cover image Josef Albers: Life and Work

Josef Albers: Life and Work

Charles Darwent. Thames & Hudson, $39.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-500-51910-3

Art critic Darwent (Mondrian in London) delivers a gripping biography of a German artist unjustly pigeonholed as the creator of interminable variations of pictures of squares. Josef Albers (1888–1976) joined Germany’s Bauhaus school of applied design as a glass artisan in 1920 and eventually became a professor there. He then fled to the U.S. in 1933 after the Nazi government closed the school. Assuming a teaching role at Black Mountain College in North Carolina despite not being able to speak English, Albers became known for his radical teaching methods, which emphasized self-discovery over rote learning. He also turned the college into an avant-garde powerhouse by inviting the likes of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Motherwell as guest teachers long before they were famous. Though he fulfilled significant architectural commissions (like a painted glass mural for New York’s Pan Am Building), Albers’s greatest achievement, Darwent argues, was giving his students, through experiential learning, a new way of looking at art. Darwent draws extensively on Albers’s previously unpublished writings and drawings to fully capture the artist’s life. The result is a sympathetic and generously illustrated biography for anyone seeking to better understand Albers’s place in 20th-century art history. (Oct.)