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Touring exhibition shines new light on Josef Albers

More to him than “Homage to the Square”

A touring exhibition of the art of Josef Albers, which opened at Oxford’s Museum of Modern Art at the end of last month (until 18 September), reveals the artist to be a more rounded personality than might have been expected from the creator of “Homage to the Square”, that long series of slightly tiresome abstract paintings which was launched in 1950 and appears to occupy an early page in every auction catalogue in New York. Curated by Paul Overy for the South Bank Centre and sponsored by British Telecom, the exhibition opened at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin, and will be shown at the School of Art Gallery, Norwich (26 September-5 November).

The exhibition takes place at a time of reviving interest in the art of the Bauhaus, where Albers was a student and faculty member until the school was closed in 1933. For two of those years he was director of its furniture workshop and the selection includes a writing desk and an armchair designed by him, with two of the coloured glass panels which he created during this period. A larger group of his glass compositions, one of the most exciting features of his career, is included in a different exhibition taking place at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (until 10 July).

The present exhibition includes expressionist drawings dating from the beginning of Albers’s career, photographs and fifty paintings and collages, including three “Treble Clef” gouaches (1935). Michael Craig Martin contributes an illuminating essay to the catalogue in which he discusses the four courses which the artist established at Yale University where he was appointed chairman of the Department of Design in 1950. Mr Craig Martin attended those courses in 1961, three years after Albers’s retirement, and remembers the design course as being his most important educational experience.