Friday, March 4, 2011

Little escap(ad)e III

When I went on my first little escap(ad)e  whichI wrote about here I had originally wanted to go and see the exhibit „Malerei auf Papier – Josef Albers in Amerika“ (Painting on paper – Josef Albers in America) which was recently shown in the Pinakothek der Moderne (closing the day after tomorrow, on March 6th). (Click here for more information on Josef Albers.)

I am not terrifically good about remembering artist’s names, but I do remember works of art that have ‚talked’ to me. That was the case with Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels, which I mentioned here. And I vividly recall the impression that a first encounter with one of Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square made on me – I was stunned. The fascinating simplicity of the idea, combined with the exactness of execution and overall impact of the color combinations simply stuck in my mind. Most likely my first encounter took place through either a postcard or a picture in a book or catalogue rather than a direct confrontation with a „real painting“. But in December I read an article about it in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which was pure rave, and immediately knew that I wanted to see for myself.

Review of Josef Albers exhibition
in Süddeutsche Zeitung from December 16, 2010
As the Pinakothek der Moderne isn’t open on Mondays I didn’t get to go the first chance I had to go to Munich, so I made arrangements to go on February 25: my husband was scheduled to pick up our son at Kindergarten and take him to a friend’s house for the afternoon, until I would return from out of town. However, the day before the German trade union for train drivers called for strikes – and although I had planned to go in by car, I decided to postpone the trip once again. I didn’t want to get caught in the traffic jam caused by more people going into the city by car, and I would have had to take public transport within Munich, which could have affected my travels, too. However, time was running out – as I said, the exhibit is only on display here until March 6, and I knew I couldn’t really go during this week... So a family council made it possible that I could take a slightly rushed Saturday afternoon trip to Munich. Less time, no extras whatsoever around the visit to the museum, but definitely worth the effort!

Have you ever been to the Pinakothek der Moderne? This is the view you get when you enter the front hall.

Entrance hall of Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

The exhibit is on display in one large room of the museum – which I had been to before, when I saw the exhibition of Amish Quilts there several years ago. The room was much too small for the quilts, but it certainly was a great room for this exhibit now.

The pieces are all oil on paper. A number of the „Farbstudien“ (Color studies) are in black/white or different grays, preliminary even to the studies with different colours.
What you see are mostly the preparatory sketches Albers made in planning his series/individual works of the series. Only one of the finished paintings Homage to the Square is on display, everything else is stuff that one would not expect to see in an art exhibition. After all, it’s not ‚finished art’ yet.

What you get is a fabulous insight into Albers’ process of creation, how he kept changing the hues and values of the colours by adding a little bit of white or grey or ... and you get to observe for yourself the change of effects caused by these minute alterations. Without wanting to narrow the importance or effect of the finished paintings, I do believe that exactly these minute alterations give you a better understanding of what Albers was trying to do – and, in the end, did achieve.

Personally, I do like to see the process of his work that becomes visible to the viewer in  
  • the notes to himself which he etched into the wet paint, imprinted notes that remained visible without the danger of getting lost
  • the pencil notes on color combinations he kept on the margins or directly on the sketches, and,
  • my most favorite: the ‚Try again’ which he told himself at the bottom of  one study in various reds:

'try again' as note to himself, picture taken from catalogue
 The exhibition is accompanied by a hard-cover catalogue published by art publisher Hatje Cantz, and I am very glad that I spent money on it. It is a good way to relive the visit, and has some interesting essays, too.

The exhibition is traveling to various places afterwards – the Josef Albers Quadrat Museum in Bottrop, and New York amongst them. If you get a chance – go! It's a must see, unless, of course, you have a chance to visit the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation...

(More pictures on Albers can be found here.)

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