Temporary exhibition

Josef Albers
Process and Printmaking

April 28 – Juny 28, 2014
Josef Albers - Study for a Variant,  c  1947
Study for a Variant, c 1947

Josef Albers (1888–1976) is certainly more famous today for his links to the Bauhaus, where he studied and later taught from 1920 to 1933, and for his oil paintings in the series Homage to the Square (1950–76) than for his graphic work. Yet he also created prints and drawings throughout his career. His graphic work ranges from the austere blacks and whites of his first woodblock prints—with subjects inspired in the landscape of the coal mines in his native town, Bottrop, in the former province of Westphalia (now in North Rhine-Westphalia)—to the vivid colors and abstract geometry of his screenprints from the 1960s and 70s. Albers, like so many other artists, found printmaking to be particularly congenial because of the economical production involved, the creative liberty of the medium, and the opportunity that it offers for trial and error, experimentation and innovation.

The exhibition Josef Albers: Process and Printmaking (1916–1976) presented by the Fundación Juan March at the Museu Fundación Juan March in Palma de Mallorca, from April 2 to June 28, 2014, and at the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca, from July 8 to October 5, 2014, is devoted to Albers’ working methods in the field of printmaking. This show allows visitors to become familiar with an essential element in the work of any artist but one that is particularly central in Albers’s particular case: his techniques and approaches. On the one hand, Albers deeply respected manual work and artistic craft and technique. He always considered technique to be the foundation of a particular poiesis, or "making"— art, in short—which consists above all in its how. On the other hand, besides his conscientious cultivation of technique and craft, his work reveals his talent for free inventiveness, for a qualitative leap in creativity: He was convinced that, in the case of art, unlike technique by itself, the result is not a question of (applying) an approach but rather emerges precisely when that approach is called into question. To arrive at the work of art, one must concoct one’s own approach in the very process.

Rather than simply multiple reproductions of a single image, then, Josef Albers’ prints are the final, unique result of the intimate relationship the artist established with a wide range of materials, processes, and technologies—some conventional, others less so. The 103 works in this exhibition reveal that intimate link. They have been selected from among the nearly 300 prints that the artist created and the thousands of studies and drawings by means of which he developed his final works; nearly all of these studies remain unpublished and have never before been exhibited.

Albers experimented with various print mediums, including relief prints in wood and linoleum, black-and-white and color lithographs using zinc plates and stone, intaglio prints, and screenprints. With the works chosen for the exhibition, Josef Albers: Process and Printmaking offers an unusual perspective on the workings of the artist’s imagination, presenting his individual studies and the series in which the process and progress of Albers’s creation of images unfold. The transformation of an initial idea and its resolution into a final form is revealed throughout the exhibition space to the visitors. Seen alongside the studies and preparatory drawings, Albers’s prints manifest the development of his highly subtle knowledge of how the elements of form—texture, line, and color—can bring rich, unforeseen visual experiences to light.

This exhibition was developed in close collaboration with The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut.