Josef Albers and Interaction of Color

ColorTherapy

There’s a new book out on the work of Josef Albers. It’s been in the back of my head for ages to discuss Albers and color theory in the context of interiors. Why not? He was all about creating color harmony through color relationships, and to flip through any survey of his feels like a study of emotion in color.

I was a huge fan of his in college, a time when I was studying Post-Modernism and critical theory, and was most devoted to all movements twentieth century. At one point in particular, a museum curator at the Walker Art Center had a bunch of us in the research rooms looking at a suite of Albers prints in shades of jet black and charcoal. Heaven.

What I didn’t realize is that I’m such an “Alberist,” by which I mean, Albers always held that color was mutable and protean, never a fixed thing. I’m sure I arrived at this myself, as I can’t remembrer a single word of college color theory, but I do always tell my clients, “color is contextual,” as he would. That perfect Driftwood Grey in your friend’s dining room is going to look blue in this house, green in that house and grey over there—it’s all contextual.

But when Albers writes about the “hamonic color constellations which derive from authoritative systems,” I start to become a relativist. Albers has a color system, my mother has a color system; Benjamin Moore, Ralph Lauren and I all have color systems. But there’s really no absolute bottom line—if you like my stuff you’ll hire me. Color forecasting never picked the same fashionable favorite color two years in a row, and what I think looks great on Park Avenue might not hold water in Bombay.

Still it’s good to behold the product of a long career such as Albers' - a fertile imagination and much research. At the end of the day, there is still such a thing as a master.

TITLE: INTERACTION OF COLOR: New Complete Edition
AUTHOR: Josef Albers; Foreword by Nicholas Fox Weber
ISBN: 978-0-300-14693-6 HC - Set with Slipcase
PAGES: 6 b/w + 145 color illus.
PUBLICATION DATE: December 22, 2009

Yale University Press

photos used with permission, and wikipedia commons

© 2010 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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