Casa Series, Variant on a Theme

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on Masonite
Dimensions
22 x 23-1/2 in.
Credit line
Gift from the Joseph Cantor Collection
Accession number
1987.102
Collection
Not Currently On View

Fascinated by the inherently mutable properties of color, Josef Albers created abstract paintings that explored the way that pure planes of color interact and change in response to one another. In the present painting, Albers used a palette of six different colors to explore various effects of light and depth. Although the paint is laid on the surface in flat planes, the colors generate a sense of space and luminosity due to the way the pigments contrast and react with one another. Certain colors recede, while others seem to advance forward as one contemplates the composition over a sustained period of time. This dynamic interaction of color is further heightened by the subtle asymmetry of the composition, which alternately imparts as sense of stability and movement. On the back of this painting, Albers noted that “Rectangles in center are gray not green,” pointing out he optical illusion that is generated here. When viewed from a distance, the center rectangles at times appear to be green because of the intensity of the violet and orange planes of color that surround them. Through his repeated exploration of color relationships, Albers demonstrated that our perception of any color is intrinsically dependent on our experience of the surrounding colors as well.

In 1947, the year before he created the present composition, Albers spent time painting in Mexico. There, he was inspired by the vernacular architecture of adobe houses, as well as the intense sunlight and colors of the region. The word Casa in the title, which means “house” in Spanish, suggests architectural allusions to adobe homes, which are further echoed in the rectilinear forms of the composition.

Albers began his artistic career as a student at the Bauhaus in Germany, where he studied art, design, and architecture. His early work with glass proved to be formative, as through this medium he became fascinated with the power of pure, luminous color. After moving to the United States when the Bauhaus was closed by the Nazis in 1933, he became a teacher at Black Mountain College and then Yale University, and proved to be one of the most influential teachers and theorists of his era.

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