Work of the Week– “Formulation: Articulation Folio I, Folder 4” by Josef Albers

Monday, June 12, 2017

By Haley Clement

Upon a shallow and, perhaps, artificial glance at Josef Albers’ 1972 serigraph Formulation: Articulation Folio I, Folder 4, one sees two multi-layer squares of color – one reminiscent of a cold, eerie room enveloping the viewer in its darkness and one of its burning, white-hot counterpart. Upon closer inspection, however, one can notice the two squares of contrasting primary colors working together to pulsate both the darkness and the brightness within their cores, thus creating a composition of vibrant harmony.


What drew me to Albers’ piece, admittedly, was its resemblance to work by 20th century abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. I have just recently hung up my metaphorical anti-abstract hat in response to a newfound understanding of the style –shout out to copious amounts of patience on behalf of my art history professors over the years. That being said, what kept my attention was the fact that this piece is not a painting but instead a “glass picture.”

As for some background on the artist, Josef Albers was born in 1888 in Bottrop, Germany, and created his first abstract painting in 1913 while attending Berlin’s Royal Art School. Around 1920, Albers began experimenting with glass and developed his distinguished style of “glass pictures.” Interesting fact for history enthusiasts: Several of Albers’ glass pictures were incorporated in the Exhibition of Bauhaus Masters of 1929 (i.e., the art school he taught at), and when the Nazis closed the Bauhaus in 1933, Albers made his way to Black Mountain College where he was hired to head the art department. He later went on to Harvard and Yale and published the widely known “Interaction of Color”, which is widely depended on to teach art courses today.

With his experience as both a teacher and a creator as well as his interest in color over form, Albers managed to impact modern art to come. The utilization of color is a way many characterize his art, in which he strives to challenge the way our eyes perceive certain hues. Relativity of color, or the study of the same color appearing different next to a white than, say, a black, was one phenomenon Albers explored.

Whether you are an abstract enthusiast or an aficionado of area artists – both past and present –  I recommend visiting our Permanent Collection online to view other works by Albers and similar artists.

Artwork above: Josef Albers, Formulation: Articulation Folio I, Folder 4, C. 1972, Serigraph, 15 x 40 inches. Gift of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. Permanent Collection. 1997.01.04.65d.