Red Wall, 1947-56, forms part of one of Josef Albers' most seminal bodies of work, the Adobe series, within his artistic oeuvre. A testimony to Albers technical nature he carefully noted all materials and techniques for each of his works on the reverse documenting the pigments applied and the spatial formula used. Comprised of deep reds and unadulterated jewel tones Red Wall is architectural in its composition and asymmetrical in arrangement. The subtle variances of the two rising forms on the left and right side of the surface create a delicate balance that simultaneously creates depth and stark contrast in color tonalities. An exacting command of the palette knife, which can be detected in the scrupulous application of pigment, Albers insists, "Someone else could have executed it," but as Elaine de Kooning explains, "The aseptic, almost militant simplicity of each of Albers’ designs is the result of the long series of rejections-an arduous and complicated exercise of the element of choice." These compositions of pure form and color are best described by Hans Arp, who has said that Albers paintings "Contain simple, great statements such as: I’m standing here. I’m resting here. I’m in the world and on the earth. I’m in no hurry to move on. While Mark Rothko sought transcendence, Albers looked for fulfilment here on earth. Mark Rothko approached the ethereal through art. Josef Albers realized ‘the spiritual in art.’” (Weiland Schmied, “Fifteen Notes on Josef Albers," p. 9-10)
Albers used the basic structure of the brick to build an underlying checkerboard-like pattern to provide a unification of form, whereby the individual square and oblong units permit a precise relationship of the areal quantities of the colors used. Through this series Albers investigated the effect of several pure, unmixed colors juxtaposed with one another. In his writings Albers describes how “the paint is applied with a palette knife directly from the tube to the panel, in one primary coat without under or over painting, without correction.” (Getulio Alviani, Ed., Josef Albers, Milan 1988, p. 104). The purpose of these experiments was to see how colors affect one another according to the proportions and quantities used and how this then alters the way the viewer perceives its position in space. These experimentations and theories were then carried through to his later series for which he is best known, Homage to the Square.
Albers begun the Adobe series in 1947, demonstrating the convergence of his exploration of color theory and background in design and architecture with influences from Mexican culture, all of which have come to be distinguishing aspects of Albers' artistic practice. In 1935, Albers took the first of many trips to Mexico and was greatly inspired by the colors, pre-Columbian architecture and sculpture that he saw there. These trips to Mexico had a profound effect upon his work, as he wrote to Nina and Wassily Kandinsky in 1936, “Mexico is truly the promised land of abstract art.” (Nicholas Fox Weber and Jessica Boissel, Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky: Friends in Exile: A Decade of Correspondence, 1929-1940, Manchester and New York 2010). Mexico confirmed Albers’ faith in the expressive power of color and it was here that he returned to painting, significantly expanding his range of color. Albers also drew inspiration from many of Mexico’s houses that were built from sun-dried bricks made of adobe clay, originally used by the native American Pueblo Indians, in conceptualizing the Adobe series. In Mexico, Josef Albers met Luis Barragan, one of Mexico's most important architects of the twentieth century, and who considered Albers one of the great influences in his architecture. The two had deep and lasting reciprocal influences on each other that informed both mens' future work. In examining Red Wall, Albers' influence is clear: the vibrant colors of Red Wall echo the myriad hues Albers must have encountered on his trips to Mexico, resulting in a powerful composition, fusing Albers' lifelong meditation on form and color with his newly found inspiration.
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