Laura Herman ’18 on a Close and Colorful Look at Albers’ Work

In the fall of 2015, I took a class called “Notes on Color,” taught by visiting professor James Welling, who recently opened an exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery. Throughout the class, we examined neurological color perception, philosophical color theories, and artistic usages of color.  This was all particularly interesting to me because I have synesthesia: in all I hear or read, I perceive each letter and number as a specific color. My colorful subtitles are omnipresent– whether I’m chatting with friends, listening to music, reading a textbook, or even writing a blog post.


In high school, I had read Josef Albers’ famous treatise Interaction of Color, fascinated by his thorough explorations of color perception. While it was no surprise that Professor Welling had chosen this book as a reading for the class, I was stunned when he announced that we would be taking a trip to the art museum to examine Mr. Albers’ thought experiments firsthand. Sure enough, we arrived at the art museum as a class and were immediately shuttled to a secure classroom in the basement of the museum building. My classmates and I eagerly stood around a long wooden conference table as Professor Welling carefully unpacked a box full of neatly-folded cardstock while an archive employee looked on.

We spent nearly three hours examining each of Albers’ studies, which were carefully cut out and glued together to emphasize the effect that certain colors would have on each other when placed in conjunction.  Seeing the studies in real life served to emphasize the difference, for me, between the reproductions I had previously pored over and the true pieces constructed by Albers.  There are certain things that photographs can never capture: texture, certainly, but also the tender care with which an artist treats a piece of work.

At the Princeton Art Museum, each and every piece showcases the determination and effort of each artist.  Indeed, one of Josef Albers’ “Homage to the Square” paintings is a part of the Art Museum’s collection. I urge you to examine it– see if you, too, are transfixed by the colorful voyage before your eyes. More than the effect that the colors produce, it is the journey to that production that will enrapture you.