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Special Collections

Special Collections at Otis College includes rare books, artists' books, and archival material from the history of the college.

Josef and Anni Albers

Anni and Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, 1938. Photograph by Theodore Dreier.

Biography from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation

1888 Josef Albers is born in Bottrop, Germany

1905 Albers earns his teaching certificate and teaches public school

1915 Becomes certified as an art teacher and begins his own artistic practice

1920 Enrolls in the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany and begins the Preliminary Course; meets Annelise Fleischmann, known as Anni, an artist  in the Bauhaus weaving workshop

1923 Begins teaching the material and design segments of the Preliminay Course

1926 Josef and Anni are married; they both continue teaching at the Bauhaus after the school moves to Dessau

1930 Mies van der Rohe assumes directorship of the Bauhaus and Albers is named Assistant Director

1933 After Nazi harassment closes the Bauhaus, Josef and Anni emigrate to North Carolina where they begin teaching at the new, experimental school, Black Mountain College; when asked by immigration authorities his purpose in coming to the US, Albers replies, "to open eyes"

1934 Albers develops his color course at Black Mountain College

1950 Albers accepts the position of chair of the Department of Design at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut and brings his distinctive approach to teaching color with him

 1958 Albers retires from Yale but continues as a visiting critic there until 1960 and continues to teach at art schools around the country as a visiting instructor

1963 Interaction of Color is published by Yale University Press with silkscreen plates based on the work of students in Albers' color course

1971 Albers has a retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first living artist to do so

1976 Albers dies March 25 in New Haven, Connecticut

1994 Anni dies May 9 and is buried next to Josef; their grave site is marked with headstones Anni designed

Nicholas Fox Weber on the 2014 exhibition "Josef Albers Minimal Means, Maximum Effect" at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter.

Anni Albers combined the ancient craft of hand-weaving with the language of modern art ...

The Tate mounted the first major UK exhibition of Anni Albers work in 2018. Learn more at Tate.org.uk

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The first comprehensive museum exhibition in the United States about the experimental liberal arts college ...

The exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 was held at the Hammer Museum in 2016. Check Hammer.ucla.edu for more.

 

Josef Albers teaching the color class, Black Mountain College, summer 1944.

Photo: Josef Breitenbach.

 

"Albers developed an 'experimental way of studying color and teaching color,' a method based on the idea that only by observing color in the push and tug and pull of context can one begin to understand the nature of color. His color course, which he inaugurated at Black Mountain College, comprised a sequence of simple exercises, each of which isolated some aspect of color interaction so as to observe that interaction carefully. As presented in the course, these exercises were essentially challenges: Can you get these colors to do this? Can you find the colors that will do that? Although Albers characterized color as “passive,” “deceptive,” and “unstable,” he recognized that its behavior was, to some extent, predictable. His exercises therefore focused on color in specific contexts, showing that if you put color A next to color B, or these colors next to those, you could anticipate certain results."

 

"The course was not a fixed body of color wisdom, but rather an ongoing inquiry in which solutions were not conclusions, but steps on an endless path."

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation website

About Interaction of Color

 

Interaction of Color was originally published by Yale University Press in 1963 in a limited edition of 2,000 copies. It consists of two volumes (text and commentary) and more than 80 folders housed in a large, hinged portfolio and slipcase. 150 of the folder images are silkscreen color plates, reproducing in ink the experiments students conducted with colored paper. The work is not a theory of color but, like the course Albers taught, creates a laboratory for a study of color as visual phenomena.

Many of the plates in the publication represent the work of students through the decades that Albers taught the color course at both Black Mountain College and Yale. Albers dedicates the work to his students, stating "that my students in color have taught me more color than have books about color" and closes with a list crediting his student collaborators.

A paperback version of Interaction of Color was published by Yale University Press in 1971 and has been in print ever since; the most recent edition was released in 2013 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 work.

An Interaction of Color award winning app, first released in 2013, is currently available for iPhone and iPad (IOS 10.0 or later).

We purchased our copy of Interaction of Color shortly after its 1963 publication for $181.20 (approximately $1,500 in 2020 dollars).

The Interaction of Color app is only available for iPad and iPhone (IOS 10.0 or later).

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