she had met and formed a life-long friendship with legendary photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883 -1976). Cunningham, famed for her images of flowers, nudes and industrial landscapes, sensitively captured the sublime lightness and fluidity of Asawa’s work in still life compositions. She produced many pictures of the artist working, as well portraits in which Asawa becomes an element inextricably enmeshed with the sculptural forms of her creations.

In the 1960s, Asawa received major commissions to make public art and in 1970, her work was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair. So well-established as an artist was she by the early 70s that her sculpture and paintings began being shown in a string of retrospectives at important US venues – San Francisco Museum of Art (1973), Fresno Art Center (1978 and 2001). Asawa is reprented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco. Virtually unknown in Europe, in New York, her work can be found in major collections including that of the Solomon R Guggenheim and Whitney Museum of American Art; Objects & Apparations is her first major solo show in the city in over 50 years. Forty-eight works, including sculpture and works on paper – for sale or for private loan – will be presented in a show that takes place in the elevated setting of the 20th floor of 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at Rockefeller Center. Christie’s will offer the sculpture Untitled, above, from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection at their May 15th Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

Imogen Cunningham photographs from top
Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1956
(Ruth Holding a Form-Within-Form, 1952)

Untitled
Hanging, six-lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form
Estimate $250-350,000 (£160-225,000)

Ruth Asawa 2, 1957

All photos: archive pictures ©Imogen Cunningham
Courtesy Christie’s New York

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Design | Christopher Farr’s Rug Editions

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Christopher Farr’s Editions:
Contemporary Rugs for Collectors
Somerset House, London, UK
May 2nd – 30 June, 2013

Christopher Farr’s collaborators are many, and they are as varied as the rugs the eponymously-named company produces. The current and ever-growing list includes some of the most famous and highly-respected names around in modern and contemporary British and international design, architecture and fine art, among them: Gillian AyresIlse Crawford, Gary Hume, Rifat Ozbek, John Pawson and Andrée Putman.

Farr, having studied fine art at The Slade, set up shop with Matthew Bourne as a business partner in 1988. Early success came via a collaboration with the Royal College of Art in 1991, which led to a further collaboration with Romeo Gigli, whose collection was launched at the Milan Furniture Fair in 1993, earning the pair’s rugs international acclaim. ‘Up to that point, Farr says, ‘new rugs were a dirty word. People laughed at us.’ No one laughed in 1997, when Farr and Bourne, with Gunta Stöltzl’s family’s blessing, produced rugs that the Bauhaus designer had designed in the 1920s, nor when they opened their gallery in London’s Notting Hill the same year. The company has produced custom made rugs for The Wellcome Trust, and for Oxford and Cambridge universities. TheWall series was commissioned by architect Sir Michael Hopkins as part of a collection of handmade wall pieces for the UK’s parliamentary building, Portcullis House. Other custom wall pieces were made for the Bank of America building in London. Setting up a fabric division in 2000, the company took a natural step into cloth production, utilizing high quality fabrics, from combed Egyptian cottons and Belgian linens for upholstery, curtains and blinds, to acrylic dyed fabrics for outdoor use.

Following the success of their first show of rugs held in Somerset House last year, the Christopher Farr’s Editions: Contemporary Rugs for Collectors exhibition – previewed during the recent Milano Design Week 2013, where the company also showed a new collection of rugs by celebrated US designer David Weeks – marking the company’s 25th anniversary, unveils the first in a series of limited editions (50-200), in hand-tufted 100% wool, ranging in price from £650 to £1000. Designs by Sir Terry Frost RA (1915-2003), by Bauhaus master Josef Albers (1888-1976) and by his wife, Anni Albers (1899-1994) will be included. Penny Falls by Kate Blee, a London-based textile artist who has been collaborating with Farr since 1987, will also be shown. Renowned still-life artist, William Scott (1913-1989) – the centenary of whose birth is being celebrated in an exhibition running at Tate St Ives until 6th May, 2013 – will be represented by Permutation Brown, and Three Squares by leading British abstract colourist, Sandra Blow RA (1925-2006) – an adaptation from an etching printed in 2003 – will be exhibited. Jeweller, Lara Bohinc’s circular rug, Solar, will appear, alongside Sulspice, a flamboyant op-art design created by Farr, himself.

Rugs from top
Christopher Farr
Sulpice
1.22 x 1.83m
Edition of 15
0

Sir Terry Frost RA
Variations (Black on White)
Adapted from a 1973 print
2 x 2.13m
Produced in association with the Stoneman Gallery and the Terry Frost Estate

William Scott
Permutation Brown
Adapted from a 1977 Scott painting
1.4 x 2.3m
Produced in association with the Royal Academy of Arts and the William Scott Foundation
©Estate of William Scott 2013 supporting Alzheimer’s

Josef Albers
Homage to the Square, 1951
1.65 x 1.65m
Produced in association with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
©2013 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and ARS, New York

All of those illustrated are in editions of 150


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Design | Modernism and Stained Glass

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York,
Rockefeller Plaza,
New York City, USA
14th December 2012

The Avery Coonley Playhouse windows, circa 1912, with their buoyant circles and patriotic flags, that stand out for their distinctive, asymmetrical composition and vibrant color, are considered Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece in glass. The building, a small structure created by Lloyd Wright to serve as a school for Queenie Ferrie Coonley to educate local children, was a short distance from the Coonley’s home in Riverside, Illinois, that Wright had previously completed for the couple in 1908. Just one of the 40 original windows – sadly, all of them were removed in the 1950s to be replaced by replicas – that ringed the main school room and were designed to encourage a spontaneous, playful air, is included in Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale. His use of bright red, green, blue, orange and black glass was, by all accounts, inspired by a passing parade, complete with confetti, balloons and American flags. The European abstract art movement, including the paintings of Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Wassily Kandinsky, which Wright saw in Paris on his European sojourn in 1909-1910, that included a trip to Vienna, significantly influenced the designs.

A stained glass revival had been triggered in Holland in the 1850s, when William Morris’s ideas gained currency there, and a domestic demand emerged for non-figurative, decorative art that accorded with strict Calvinist principles. Via the De Stijl movement founded in the Netherlands in 1917, this late 19th century trend would evolve into abstract stained glass panels. That year, leading member, Theo van Doesburg, completed a set of five identical windows, strikingly geometrical in style, whose motif was abstracted from skating figures, for a house designed by fellow member, Jan Wils. In 1918, Van Doesburg began collaborating with another member, architect JJP Oud, on his first municipal housing blocks at Spangen, designing stained glass panels for each apartment – some are still in place, others, inevitably, as van Doesburg’s reputation as an artist grew and his work became much sought after, were sold off. Later, in 1934, another significant Dutch architect, Jan Kuyt, designed intricate stained glass skylights for his V&D Department Store building in Amersfoort.

From the same early period, Josef Albers’ Red and White, 1923, created for that year’s first Bauhaus Exhibition in Weimar – sadly, since destroyed – was a stained-glass window that was granted a title, in the style of an artwork.

Of course, stained glass had been around for many centuries before the early modernists, recognising its potential, took hold of it and adapted it to suit their buildings, in the process turning it into an art form. And, although its popularity during the 20th century swung in and out of fashion, it never really went away.

In a note on an early drawing of the Glass Pavilion – the pineapple-shaped temporary building that German expressionist architect, Bruno Taut, erected at the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition in 1914 – a prismatic glass dome structure of concrete and glass, he said he made it in the spirit of a gothic cathedral. Inlaid coloured glass plates on the façade acted as mirrors. Inside, there were floor-to-celing, coloured glass walls and a glass-treaded metal staircases led to the upper projection room that showed a kaleidoscope of colors. But when, some 40 years later, Le Corbusier built Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp in France, between 1950 and 1955 – in which daylight enters via a system of openings covered with glass, much of it coloured – the architect was keen to maintain that his glass had no connection to stained glass, which he considered a form of illumination too closely bound to archaic architectural notions, with particular reference to Romanesque and Gothic art.

At Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera, a small chapel, next to the main building, has stained glass windows designed by Braque in the 1960s. More contemporary examples include a stained-glass window installed at Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill, London, during the 1990s.

Two other windows by Lloyd Wright are included in the Christie’s sale, alongside a skylight and panel made by Louis Sullivan in 1890 for the Auditorium building, Chicago. Meanwhile, a set of four square windows (26.9 x 26.9 cm) of graphic, abstract design, in opalescent, cathedral and slumped glass, produced in 1880 by American painter and muralist John la Farge, and estimated to sell at $8,000 – 12,000, are on offer at Sotheby’s, New York, in their Important 20th Century Design sale on 15th December.

Images from top
Window from the Avery Cooonley Playhouse, Frank Lloyd Wright, circa 1912
(Detail, the complete framed panel is also shown above)
Leaded glass, with original oak window frame, 61 x 97 cm
Estimate $200,000 – $300,000

Photo © Christie’s Images Limited, 2012

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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