May 31, 2003

Josef Albers at Pace Wildenstein

Saw the Josef Albers paintings at Pace Wildenstein Gallery on 57th Street.

Nearly all the works are "Homage to the Square" or "Study for Homage to the Square". It's wonderful to seem them all in one space. Some observations:

• These are paintings, not screenprints. When seen up close, they have texture, brushstrokes, gesso showing through. So much of that is toned down in the "known" museum works, the screenprints, the posters.

• The show is grouped by color. The result is to have paintings that seem to refer to each other in a fairly taut conversation, yet are dated 5 years apart. Ah, to have that kind of attention span.

• One gem of the show is the small side room of Albersiana: paper sketches (including intense mathematical calculations), photographs of Albers by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and some lengthy text. There are four unframed sketch pieces on Masonite with Albers squiggles and notations and a range of masonite chunks with color swatches. Just so no one thinks that Albers phoned this all in.

• The printed, hardbound catalog ($60), while attractive, seems to have been made without photographs, but instead has reconstructions of the pieces in offset colors. And the colors don't seem to relate to the actual works. Not worth the price, in my opinion.

Here's an undated study:

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