Sweet Briar presents art by Josef Albers

| January 16, 2014

Original silkscreen prints by German-born artist Josef Albers are at the center of a new exhibition at Sweet Briar College. “The Interaction of Color” opens on Thursday, Jan. 23, in Babcock Gallery and runs through March 2.

Josef Albers, “The Interaction of Color,” Portfolio VI-3, silkscreen, 1963. Transfer from the Studio Art Department. “One color looks like two different colors, depending on the background color,” Lawson says.

All 19 artworks in the show are derived from the original 1963 Yale University Press edition of Albers’ landmark publication “The Interaction of Color,” which he wrote and designed himself. The portfolio, which includes more than 200 color studies, was used for years in Sweet Briar’s studio art department. Since its publication, it has influenced generations of artists and designers across the world, and while Yale University Press has reproduced the book several times in paperback, none of these editions include the original silkscreen prints, and none include all of Albers’ original illustrations.

Choosing a big international name for this particular gallery is an exception, says Sweet Briar galleries director Karol Lawson.

“We usually use Babcock Gallery to show the work of mid-career regional artists, but in this instance have decided to showcase some fun and very colorful work from the College’s collection.”

Lawson notes that the prints are “not just meant to be admired for the colors and patterns. Albers intended viewers to study them to understand how colors affect each other and, thus, how artists and designers manipulate visual experience.”

Although Albers was a painter, as well, “The Interaction of Color” is “arguably his most famous work,” she adds.

“[It] serves to demonstrate, in his words, ‘a new way of teaching color, of studying color … to make our eyes sensitive to the wonders of color interaction.’ ”

Josef Albers, “The Interaction of Color,” Portfolio VII-4, silkscreen, 1963. Transfer from the Studio Art Department.

Lawson hopes visitors will take the time to look closely at them.

“Especially in this era of smartphones and digital cameras available everywhere, it is instructive for all of us to understand that what we think we are seeing is not always what we are actually looking at.”

Born and educated in Germany, Albers taught furniture and glass design at The Bauhaus, an internationally acclaimed school founded in Weimar in 1919. There, he guided students away from Expressionism towards Constructivism through extreme reduction in form. He and his wife, Anni (who was also a Bauhaus-trained artist), immigrated to America in 1933 when the Nazi regime closed The Bauhaus. The couple initially settled as art professors at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, then moved to New York in 1949. Albers was appointed head of the school of design at Yale University in 1950.

Babcock Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. The gallery closes when the College is not in session; it is recommended that visitors call ahead to confirm hours. For more information, contact Karol Lawson at (434) 381-6248 or klawson@sbc.edu.

Janika Carey

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Category: Art Galleries