Yale School of Art exhibition examines impact of Josef Albers’ art and teaching
The Yale School of Art will launch its 2015-2016 season with an exhibition exploring the integration of artist Josef Albers’ teaching and artistic methods. “Search Versus Re-Search: Josef Albers, Artist and Educator” will include 18 paintings, prints, drawings, and studies by Albers, chair of the school’s Department of Design from 1950 to 1958, alongside 60 student works from his classroom prompts, some of which have never been exhibited. The exhibition will also feature an original short film and documentary footage. “Search Versus Re-Search” will be on view Sept. 8–Nov. 28 at the School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery.
Albers was a passionate artist and visionary educator. He transformed the teaching of art and design in the 20th century by asserting that the point of making of art is not the finished product, but the process — that art is not an object, art is an experience. At Yale he reimagined the curriculum by integrating painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and architecture undunder the common purpose of design. In his work and teaching, Albers emphasized simple, accessible materials and techniques to produce infinite visual and material results. By offering his students a series of visual riddles about form, structure, and color, Albers inspired in them a new way of seeing and understanding. His approach had a formative influence on innumerable artists and thinkers including Sheila Hicks, Robert Mangold, Richard Serra, Alexander Purves, William Bailey, Richard Lytle, Eva Hesse, and Karsten Harries.
Albers is known for his acclaimed 1963 volume, “Interaction of Color,” a compilation of student responses to his teaching prompts and a masterwork of both pedagogical and artistic method. (Yale Press published an award-winning iPad version in 2013, which will also be available to sample in the exhibition.) Lesser known is the extensive archive Albers kept of student exercises from his drawing and design courses. Together, the works document the depth and breadth of his disciplined, albeit dynamic, teaching style.
Born in Germany, Albers studied and taught at the experimental Bauhaus in Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin. When the Bauhaus closed under Nazi pressure in 1933, many of its artists fled the country as refugees. That year, Albers and his wife, artist Anni Albers, were invited to teach at the newly formed Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Ultimately, the couple moved to Connecticut in 1950, when he took up his position at Yale. Albers was a prolific artist who worked in media as diverse as painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, glass, and furniture design, all the while establishing his reputation as an unparalleled educator.
The title for the exhibition is taken from a 1969 essay by Albers, in which he asks, “Why did the masters become masters? Because they tried to say something other than their masters had, not only different and new, but alive and ahead. Therefore they chose to follow themselves and search, not re-search; to move forward rather than backward.”
“This mantra, ‘search, not re-search,’ evokes Albers’ faith in practice before theory in the artistic process,” says exhibition curator Anoka Faruqee, director of graduate studies and associate professor of painting and printmaking at the Yale School of Art. “While some works in this exhibition might qualify as ‘finished,’ all of the works are remainders of experience, and provocations to today’s artists to continually revise and experiment.”
“Search Versus Re-Search: Josef Albers, Artist and Educator” is free and open to the public from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. The exhibition opening reception, also free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Yale School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery in New Haven.
An original short film, “Search Versus Re-Search: Recollections of Josef Albers at Yale,” by Faruqee and Masha Vlasova, MFA ‘16 will be on view in the exhibition along with other documentary footage.
The exhibition has been organized by Faruqee, in collaboration with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut. A symposium exploring the impact of Albers’ art and teaching will take place the Yale School of Art, 36 Edgewood Ave., on Friday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibition and symposium are funded by the Yale School of Art, The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.