On view August 28, 2015 – January 3, 2016

Homage to the Square

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: Rooted, 1961.
Image courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

This exhibition celebrates the juncture of art and science in the work of 20th-century American artist, teacher, and color practitioner Josef Albers, focusing on the ways in which scientific concerns with visual perception informed Albers’s art and teaching, and influenced his students and contemporaries.

Emanating from Josef Albers’s statement that color is “the most relative medium in art,” Intersecting Colors examines Albers’s overriding concern with visual perception, using an approach that combines the fields of optics, neuroscience, and Gestalt psychology. Inspired by works in the Mead’s collection, the exhibition incorporates significant loans from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, including many works that have never been shown in public before.

An émigré from early 1930s Nazi Germany, Albers (1888­–1976) is internationally known for many things, including paintings in the series titled Homage to the Square (1950–76), his book on color perception “Interaction of Color” (1963), and a teaching career that ranged from the Bauhaus in Germany (1925–33) to Black Mountain College in North Carolina (1933–49) and Yale University School of Art in Connecticut (1950–58), where he chaired the Department of Design.

Intersecting Colors features a representative selection of his abstract color work, including examples of Homage to the Square paintings, leaf studies, and Bauhaus glass paintings. It also includes a selection of screenprints from Albers’s 1972 portfolio Formulation: Articulation, which refer back to many of Albers’s best-known paintings and glass works. With explicit reference to his own statements, the exhibition examines the visual questions Albers sought to explore in his art, such as how an ambiguous form enables the viewer to read the same work in many different ways.


Intersecting Colors catalogue cover

Intersecting Colors is accompanied by a color-illustrated, peer-reviewed catalogue published by Amherst College Press, a pioneer in the field of open-access publishing. 

Featuring five essays by scholars in the sciences and humanities, the catalogue presents a unique combination of disciplinary perspectives through which a new appreciation of this noteworthy artist and teacher is offered. The catalogue can be downloaded for free, and is available for purchase in paperback in the Mead's bookstore.

Download the free exhibition catalogue for iPad, iPhone, or Mac from iTunes, or as a pdf from the Amherst College Press website. 

Organized by Vanja Malloy, curator of American art, this exhibition has been funded by the Hall & Kate Peterson Fund. The catalogue was made possible through the generosity of Younghee Kim-Wait, Class of 1982.


Panel Discussion: Josef Albers, Vision and Science
Thursday, September 10, 6–7 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium
A discussion offering insights into the visual theory and neuroscience underlying the work of artist Josef Albers, with Susan Barry, professor of biological sciences, Mount Holyoke College, Jeffrey Saletnik, assistant professor of art history, Indiana University Bloomington, and Vanja Malloy, curator of American art. Free and open to the public.

Opening Reception Following Panel Discussion
Thursday, September 10, 7 p.m.
Celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Light refreshments. Free and open to the public.

A Closer Look Gallery Talk: The Science Behind "Intersecting Colors"
Thursday, October 1, 6:30 p.m.
Discover new insights during an in-depth discussion of the exhibition with Vanja Malloy, curator of American art. Free and open to the public.

Mead Reads
Sunday, October 25, 2:30 p.m.
Join a lively discussion of Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival (2012), by Christopher Benfey, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English, Mount Holyoke College. The author, a great-nephew of Anni and Josef Albers, will lead the conversation. Free and open to the public.

Family Workshop: Local Colors
Saturday, November 14, 13 p.m.
Families with children ages 8–12 are invited to explore the Mead in an exciting new way during an afternoon art adventure. Organized in conjunction with the exhibition, this free workshop will include interactive close-looking activities, sketching, crafts, and more. Early registration encouraged. Free and open to the public.