Josef Albers (American, born Germany, 1888–1976)
Oil on Masonite
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
Gift of the artist, 1972 (1972.40.7)
© 2011 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
In his series titled Homage to the Square, Albers produced an extensive body of variations on a highly focused theme. Homage to the Square is a collective exploration of color and spatial relationships, in which Albers limited himself to square formats, solid colors, and precise geometry, yet was able to achieve a seemingly endless range of visual effects.
Working in a laboratory-like studio, Albers employed a highly systematic method appropriate to the rigidly defined elements of his work. For the paintings in the series, he applied his pigments directly from the tube onto squares of Masonite, a wood fiberboard, spread them evenly with a palette knife, and blended them on the board when necessary. Each painting was marked on the reverse with careful notations on the types and shades of color that he had used, in a record of the work's specific formal experiment.
The composition of Homage to the Square: Soft Spoken is organized around a central square of deep greenish black, framed by squares of dark pine green, bright grass green, and deep aquamarine. The "cool" range of visual sensation in this work, focused on the deep void of the innermost square, offers a contrast to the warmer palette and centrifugal effect of Homage to the Square: With Rays (59.160).
In 1971, Albers was the subject of the first one-person exhibition of a living artist's work to be held at the Metropolitan Museum. The core of that exhibition was the Homage to the Square series, on which he continued to work until his death in 1976, as well as writing and lecturing on artistic practice and theory.