50 Features of Special Collections: Interaction of Color by Josef Albers

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Frequently requested by Design and Art classes, Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color is an oft-used instruction piece held in Special Collections and is this week’s highlight for our 50 Features of Special Collections series.
Color is not static. It is constantly in flux due to the perceptions and context that surround its presentation:

 

 

The book “Interaction of Color” is a record of an experimental way of studying color and of teaching color. In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is–as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art. In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually. To this end, the beginning is not a study of color systems. (1)

Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color is a large oversized portfolio, which includes introductions to over 20 color exercises, plates of sample studies and commentary on each plate. The initial text explains the exercise and presents an illustration of the way color was investigated. The plates are done within each exercise and present subtle relationships and presentations of color. The 80 folders of sample study plates visualize the ideas presented in each exercise. They reproduce the illusions and perceptions created by color interactions. These sample studies are the highlight of the book as they offer hands-on practice in the art of seeing. The point of the book is not to provide an answer to what color is but to provide a framework to aid in the study of color.

Below are two samples for Exercise IV- 1 Color looks Like 2

                                                                  Plate IV-1 (b) yellow and blue flap down

Note the color of the square on the right and that it is actually equal to the square on the left.

                                                                    Plate IV-1 (b) yellow and blue flap up
                                                                              Plate IV-4 (b)

Note that the inner smaller violets are in fact alike as the ends of the same rectangle.

                                                                                  Plate IV-4 (b)

In 2013 for the 50th anniversary, a digital version was created as an App for the iPad. More information on Josef Albers and his work can be found on the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation website.

Works consulted:

  1. Albers, Josef. Interaction of Color. New Haven: Yale UP, 1963. Print.