Josef Albers - Artworks & Biography | David Zwirner
Josef Albers

In 1971, Josef Albers established a non-profit organization to further "the revelation and evocation of vision through art." Today that organization is The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting the achievements of the artists, as well as the aesthetic and philosophical principles by which they lived.

The Foundation is located in Bethany, Connecticut, near New Haven, and houses offices, archives, and collections. The Foundation mainly works on exhibitions and publications while also assisting with research and supporting educational initiatives. It is open by appointment to individuals, scholars, and curators for tours, study, and research. The Foundation maintains two residential studios for visiting artists who exemplify the seriousness of purpose that characterized both Anni and Josef Albers. The residencies are designed to provide time, space, and solitude, with the benefit of access to the Foundation's archives and library.

Visit the Foundation's website to learn more through in-depth biographies, a chronology of the artists' lives and careers, selected writings, and more.

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation also supports Thread, a cultural center and water source in Sinthian, a rural village in Tambacounda, the southeastern region of Senegal. The center also hosts an artist residency program that allows its participants to experience and be inspired by the village, while developing linkages between rural Senegal and other parts of the globe. Thread has no fixed artistic program, but rather aims to foster connections and community in keeping with the philosophies of Josef and Anni Albers.

The Foundation is also affiliated with the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, which opened in 1983. Located in Josef Albers's place of birth in Germany, the museum preserves 100 paintings in addition to graphic works, studies on paper, glass pictures, and furniture and is closely affiliated with neighboring museums in the Quadrat complex. The museum's collection is largely made up of donations from the Foundation.

Josef Albers's photographic work was only discovered after his death, making it the least familiar aspect of his practice. The first serious exploration of this piece of his artistic ouput occurred in a small exhibition at MoMA in 1988, The Photographs of Josef Albers. In 2015, the museum acquired 10 photocollages by Albers, adding to the two donated by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation almost three decades prior. The photocollages—featuring photographs he made at the Bauhaus between 1928 and 1932—anticipate concerns that Albers would pursue throughout his career: seriality, perception, and the relationship between handcraft and mechanical production.

One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers celebrated the landmark acquisition and the publication of an accompanying catalogue which focuses exclusively on this deeply personal and inventive aspect of Albers's work and makes many of the photocollages available for the first time.

Josef and Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, 1949
Photo: Theodore Dreier
Courtesy The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation

(New York & London) David Zwirner is pleased to announce its exclusive worldwide representation of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation is devoted to preserving and promoting the achievements of both Josef and Anni Albers, and the aesthetic and philosophical principles by which they lived. The Foundation is based in Bethany, Connecticut, near New Haven, where it maintains a central research and archival facility, as well as residence studios for visiting artists.

David Zwirner will be The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation's exclusive commercial gallery. In this role, David Zwirner will promote the legacies of both Josef and Anni Albers through curated exhibitions at its New York and London gallery spaces; the development of new scholarship on the artists' work through publications and international exhibitions; and through the sale of artworks consigned to the gallery by the Foundation.

The gallery will present an exhibition of Josef Albers's work in its 537 West 20th Street location in New York in November 2016 that will explore the relationship between his Homage to the Square paintings and the monochrome.

As stated by David Zwirner, "Josef and Anni Albers are among the most significant artistic figures of their time. From their grounding in the Bauhaus to their ongoing influence on contemporary art, their pioneering work not only bridges European and American modernism, but also continues to be relevant today. It is a great honor that the Foundation has entrusted us to help further their important legacies."

Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation states, "I considered my recent search for the ideal art gallery to represent The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation worldwide to be one of the most significant, possibly daunting, tasks of my forty years at the helm of this wonderful organization. What I thought would be difficult has proved to be a source of enormous pleasure. In David Zwirner, David Leiber, and others on the team of this wonderful art gallery, I have found people with the integrity, energy, passion for art, and human values that were dear to Josef and Anni alike. In 1971, the Alberses established, as the goal of our Foundation, 'the revelation and evocation of vision through art.' With our desire to perpetuate those intentions in places ranging from some of the poorest villages in rural Africa to the most sophisticated museums in great metropolises, we believe that David Zwirner and the gallery embody our interests with aplomb, professionalism, wisdom, and kindness."

Josef and Anni Albers met in 1922 at the Bauhaus, then located in Weimar, Germany, and were married in 1925, the same year that the school relocated to Dessau. Following the closure of the Bauhaus, when its remaining faculty members refused to re-open the school in compliance with the Third Reich, the couple emigrated to the United States in 1933, first settling in North Carolina, where they taught and helped to develop the design curriculum at Black Mountain College, at that time a noted site of avant-garde activity. After becoming U.S. citizens in 1939, Josef and Anni Albers traveled extensively together, spending time, in particular, in Mexico and the American Southwest. They remained at Black Mountain until 1950, when they moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where Josef Albers was invited to direct the department of design at Yale University School of Art.

Josef Albers (1888-1976) is considered one of the most influential abstract painters of the twentieth century, as well as an important designer and educator noted for his rigorously experimental approach to spatial relationships and color theory. He was born in Bottrop, Germany, and studied briefly at the Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, in 1919 before becoming a student at the Bauhaus in 1920. In 1922, Josef Albers joined the school's faculty, first in the glass workshop, and, from 1923, teaching design in the legendary Bauhaus Preliminary Course.

In 1933, he and Anni Albers emigrated to North Carolina, and he began to show his work extensively within the United States, including solo exhibitions at the Addison Museum of American Art, Andover (1935); J.B. Neumann's New Art Circle, New York (1936, 1938); The Germanic Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge (1936); the Katharine Kuh Gallery, Chicago (1937); the San Francisco Museum of Art (1940); and the Nierendorf Gallery, New York (1941).

In 1949, he developed studies for what would become his seminal Homage to the Square series, which he continued to elaborate until his death in 1976. This body of work was featured in a major exhibition organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York (by Kynaston McShine) in 1963 that traveled to 11 venues in the United States and 11 venues in Latin America. Josef Albers retired from teaching in 1958, prior to the publication of his important Interaction of Color (1963), a treatise on color studies and an essential handbook for artists and teachers. Published in 12 languages and in numerous editions (and reissued in an expanded format in 2013), the volume comprises a guide to how colors affect one another. Following numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, as well as his participation in documenta I (1955) and documenta IV (1968), he became the first living artist to be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with his career-spanning retrospective there in 1971.

More recent exhibitions include Painting on Paper: Josef Albers in America, which originated at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, in 2010 (traveled to Josef Albers Museum, Quadrat, Bottrop, Germany; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Kunstmuseum Basel; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Centro de Arte Moderna, Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon; and The Morgan Library and Museum, New York); and Josef Albers: Mimimal Means, Maximum Effect, at the Fundación Juan March, Madrid, in 2014 (traveled to Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway).

Anni Albers (née Annelise Fleischmann; 1899-1994) was a textile artist, designer, printmaker, and educator known for her pioneering graphic wall hangings, weavings, and designs. She was born in Berlin, and studied painting under the tutelage of German Impressionist Martin Brandenburg from 1916 to 1919. After attending the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg for two months in 1920, she enrolled at the Bauhaus in 1922. She was assigned to the Weaving Workshop, and she came to approach the discipline with relentless experimentation, regularly incorporating nontraditional materials into her compositions. Upon completing her course of study there in 1929, Anni Albers joined the Bauhaus faculty. At Black Mountain College, she elaborated on the technical innovations she devised at the Bauhaus, developing a specialized curriculum that integrated weaving and industrial design. It was during this time that she began to avidly collect Pre-Columbian art, in particular textiles. In 1949, she became the first designer to have a one-person show at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the exhibition Anni Albers: Textiles subsequently traveled to 26 venues throughout the United States and Canada. Following the Alberses' move to New Haven, Anni Albers shifted her focus primarily to her workshop, spending the 1950s creating mass-reproducible fabrics (including a commission from Walter Gropius for Harvard University), writing, and developing her "pictorial weavings," culminating in the exhibition Anni Albers: Pictorial Weavings at the MIT New Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1959 (traveled to Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh; Baltimore Museum of Art; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston). In 1963, Anni Albers added printmaking to her artistic repertoire, working primarily in this medium from that point on. Her prints have been featured in numerous exhibitions worldwide, including Anni Albers. Bildweberei, Zeichnung, Druckgrafik at the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf in 1975 (traveled to Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin). A retrospective exhibition on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 1999, organized by the Albers Foundation and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, traveled to the Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; and The Jewish Museum, New York.

Her seminal book On Weaving, published in 1965, helped to establish design studies as an area of academic and aesthetic inquiry and solidified her status as the single most influential textile artist of the twentieth century. Her writings on design, first published as On Designing in 1959, were reissued in 2000.

The works of Josef and Anni Albers have been featured both together and separately in exhibitions worldwide, most recently including A Beautiful Confluence: Anni and Josef Albers and the Latin American World, Mudec, Museo delle Culture, Milan, 2015-2016; and Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 2015 (traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and will be on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, from September 17, 2016 – January 1, 2017). Both artists are represented in major international public and private collections.

A painting by Josef Albers titled Variant / Adobe: 4 Central Warm Colors Surrounded by 2 Blues, dated 1948.

June 16–October 7, 2018

Titled after Interaction of Color, the artist’s seminal 1963 handbook on color theory, Josef Albers: Interaction was a major retrospective at Villa Hügel, the home of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation. The exhibition was curated by Heinz Liesbrock, director of the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat in the neighboring city of Bottrop, where Albers was born in 1888.

Featuring some 170 works, Interaction traced the artist’s career from its beginnings at the Bauhaus to breakthroughs after his emigration to the United States in the early 1930s. Alongside paintings, graphic prints, and furniture, the show included everyday objects, glass works, photographs, and pre-Columbian sculptures collected by Albers and his wife, Anni, during their many trips to Mexico. The main gallery at Villa Hügel showcases Albers’s Homage to the Square series, initiated in 1950, which numbered more than 2,000 paintings by the time of the artist’s death in 1976. Exploring a variety of chromatic and perceptual effects, the Homage to the Square paintings are a sustained, serial investigation into rhythm, mood, and spatial movement within a carefully configured, nested square format. By employing a variety of tones in different combinations, Albers was able to play with perception and produce illusions of translucency. As the artist himself said, "Color challenges me as the most relative medium in art." The show also explores the influence of Albers’s work and teaching on Minimalism during the 1960s.

A collaboration between the Kulturstiftung Ruhr, Essen (Ruhr Arts Trust) and the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat, this retrospective celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.

Interaction is the latest in a number of global exhibitions celebrating the work of Josef Albers and his wife, Anni, in 2017–2018. Other exhibitions include Josef Albers in Mexico at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, where it traveled following its critically acclaimed debut at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the show explored the crucial influence of Mesoamerican art and monuments on the artist’s abstraction. Anni Albers is an extensive retrospective taking in the full range of the artist’s pioneering career, from intricate small-scale works to complex wall hangings and the unique textiles she designed for mass production. Following its debut at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K20 Grabbeplatz) in Düsseldorf, the show travels to Tate Modern this fall, opening October 11.

Image: Josef Albers, Variant / Adobe: 4 Central Warm Colors Surrounded by 2 Blues, 1948. Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018.

installation view of the exhibition titled Josef Albers in Mexico, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
installation view of the exhibition titled Josef Albers in Mexico, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
installation view of the exhibition titled Josef Albers in Mexico, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
installation view of the exhibition titled Josef Albers in Mexico, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
installation view of the exhibition titled Josef Albers in Mexico, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

May 19–September 3, 2018

Josef Albers in Mexico traveled to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where its debut presentation met with critical acclaim. The exhibition featured photographs, photo collages, canvases, and works on paper relating to Josef Albers's many visits to Mexico—a place that struck him, as he later wrote to his former Bauhaus colleague Vasily Kandinsky, as "the promised land of abstract art." A major review by Roberta Smith in The New York Times describes "a quietly stunning exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum that contrasts Albers's little-known photographs of the great Mesoamerican monuments of Mexico with his glowing abstract paintings."

Albers visited Mexico with his wife Anni 14 times between 1935 and the late 1960s. The black-and-white photographic works in this exhibition, many of which had never been shown publicly before, were drawn from hundreds the artist took at pre-Columbian archaeological sites and monuments. The exhibition also featured related materials including maps tracing Albers's travels, letters and journals, images of the excavation sites, films, and undeveloped contact sheets drawn from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation archives. A slideshow featuring nine works from the exhibition in New York is included in Forbes. In a review of the show in The Wall Street Journal, Richard B. Woodward describes a "quietly provocative exhibition" that uncovers "previously hidden dimensions" in the artist's work.

A Guggenheim publication accompanying Josef Albers in Mexico features essays by Lauren Hinkson, who curated the exhibition, and Joaquín Barriendos, a map, and reproductions of works in the show. These are organized by region based on the pre-Columbian archaeological sites that the Alberses frequented. Related public programs at the Guggenheim in New York included curator's tours of the show.

Image: installation view, Josef Albers in Mexico, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2017

A photograph of Thread ARTIST RESIDENCY & CULTURAL CENTER in Senegal.

In summer 2017, David Zwirner hosted a benefit exhibition in New York to support Thread, a project of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, with artworks generously donated by gallery artists and others.

Opened in March 2015, Thread is a socio-cultural center with a residency program for local and international artists to live and work in Sinthian, a rural village in Tambacounda in the southeastern region of Senegal. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation originally initiated the project in a remote part of sub-Saharan Africa to allow painters, dancers, photographers, and other artists from all over the world, as well as from within Senegal, to pursue their own work in exceptional conditions while also interacting with the local community. Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, has supported development initiatives in this community for over 15 years through Le Korsa, a non-profit initiative established by the Foundation in 2005 to give support to medical and educational facilities in rural Senegal.

Anni Albers said "You can go anywhere from anywhere." In the two years since it opened, Thread—like Black Mountain College and the Bauhaus, where Anni and Josef both worked and taught—has proved her point.

Thread links efforts of cultural productivity, agricultural development, income generation, sports, education, and female empowerment, all under one roof. Its residency program has already hosted over 30 artists from 18 different countries. Thread's Director is Nick Murphy, who is based in Paris and travels regularly to Sinthian. Together with Moussa Sene, Thread's General Manager based in Sinthian, Murphy devises its programming, as well as developing international attention and collaboration for Thread and the projects associated with it.

Designed by Toshiko Mori Architect, the Thread building combines form and function. The building received an American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 2017.

Read more about Thread in The Art Newspaper.

Photo: Thatcher Cook

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