Josef Albers: Primary Colors
David Zwirner, 5 – 6/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong
January 18 – March 05, 2022
Curated by Brenda Danilowitz, chief curator of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the show is a focused examination of how the primary colors red, yellow, and blue, along with black, encompassed an infinite range of chromatic possibilities for Albers, which he explored throughout his career in stunning combinations presented in his signature visual formats.
The exhibition coincides with a major retrospective exhibition of Albers’s and his wife and fellow artist Anni Albers’s art at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM), Valencia, Spain, which debuted at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris in 2021. Josef Albers is considered one of the most influential abstract painters of the twentieth century as well as an important designer and educator.
Albers’s artistic career, which bridged European and American modernism, consisted mainly of a tightly focused investigation into the perceptual properties of color and spatial relationships. Working with simple geometric forms, Albers sought to produce the effects of chromatic interaction, in which the visual perception of a color is affected by those adjacent to it.
Albers’s precise application of color also created plays of space and depth, as the planar colored shapes that make up the majority of his works appear to either recede into or protrude out of the picture plane. This exhibition will feature works by Albers from as early as the 1930s, a transitional period for the artist when he and Anni Albers immigrated to North Carolina, where they founded the art department at the famous Black Mountain College, and extending all the way to works he made shortly before his death in 1976.
On view will be several paintings from Albers’s Homage to the Square series, his most celebrated body of work. These paintings were based on a nested square format that allowed Albers to experiment with endless chromatic combinations and perceptual effects. The artist has written about this work as follows: “Though the underlying symmetrical and quasi-concentric order of the squares remains the same in all paintings – in proportion and placement – these same squares group or single themselves, connect and separate in many different ways.”
He has further written about how the colors in his paintings “are juxtaposed for various and changing visual effects. They are to challenge or to echo each other, to support or to oppose one another…. Such action, reaction, interaction – or interdependence – is sought in order to make obvious how colors influence and change each other; that the same color, for instance – with different grounds or neighbors – looks different.”
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