• Hommage au carré
  • Nicholas Fox Weber
  • Executive Director, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation

Josef Albers: a new adventure

No professional collaboration would have pleased Josef Albers more than the publication by Hermès of these marvelous silken renderings of Josef’s Homages to the Square. What the distinguished French firm has done with its interpretation of Josef’s art reveals an attention to visual and tactile experience, a mastery of materials and method, and the relentless pursuit of perfection that were the artist’s lifelong quest. It makes perfect sense that Hermès has translated Josef’s “platters to serve color” – as he termed his Homages – into the medium of silk. During the artist’s lifetime, the Homages existed initially as oils on panel, then as prints (first lithographs, then screenprints) on paper, and then tapestry (wovenby Aubusson). Hermès, more experienced in the production of silk “carrés” than any other firm in the world, has demonstrated a unique capability to match the colors Josef chose with such care. Beyond that, Hermès has mastered the alignment and registration of pure hues with the impeccability that was one of the artist’s most deeply cherished objectives. Toward the end of his life, Josef was overjoyed when the makers of his prints on paper had finally devised a technique to have solid bands of colors touch continuously along their mutual borders without overlapping, thus making it possible to have each color printed in all its purity on the white support, rather than having one color super imposed over another. Hermès, with its tireless pursuit of excellence, has now done the same in silk; Josef Albers would have said “Bravo!” All of this has happened because Pierre-Alexis Dumas, a painter as well as artistic director of Hermès, has a unique feeling for Josef’s work, which he knows intimately and in rare depth. With his understanding of Albers’s magic, and of the artist’s unique ways of making colors interact, Pierre-Alexis has worked with his extraordinarily able crew to achieve the color performance that was Josef’s goal. What gives these Homages to the Square published by Hermès their magic is that they present the wonder of the impossible. What is distinctly flat simultaneously moves backwards and forwards in space. A color that is printed evenly and without modulation appears to have gradations of lightness and darkness. A distinct corner comprised of the junction of two sharp edges is made to seem hazy and rounded. The after-image of a hue appears, miraculously, in one of its neighbors. Colors give the illusion of penetrating one another, or overlapping one another, while infact they are discrete. The Hermès Homages to the Square realize Josef’s objectives when he wrote,
“I think and see
First and most – color
But color as motion…
Color in a direct and frontal focus
And when closely felt
As a breathing and pulsating– from within.”
The meticulous execution and consuming proficiency with which these exquisite objects have been achieved by Hermès makes them the embodiment of Josef’s boldest dreams when he declared, “The aim of art is living creations.” The results are to be savored forever.