Josef Albers (b. 1888, d. 1976), using the sparest of means, seems nevertheless to see into the depth of things. Using his pencil like an engineering tool, he draws a line across grid paper so precise it seems tensioned. Soon there are four lines and he has a square. From there he picks up this black ink pen or his paintbrush and his imagination seems to take flight.
He left his native Germany for America in 1933 and in 1950, as head of design at Yale University, he began his 'Homage to the Square' series, studies that were to occupy him for the next 25 years.
The Waddington Custot Gallery has the helpful habit of numbering the works. Look at numbers 13–15, Albers's grey homage to the square. The light touch and the precision are enchanting here. Just as the ancient Chinese believed that black contained all the colours, Albers painted as if grey contained all the light.
His work is, of course, a mainstay of fine art and graphic design teaching. His work on the square and its projections are influential just about everywhere you look. It's work that continues to refresh as well as inform the vision.
Josef Albers 'Black and White'
11–12 Cork Street, London W1
Mon–Fri: 10 am–6 pm
Sat: 10 am–1.30 pm