Josef Albers

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German-American artist and teacher Josef Albers was instrumental in bringing the Bauhaus methodology of art study to America. Apart from being a painter Albers was also a teacher, poet, sculptor and theoretician. He has played a strong role in his teachings as a painter though he never considered himself to be a good teacher – Albers was more into making people see things for themselves. For Albers art were more of a revelation then decimating information, a freedom of expression and creation. He was strongly against the concepts of imitating others art or even repeating it, Albers stated that art is concerned with the ‘how’ and not the ‘what.’ Due to his strong background as a teacher and theoretical study, his legacy of stating that color is the main medium of pictorial language has had a profound influence in the advent of modern art in America.

Josef Albers was born in 1888 in Bottrop, Westphalia in Germany. His family was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and were mostly craftsmen. Initially Albers started off as a school teacher and taught art; due to his family’s strong work ethic Albers inherited a careful exact workmanship demeanour. He was strongly influenced by the works of Cezanne, Matisse and Cubism, side by side Albers enrolled at the Bauhaus in Germany.  The Bauhaus was an art school of craftsmen, and architects who were committed to merging new techniques with creative aspects of art. Soon Albers became a teacher at the Bauhaus himself and started teaching furniture design, drawing and calligraphy. His strong philosophical mind guided the Bauhaus school away from expressionism towards a more concrete art service of architecture. Due to Nazi occupation of Germany, Albers immigrated to America – till his last days Albers always strongly enforced himself as a German-American artist.  Even in America he took up teaching art again, his reputation as an art teacher is legendary even to this day. Art experts claim that Albers had his own way of teaching students and was quite supportive of installing self-expressionism into budding young artists. Perhaps Albers most fascinating work is the Homage to the Square, which is a series of 1000 related works which Albers painted through the course of 27 years of his life. As the name suggests, the works contain a series of squares each in a different color dimension. Every square is a different color framing the next; it is typical Albers style which is trying to explain the extent of human perception. Homage to the Square also proves that color can help define a range of psychological and optical effects. Albers Square was also three dimensional in nature defining the scope and depth of insight which color can produce.

Due to his teachings and works Josef Albers is given a lot of credit for influencing the Geometric Abstraction and Minimalism. His works showcase an artist who was trying to discover the psychological effects of color and space. His impact was so strong that he was the first artist ever to have a solo exhibition at MoMa in New York. Albers work as an artist and his theories are widely followed even today. He left a profound impact as a teacher at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Yale University. Not only did Albers teach art but he published numerous books, magazines and articles on art and poetry as well.

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