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April 8 Art Minute: Joseph Albers, Homage to the Square: White Setting

Art Minute, Art of the Week, toledo museum of art
Josef Albers (American, 1888-1976), Homage to the Square: White Setting. Oil on masonite, 1959. Gift of the Woodward Foundation in memory of Sarah R. Woodward, wife of Stanley Woodward, 1985.134

Deceptively simple, Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square: White Setting is one of a series of hundreds of paintings of superimposed squares that the pioneer color abstractionist made from 1950 until his death in 1976. Albers wrote of the paintings in 1965, “They all are of different palettes, and, therefore, so to speak, of different climates. Choice of the colors used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction—influencing and changing each other forth and back.” To aid in achieving the purest sense of the colors, Albers applied the paint directly from the tube, spreading it thinly on the canvas with a palette knife.

Each color in his Homage paintings was chosen for the way it acts upon the other colors in the painting. The paintings exploit the inherent subjectivity of color: Albers, in his bookInteraction of Color (1963), explained how our experience of color can change based on its hue (saturation), its placement in relation to other colors, light, dimension—even our personality.

This work is currently on display in the exhibition "Everything is Rhythm": Mid-Century Art and Music