past Exhibition

    Monique Prieto, Arizona High Noon, 2005. Monoprint; 16 × 15 ½ inches. Collection of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Gift of Lewis and Roca, Phoenix, 2005.013 © Monique Prieto. Photo: Dana Buhl

Learning to See: Josef Albers and The Interaction of Color

May 18 – Sep 22, 2013


In his publication The Interaction of Color, artist and teacher Josef Albers argued that there is no way to understand colors except in relationship to one another. Advocating practical experience over the study of artistic theories or scientific principles, he laid out a series of exercises by which to explore the ways adjacent colors appear to change one another. These straightforward assignments reveal the complex relativity of vision—how the same shade of green looks different placed on a blue background than on yellow; or how three different reds on a white background look similar, but become distinct when placed on yet another red. Albers claimed that, “In my color book there is no new theory of color. But, in it, there is a way to learn to see.”

A radical departure from conventional art education when first published in 1963, Albers’s book is now considered a classic. Produced originally as a limited edition of screen prints, The Interaction of Color was reissued as a paperback volume in 1971 and reprinted again in 2006 and 2013. For decades, it has been assigned to countless art and design students.

Renowned both for his teaching and his paintings, Albers is a critical figure in 20th-century art. A member of the Bauhaus, Germany’s influential modernist art school in the 1920s, Albers immigrated to the United States in 1933 and taught at Black Mountain College and Yale University. In 1950, he began his rigorous chromatic investigation “Homage to the Square,” a series of paintings and prints that sustained his attention for 25 years. In 1971, Albers became the first living artist to be given a retrospective exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

This installation of selections from SMoCA’s permanent collection celebrated Albers’s legacy and the 50th anniversary of The Interaction of Color. The Albers prints on view are from his 1972 portfolio Formulation: Articulation. They were shown alongside works by other artists who have shared Albers’s fascination with color.


Organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Sponsored by Allison Gee Fine Art Appraisals