July 17, 2012

Josef Albers in Black and White

        Variety being the spice of life and all, today's block prints are outside my usual focus.  They're by Josef Albers (1888-1976), the abstract painter most famous for his "Homage to the Square" series, in which he experimented with color interactions.  There are no color interactions here, though -- just black and white.
        I've picked representatives of two basic styles of wood block prints Albers did.  The rounder ones are earlier, and the more angular one later.  (He also did a lot of later ones that have only a few white lines, but I liked those even less, so I'm not even posting them.)
        I have to say I'm not thrilled with any of these, for a variety of reasons.  And the last looks to me like some sort of silly muppet frogmonster.  Not that I have anything against silly frogmonsters in general - indeed, that's the sort of thing you might expect I'd enjoy.  But what it really looks like is an accidental silly frogmonster, as if Albers wasn't intending anything of the sort and was doodling, no doubt taking himself very seriously with thoughts of abstract this and that.  So maybe it's kind of in the uncanny valley of silly frogmonsters.
        The first print shown above is a little more pleasing to me, but… and I know I'm betraying my lack of artistic sophistication here… it isn't very interesting, in composition, in technical skill, or in overall impact.  It just isn't my thing.
        The composition and shapes of the middle one aren't very appealing to me either, but the one thing I do like about it is the wood grain.  I like how carefully it's been inked in order to show the grain so clearly and uniformly.  I also like the contrast between the organic waves of the grain and the very sharp, straight lines and shapes.
        So on the whole I'm not a fan, but I still like to look at a few different things from time to time.  What do you think?  Do Albers's wood block prints sing to you?

[Pictures: Nach Hause (Homeward), woodcut by Albers, 1933 (image from the Tate collection);
Astatic, woodcut from plywood by Albers, 1944 (image from the New York Public Library);
Ründe (Circle), woodcut by Josef Albers, 1933 (image from the Tate).]

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