WOW! – Work of the Week – Kenny Scharf – Space Traveler





Kenny Scharf

Space Traveler

2011

Etching with hand-painting

45 3/4 x 55 5/8 in.

Edition of 20

Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Spontaneity and fun are the heart of Kenny Scharf’s artwork

Kenny Scharf moved to New York City in the late 1970s, and his work embodies the spirit of that time. It was a “golden age” that continued through the early 1980s, in which Pop, New Wave, graffiti and the urban art scene collided. During this explosive period the artist first learned to use spray paint, and master this newfound medium. He would bomb the length of Manhattan between his studio at PS1 in Queens and his home in the East Village, leaving the avenues covered with his characters.

Like his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny was inspired by graffiti’s freedom and the direct connection street art gave him to people outside of the art world. “It was a natural reaction for us to take it to the streets and the nightclubs and let loose and not take yourself too seriously because that is stifling!” Kenny is driven by his belief that art should be appreciated for the experience. This is particularly obvious through his use of images of cartoonish figures.

This week’s Work Of the Week! WOW! is Space Traveler by Kenny Scharf. The piece reflects the impulse and speed of the artist working in the street, and the signature cartoon-like character whizzing through a cosmic galaxy is instantly recognizable. This trademark Cosmic Cavern image, created with what could be Day-Glo  or bright colored paint is a style that the artist started experimenting with in the 80’s.

The cartoon images expertly bring popular culture into the fine arts, and Scharf has been pushing the line between high and low art since his days spray-painting lower Manhattan. His true genius, however, lies in his ability to create a distinct, otherworldly color palette, as if looking inside a tremendous bubble made of candy colored beings. The work is playful, but make no mistake: This isn’t child’s play.

Scharf calls his art Pop Surrealism: “Surrealism is about the unconscious, and I feel my work is about the unconscious. The images come from the unconscious except that my unconscious is filled with pop imagery. My unconscious is pop, so therefore the art would be Pop-Surrealism.”

Space Traveler is a very large work.  It is an etching with hand painting.  A very small edition of only 20 pieces, each piece is unique.  The only printed part of the work is the black.  Every color on each different piece is all hand painted.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Daniel Arsham, Future Relic 03





Daniel Arsham
Future Relic 03
2015
Plaster and broken glass
5 1/2 x 5 x 2 1/2 in.
Edition of 400
Signed and numbered on label on box

About the work:

 

Remember the Future

“The future is something that contains the everyday – it contains the now. All the things we see here, in this space, will exist in the future.” Daniel Arsham

 

Obsessed with the fact that technological items become obsolete and are continuously replaced at an alarming rate, artist Daniel Arsham has created a complete mythology surrounding his “Future Relic” fossils. 

 

It was during a trip to Easter Island that Daniel Arsham came up with the idea of an archaeological excavation applied to the future. His “Future Relic” series centers around a world many years down the line, in which a major and transformative ecological shift has occurred.  

 

To create his fossils, the artist casts already forgotten pieces of technology to look like fragile artifacts. They are covered with tiny crack formations and have crumbling surfaces, disintegrating from disuse. All nine sculptures of the series are created from technological devices of the twentieth century.  Arsham says “the choice of the objects is very specific, I’m looking for things that are iconic that many people would recognize.”

 

The sculptures spurred Arsham to make video work based on the same premise, and thus his Future Relic film series was born. Each launch of a new “Future Relic” sculpture is augmented by a short movie. Through his use of film, the artist is able to build and share his complete story of the future surrounding these archeological artifacts. The sci-fi art series has featured many well-known actors such as Mahershala Ali, Arturo Castro, James Franco, Ronald Guttman, Matthew Maher, and Ethan Suplee

 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Future Relic 03. It is a plaster and broken glass cast Clock. Using a traditional mechanical alarm clock as the design mold, the plaster-clad object is representative of how the things we accrue ultimately perish. This launch, in 2015, was connected to his movie premier of the same name at the TriBeCa Film Festival. The movie was also presented at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in France. 

 

Through this chapter of “Future Relic 03,” we are able to visually understand the future that Arsham has imagined. The world as we know it today does not exist. “We all moved inland as the water rose” explains the protagonist Lona Rey. A cratered moon hangs in the sky, but with a sizable rectangular section excavated from its surface. The star of the movie is Juliette Lewis, a young woman searching for her scientist father who apparently went missing in his quest to save our Earth. About half way through the short, at minute 8:04, we see Lona as a little girl, up late at night, peering into her father’s study. On his desk, a brass Bulova mechanical alarm clock reads 8:30pm. 

 

In full commitment to the credibility of his “Future Relic” universe, Arsham has thoroughly combed through every detail. On the label of the box belonging to the artwork, he has included elements such as the excavation date and the longitude and latitude of the find. Another subtle detail that ties back into the movie is the faded logo on the box which is from the translator device Lona uses to speak with an Owl. 

Clock Packaging 2  Clock Packaging 1 3 Clock Label
     

Daniel Arsham is a true multi-disciplinarian. His work spans art, filmmaking, design, architecture and performance, with powerful themes woven into his narrative.

 

A link to the Future Relic 03 movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWvnC0mGOGk

WOW! – Work of the Week – Keith Haring, Dog





Keith Haring
Dog
1981
Collage cut-out on paper
12 x 9 in.
Signed and dated in ink

About the work:

A leading figure of the American art scene of the eighties, Keith Haring embraced the world of art thanks to his father who was an amateur comics artist. By the time Haring moved to New York in 1978, he had already developed his style of simple outline drawing, inspired by his father, which would continue to be his s

ignature style throughout his career.

In New York City, Haring adopted and contributed to the downtown culture of Manhattan, tagging subway cars or East-Village buildings with Jean-Michel Basquiat along with other artists. While prolific in his street art endeavors, Keith Haring was much more than just a graffiti artist. His drawings, which feature seemingly simplistic, vividly-colored shapes are actually the product of a solid artistic and cultural education.

Haring attended the School of Visual Arts in NYC and in addition to art classes, he also took courses in semiotics. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation. This discipline had a profound impact on Haring’s works. Haring combined his learnings with his contour drawing style, and created a visual lexicon of icons and symbol-like figures. These images, easily remembered and akin to a signature, became identifiers, characterizing  his work. 

Having started out capturing the New York City street culture in his art, his icons read like an urban, tribal language. However, as Haring matured, along with the influence of the New York art scene, Haring’s work became more intricate and more social / political. Everything in his works took on meaning. 

Aside from the Radiant Baby, Haring’s Dog is his most famous tag. The Dog, is portrayed in many different manners, and as an icon, generally has more than one explicit meaning or symbolism. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Keith Haring’s Dog.  This work is a collage cut-out on gold foiled paper. It is a unique work inspired by Matisse’s cut-outs. One of the tallest of the giants on whose shoulders Haring set his feet was Matisse, who inspired his combinations of flat tints of color and his decomposition of planes-characteristics. Haring did a number of cut-outs and collages in this manner. This work is signed and dated ’81.

The Barking Dog, for example, can indicate action or suspicion. The Dog as a character, sometimes represented as a standing figure (combined with a human form), represents authoritarian government, abuse of power, police states, and oppressive regimes.

In addition to these two representations, the other dogs in the art of Keith Haring are all anthropomorphic. Certain Dogs are depicted dancing, laughing, DJing, etc. in these personifications, it is almost as though they take on the role of an alter ego of the artist. 

Throughout Art History, Dogs have been portrayed in paintings as the personification of fidelity. Dogs also imply loyalty, guidance, protection and love. As a student of semiotics, none of these implications would have been lost on haring and it is not surprising that this would be one of his most-used icons. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – Leon Polk Smith, Volair, from Constellation Series





Leon Polk Smith

Volair, from Constellation Series

1975

Screenprint

41 1/8 x 29 1/2 in.

Edition of 80

Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Considered one of the founders of the hard-edge style of abstract art, Leon Polk Smith rose to prominence in the 1960s with his distinctive shaped canvas series — the “Constellations”.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW!) is the 1975 screenprint Volair, from this important Constellations Series

It was in 1936, while attending Columbia University’s famed Teachers College, that Smith was introduced to the geometric works of contemporary European artists. The works of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian caught his eye during his studies. He was deeply inspired by Mondrian’s aesthetics, if not fully convinced by the philosophy behind them. A pragmatic American in his approach, Smith took what he wanted from the aesthetic experience and discarded the theorizing.

However, it would be another few years before the influence of De Stijl, the movement inspired by Mondrian in which pure abstraction is achieved through form and color, clearly manifested itself in Smith’s work. His perceptions of artistic space led to a quest to make color and form one. This quest consisted of a series of intuitive decisions rather than the theoretical, ruminative creative process that preoccupied Mondrian and other members of the De Stijl group.

Smith established his key motif while perusing an athletic catalogue in the late 1940s. Examining the pencil drawings of baseballs and tennis balls in it, Smith began to imagine that from these simple shapes he could create a new kind of space.

As he described:

“It was flat and the same time it was curved. It was like a sphere. The planes seemed to move in every direction, as space does. And so I thought, maybe that is because that’s on the tondo. I’ve got to find out if that is true or not. I’ve got to do some on a rectangle to see if the form and the space still moved in every direction. And it did. So it was exciting to do a painting on a rectangle that seemed to have a curved surface. It was the first time, you see, that I had made an important step myself, or contribution in art.”

While his Minimalist peers during that time were shifting away from Modernism and rejecting relationality, Smith was wholeheartedly advancing the formal and rational elements of the Modernist tradition. By introducing a single curving line, Smith created two pictorial spaces, allowing for the interchangeability of positive and negative space. He developed his signature hard-edge style over the following decade, beginning with creating a series of paintings in which he explores the circle by developing a curvilinear shape within it using two colors, and later experimenting with more colors in oval, rectangular and square shapes.

By 1967, Smith’s circular explorations introduced additional panels and defined his shaped, multi-part “Constellation” series of paintings and drawings, among his most exuberant and inventive compositions.

WOW! – Work of the Week – INVADER, Rubik Six Cubes



Invader
Rubik Six Cube (Blue/Yellow)
2009-2010
Screenprint
27 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.
Edition of 20
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

Invader
Rubik Six Cube (Orange/Yellow)
2009-2010
Screenprint
27 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.
Edition of 20
Pencil signed, dated and numbered


About the work:

Rubik’s Cubes are meant to be solved, right?   Wrong!!  

The art of cubing takes on a different meaning under the 8-bit eyes of Invader. Twisting dozens, even hundreds of Rubik’s Cubes into precise patterns of pixelated pointillism, Invader updates artistic techniques pioneered by Picasso, Duchamp, Seurat and others into a new and distinctly modern form: Rubikcubism.

Billed as the “Urban Seurat”, Invader is the pseudonym of a French urban artist, born in 1969, whose work is modeled on the crude pixellation of 1970s–1980s 8-bit video games. A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Invader initially derived inspiration for his creations from video games from the late 1970s to early 1980s that he played when he was growing up, particularly characters from Space Invaders, from which he derived his name. Games of the era were made with 8-bit graphics, and so lend themselves well to his method of each tile representing one pixel.

Rubikcubism:

One of Invader’s most important innovations was Rubikcubism, a style of mosaic art that uses various Rubik’s Cube configurations to create extremely complex images.

While most try to solve the Rubik’s Cube, anonymous French Street-Artist, Space Invader has come up with another creative use for the toy. Since 2004, he has been using Rubik’s Cubes to create crude-pixelated pointillism artwork. Updating and modernizing a technique pioneered by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, Invader named the movement: Rubikcubism, and has continued to experiment with the style ever since.

This week’s Work of the Week! (WOW!) is Invader’s Rubik Six Cube Series. These screenprints are made up of 6 cubes, all arranged in a specific manner to create an image. In the case of this series, Invader’s trademark Space-Invader, his most  iconic image of the 80’s is portrayed. Coming of age in the 80’s, much of Invader’s artistic identity revolves around the iconic imagery and pop culture of his youth.

Given the difficulty of solving a Rubik Cube, let alone attempting to create images, Invader uses a computer program to work out the precise disposition of the six colors for each image. He then manipulates the nine pixels for each Rubik’s Cube to give the required pattern.

Invader Rubiks_Art_                    Invader Rubiks_Art_2

While this series is made up of the use of six cubes, some of Invader’s creations can use over 300 Cubes.  He has recreated “Masterpieces” where famous paintings by artists such as Delacroix, Warhol, Seurat, and Lichtenstein are given a work over. He has a series of Rubikcubism works entitled “Low Fidelity” based on iconic album art such as “Country Life” by Roxy Music, and The Velvet Underground & Nico.  He has also created a series of “Bad Men” where Invader reinterprets villains such as Osama bin Laden, Jaws and Al Capone.

Invader Rubiks_Art_3

All these works and themes are relative to pop culture, and to today’s world in which we live in, with a touch of nostalgia from his days as a youth.

What does Erno Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube have to say about Invader’s use of his famous toy puzzle in his artworks?

When asked he says: “I’m glad the Cube is reaching new generations, who face it with fresh wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm.”   

WOW! – Work of the Week – WARHOL, Paramount, from Ads





Andy Warhol
Paramount, from Ads
1985
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
38 x 38 in.
Edition of 190
Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

One of the last portfolios Andy Warhol would produce before his untimely death in 1987 was his renowned Ads series. The 10 prints that make up the series are based on some of the most popular and successful ad campaigns and logos from Andy Warhol’s lifetime. They are considered to be particularly important because of Warhol’s fascination with advertising, consumerism and commercialism, which were three major facets of his entire body of work. Having begun his artistic career in advertising, Andy Warhol, more than any other artist of his generation, understood how the reproduced image had come to reflect and shape contemporary life in America.

This week’s Work Of the Week! WOW! is Paramount. In this work, Andy Warhol masterfully depicts the snow-capped mountain in white, making the image pop out to the viewer. He also skillfully plays with the yellow, red and green coloring causing the word “Paramount” and the halo of stars to seem three-dimensional or animated. That Warhol chose Paramount over any other film studio is fitting in many ways.

It is well-known that Warhol was fascinated with stardom and fame. He loved being surrounded by the Hollywood elites. One of his most famed images is that of Marilyn Monroe, he was smitten with Liz Taylor, and even promoted his own “Warhol Superstars” such as Baby Jane Holzer, Edie Sedwick and Candy Darling, to name a few. Founded in 1912, Paramont Pictures, is the second oldest film studio in the US.  The story behind the Paramount logo is that each of the 22 original contracted actors and actresses of the studio was honored with one of the stars of the halo atop the mountain peak, which made them the original “movie stars.” There is no doubt that Andy Warhol, the man who coined the famous “15 minutes of fame” phrase, would have loved where the term “movie star” originated from.

The Paramount Logo as a portrait? : A Mysterious Connection

There is another, more personal and less well-known connection between Andy Warhol and the Paramount Pictures Company. In 1980, he met Jon Gould who was a 27 year old vice president of marketing at Paramount Pictures. Warhol was deeply infatuated with the film executive, and over the course of 5 years, the two shared a close bond that defied easy description. They lived together in Warhol’s townhouse until 1985. Jon Gould is the most photographed subject of Andy’s oeuvre, and while Andy created many portraits of him during their time together, those close to Warhol have insinuated that  the inclusion of the Paramount logo in the Ads series, may be considered an abstract portrait of the young man Andy cared for.

WOW! – Work of the Week – WARHOL, Blackglama





Andy Warhol
Blackglama, from Ads
1985
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
40 x 40 in.
Unqiue
Authenticated and stamped by the Andy Warhol Foundation on verso

About the work:

WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST?

One of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 20th century began in 1968: the series of full-page, black-and-white print ads for “Blackglama” furs. The campaign was an instant success thanks to the (at the time) new formula of combining a brilliant tag line, with a glamourous and famous icon to promote a luxury item.

“What becomes a Legend most?” is the memorable slogan for Blackglama furs.

Something that has always intrigued people about the brand name is: why the GLAMA in Blackglama, is not GLAMOUR? The whole campaign started when approximately 400 mink ranchers from the Great Lakes Mink Association (a.k.a. GLMA) were looking to revamp the image of their product. Ad executive, Jane Trahey of Jane Trahery Associates in NYC came up with the idea to incorporate the deep black color of the mink and the name of the association. Thus the name and the memorable slogan were born: “What becomes a Legend most?” (the “L” in legend was always capitalized).

Famed photographer Richard Avadon was brought on by the campaign to photograph the most important female celebrities of the time. In the first year alone, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and Judy Garland modeled for the brand. Every model was gifted an $8,000 Blackglama mink coat. Legend has it that Judy Garland left the studio without even bothering to have hers lined.

Here below we see Avadon’s contact sheet of Judy Garland posing in her Blackglama for the ad campaign

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Blackglama, from Ads, featuring Judy Garland by Andy Warhol. Ever the observer of the times in which he lived, the artist, who began his career as a commercial illustrator in the 50’s was fascinated with the commercial world. Warhol glamorized and transformed celebrities and everyday objects like soup cans and Brillo Pads, into works of art. In the mid 1980’s he created one of his most sought after and iconic sets of screenprints: the Ads Series. Andy Warhol’s work explores the themes and the relationship between artistic expression, and the celebrity culture, advertisement, capitalism and consumerism that were prevalent at the time. The cultural force that was the Blackglama ad campaign fit perfectly into his philosophy and was a obvious choice to include into the Ads portfolio.

This particular version of Warhol’s Blackglama is a unique working proof, outside of the regular edition. It is much different from the one that we are most familiar with. In this work, the most notable difference is the background and the colors of Judy Garland herself. In the regular edition, the background is black and the color blue is the most prevalent for the mink, as well as her hair. In this working proof, there are more colors and the detail of Judy Garland’s face, hair and mink are more pronounced. The slogan at the top even has a slightly different hue.

Another noticeable difference is the size of this work. The regular edition Blackglama measures 38 x 38 in. This working proof measures 40 x 40 in. If you look closely at the bottom and left margins, you will see traces of regular edition coloring underneath this unique proof. Warhol did this quite often, working out different color arrangements and schemes until he got it just right.

These working proofs have become quite rare, hard to find and highly sought after. Each proof is different. Each proof is considered a unique work of art. This unique working proof of Blackglama is certified by the Andy Warhol foundation on the verso with its registration number. It is also accompanied with a letter of authenticity by the Andy Warhol Authentication Board.

WOW! – Work of the Week – LICHTENSTEIN, Titled





 

Roy Lichtenstein
Titled
1996
Sreenprint on Coventry Rag paper
31 1/2 x 39 1/2 in
Edition of 175
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

Roy Lichtenstein was the epitome of Pop art. His paintings are instantly recognizable through his use of Benday Dots, bold colors and thick lines. This recognition, as one of Pop Art’s Greats, came late in life for the artist. Lichtenstein knew he wanted to make a living from his artwork, but it wasn’t until his late 30’s that he was able to do so. Until that time, he supported himself mostly through teaching. When Leo Castelli took the artist under his wing and put together his first solo-show in 1962, Lichtenstein became an overnight sensation. The entire show had sold out before the opening night. 

Lichtenstein’s work reinvigorated the American art scene and altered the history of modern art. After his triumph at Castelli’s famed gallery, he went on to create a body of work of more than 5,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, murals and other objects celebrated for their wit and invention.

Most famously, Lichtenstein appropriated the Benday dots. The dots became a trademark device forever identified with the artist and Pop Art. In order to achieve the dots, the artist would use various kinds of stencils with perforated patterns that he would brush paint across, creating perfect circles void of brush strokes. 

Benday dot printing is a minute mechanical patterning used in commercial engraving consisting of small colored dots. The process is named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day Jr. who invented it in 1879. Originally, this technique was used in the printing of Pulp Comic Books in the 50’s and 60’s as an inexpensive way to create shading and secondary colors. Lichtenstein elevated a cheap, commercial printing process into fine art, managing to evoke strong emotions. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Titled by Roy Lichtenstein. The print was produced for the 1996 election cycle for the effort “Artists for Freedom of Expression.” It was to benefit the candidates and organizations that supported federal funding of the arts. Sixteen of the nations most respected contemporary artists were solicited to donate work that would be sold to directly benefit the cause, among them were Chuck Close, Peter Haley, Jenny Holzer, Elsworth Kelly, Bruce Newman, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist. 

While Lichtenstein is known for his use of Benday dots, in this particular image, the style he uses is called Halftone. Benday dots are always the same size, Halftone dots on the other hand, are always the same color and vary in size and/or spacing and create a gradient or atmospheric perspective. In this work, the halftone dots become smaller in the distance, implying the vastness of the sea. 

With just a few simple, strategic swathes, Lichtenstein is able to suggest the features of a landscape. A think blue line represents the horizon while an undulating green one delineates the shore from the water. The sun is particularly interesting, a yellow monotone circle with a curious black crescent shape. Finally, the texture of the leaves and trees is fascinating, as thought the artist created the foliage with a paint filled sponge which brings to mind a more abstract style. 

WOW! – Work of the Week – HIRST, Black Brilliant Utopia





Damien Hirst
Black Brilliant Utopia
2013
Inkjet, Glaze and Diamond Dust on Hahnemmuhle photo rag paper
34 x 28 in.
Edition of 50
Signed and numbered in ink

About the work:

“Pills are a brilliant little form, better than any minimalist art, they’re all designed to make you buy them… they come out of flowers, plants, things from the ground, and they make you feel good.” Damien Hirst

We live in a chemical world, where everything from pain to pleasure to survival itself can be shaped by legal and illegal drugs. Many people live on a daily cocktail of prescribed pharmaceuticals, and many others take unprescribed ones. Life seems to be muffled by medicine.

Damien Hirst, the “enfant terrible” of the Young British Artist movement has often made work around the seductive allure of pharmaceuticals. His cylindrical pills and medicine cabinets have become as synonymous with the artist as the formaldehyde shark. Even his instantly recognizable Spot paintings make strong reference to medications and their effects. Hirst, who has admitted to a ten year struggle with drug and alcohol abuse in the 90’s has a deep fascination with death and mortality, themes that are front and center in most of his works.

In his series of medicine cabinets and pills, Hirst taps into both the apprehension and awe that we experience when we come into contact with alluring products that have the power to soothe away our misery, pain and reality.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Black Brilliant Utopia, by Damien Hirst. The work references the ability of pills and medication to mesmerize yet instill fear in us. Through the brilliant, sparkling of the diamond dust, the artwork plays on the aspect of temptation. Our society is drawn, almost hypnotized by medication. The layout of the pills on the shelves conveys a sense of antiseptic orderliness with an unmistakeable pharmaceutical aesthetic. This calculated precision is reassuring, however the dark hues of the pills transmit an unnerving sentiment, which brings to mind the more dire aspects of a medicated society.

Hirst’s medicine cabinets project a certain Pop Art aesthetic. The object is familiar to consumers, and connects with the artist’s philosophical preoccupations of birth and death, and more importantly, a deep belief that art heals.

WOW! – Work of the Week – ALBERS, White Line Squares (Series II) XVI





Josef Albers
White Line Squares (Series II) XVI
1966
Lithograph
20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in.
27/125
Initialed in pencil, dated, numbered and titled

About the work:

“The perception of color is deceiving, we may perceive two different colors to look alike, or two equal colors to look different. This game of colors – the change of identity – is the object of my study.”
Josef Albers

Accomplished as a designer, photographer, typographer, and printmaker, Josef Albers is best known for his work as an abstract painter and color theorist. His approach to composition was very disciplined. He spent 26 years creating and mastering thousands of paintings and prints that make up his series “Homage to the Square.” Through this series, Albers explored chromatic interaction with nested squares. 

His works were always created using the same process: he painted mostly on Masonite, using a palette knife to prime the surface with layers of white gesso, then applying each oil color minimally for maximum effect. He would paint one coat of pure color directly to the canvas from the tube, unmixed, starting from the centre and working his way outwards, just as his father, a house painter, carpenter, plumber and general technician, had taught him – a technique that ‘catches the drips of paint and keeps cuffs clean’ he used to say.

He was known to meticulously list the specific manufacturer’s colors and varnishes he used on the back of each work, as if the colors were catalogued components of an optical experiment. Each painting in the series was composed of either three or four squares of solid planes of color nested within one another, in one of four different arrangements and in square formats. 

Despite their name, the Homages  seem to be less about squares within squares than about the infinite possibilities of the chromatic spectrum. Every last one is an exercise in visual juxtaposition, an exploration of the effect that colors have on the eye and on each other. The size and proportion and the number of the squares vary, but they are always offset towards the bottom of the frame  The arrangement of these squares is carefully calculated so that the color of each square optically alters the sizes, hues, and spatial relationships of the others, and this tricks the eye into a figurative response: they look like luminous corridors receding to a vanishing point.

Our Work Of the Week! WOWWhite Line Squares (series II) XVI is from the “Homage to the Square” series. Its color composition is comprised of three surrounding squares in colors cream, warm ochre light, and brown with a white line square in the middle square of ochre.  The ochre on either side of the thin white line is actually the same hue, however, the placement of the white line creates a shift in color on both sides so that the single color appears as two different colors. 

Albers wrote: “A white line within a color instead of as a contour may present a newly discovered effect: when the line is placed within a so-called “middle” color, even when the color is very evenly applied, it will make the one color look like two different shades or tints  of that color.”

An Interesting Note:  Transferring this idea to lithographs was a complicated process, because the white line was created by the unprinted paper. The square containing the white line could not therefore be printed over an underlying color area. Accordingly, the well known printmaker Kenneth Tyler devised a way to print on plates that accurately abutted one another with no overlap.

Having studied and later taught at the famed Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany prior to fleeing to the US, Albers’ work represents a transition between traditional European art and the new American art. It incorporates European influences from the Constructivists and the Bauhaus. His influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and the 1960s. Hard-Edge abstract painters drew on Albers’ use of  patterns and intense colors, while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in  perception.