This painting, Expansion in Four Directions (1961 – 62), shares its lozenge shape and geometric divisions of color with many paintings by Piet Mondrian, whose work Max Bill (1908 – 1994) collected and in whom he was greatly interested. Bill trained at the Bauhaus in the 1920s under Josef Albers and was an architect and graphic designer as well as an artist. In his work, he aimed to transcend personal artistic expression to achieve universal communication, and to this end he used mathematics as a neutralizing compositional device.
The subject of an exhibition at the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo in 1950 and winner of the grands prize for sculpture at the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1951, he helped to introduce a generation of Latin American artists to European geometric abstraction. Bill designed the catalogue for a 1955 Mondrian exhibition at the Zurich Kusthaus and lent to it three Mondrian paintings in his collection.
Following an influential career at The Bauhaus school in Wiemer, Germany (1919 – 33) Josef Albers fled the Nazi regime and emigrated to the United States, where he taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and then at Yale in Connecticut. Beginning in 1949 and continuing over the next twenty-five years, he created his celebrated Homage to the Square series, which is composed of more than a thousand works including paintings, drawings, prints, and tapestries. These works are based on a template of geometric abstraction, a mathematically determined format of several squares overlapping or nesting within one another. These works represent Alber’s experiments with theories of color and spatial relationships, which were informed by his studies of Mexican pyramids and pre-Colombian architectonic principles. Homage to the Square: On Near Sky was painted in 1963.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square (1957) is a series study of the illusionistic effects of color. Starting with the rigorous geometry of nested squares, Albers created these works by applying paint directly from the tube and spreading it onto the Masonite board with a palette knife.
The juxtaposed slabs of colors play off one another, as some squares seem to recede into space while others float into the foreground. Albers pursued this study of color and perception from 1950 until his death, producing nearly a thousand canvases in the series.