Josef Albers Sport on Bathing Beach, Biarritz n.d.

Josef Albers
Sport on Bathing Beach, Biarritz no date
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation

Josef Albers In Water (Im Wasser) 1931

Josef Albers
In Water (Im Wasser) 1931 
Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop

While at the Bauhaus, Albers abandoned painting in favour of working with glass. His bold compositions in brightly coloured glass demonstrate his awakening interest in the psychology of perception. Albers was convinced that what we see is determined as much by what we find in front of our eyes as by how this information is processed by our brains. He often used visual trickery to reveal the complexity in the act of looking. The rolls in Cables 1931, for instance, contradict the laws of perspective, and the flight of stairs in Steps 1931 is accompanied by a smaller counterpart on the left that seems to flip forward and backward, introducing an element of visual instability in the composition.

From the late 1920s onwards, Albers explored similar ideas concerning perception through photography. He paired an image of a bare tree on a frosty night with another of a tree reflected in the surface of a winter puddle – two distinct images that could, at first glance, be mistaken for positive and negative prints of the same photograph. Albers frequently mounted his photographs on board to create striking montages. In Untitled (Bullfight San Sebastian) (no date) the collaged, panoramic view of the arena is disrupted by the strange, unexpected intrusion of an image of the full car park outside. Despite his deep engagement with photography, Albers never exhibited or published any work in this medium.