For Students

In Focus: New Albers Acquisition

In Focus: New Albers Acquisition

Josef Albers, I-S Va 4 from Six Variants Portfolio, 1969, screenprints on Arches paper, Gift of Dr. Seymour S. and Barbara K. Adelson, 2011/1.117

To open eyes: this was the stated goal of Josef Albers in his teaching and his art. His particular interest was opening our eyes to the interactions of color. In art he produced from the 1930s through the 1970s, Albers used specific constellations of forms-nested squares or, as here, an array of rectangles- executed in an infinite combination of colors to demonstrate how colors advance, recede, and bend when juxtaposed in different ways. He believed that "when you really understand that each color is changed by a changed environment, you eventually find that you have learned about life as well as about color."

The particular arrangement of rectangles in the three prints on display is based on Albers's observations of adobe houses in Mexico and the southwest. Albers and his wife Anni emigrated to the United States in 1933-both taught at the Bauhaus before emigrating-and soon after they visited Mexico. The color and culture they found there made such an impression that they visited frequently, often for months at a time, and both of them incorporated Mexican references into their subsequent work. Some of Albers's early adobe paintings have subtitles such as Southern Climate or Luminous Day while others are called simply Adobe Variant.

The donors of these prints, Dr. Seymour and Barbara Adelson, have been generous to UMMA over the last six years, gifting nineteenth- and twentieth-century prints and photographs from Europe, the US, and Japan. The nearly eighty exceptional works of art from these informed and enthusiastic collectors have markedly enriched the UMMA collection.

Pam Reister
Curator for Museum Teaching and Learning