Cutting into colour reminds me of the sculptor’s direct carving. Henri Matisse

Jan Albers studied painting at the illustrious Dusseldorf Kunst Académie, an institution whose storied history has proven to be an incubator for many of the 20th century’s most important artists. 

Joseph Beuys undoubtedly casts the longest shadow, but so too Gerhard Richter, Blinky Palermo and of course Imi Giese and Imi Knoebel. Richter in many ways remains the most conventional of these figures, certainly in terms of painting, whereas Beuys shunned the orthodoxies of painting, using whatever material was capable of carrying the conceptual and aesthetic loading that he demanded of his work. Working in tandem with Palermo, both Imi’s viewed the act of painting as an endeavour that, were it to progress, needed to be developed away from the stricter regimes of the Art Académie systems that Joseph Beuys had consistently been unstitching during his volatile tenure.

This proto “punk” spirit, personified by Beuys and supported by the duo act of Imi & Imi is something that doubtless appealed to Albers. Though more than a generation behind, Albers too has resisted the conventions of painting, preferring to shape works that come out from the wall cutting into the space of the viewer extending Matisse’s desire to deliver colour that has volume and density – the kind of sonic robustness that one associates with loud colour.

But as much as the German Akademie was shaping one side of the artworld prism, it was the post-war Americans, particularly the Minimalists –  Judd, Flavin and even early Stella that one can see in Albers work. The shaping of the forms, the actuality of the object and belligerent physicality and candour of the work all appealed to Albers. So in many ways the sculptures present a transatlantic hybridity – ‘Chainsaw expressionism meets speedy angular minimalism.

Albers himself talks about “making and breaking” suggesting that there is an “attitude” that accompanies these seemingly contradictory states. Part iconoclast, there is dissent in Albers work, especially the “chainsaw” works where his work becomes simultaneously about image breaking and making. But ultimately Albers finds his way back from the scepticism of such a position, salvaging belief, and optimism in arts ability to be transformative of itself and of us.

Albers sculptures exist mostly as (bas)-reliefs and of course Matisse himself made wonderful bas-reliefs, objects that extended his vocabulary beyond painting to create monumental, almost abstract sculptures. I have made reference to Albers folded “origami-cubism” before, but the more one sees Alber’s works, the more one understands just how sweetly and effortlessly he is able to synthesize the fundamental coordinates of modernism more broadly, with a punchy rock ’n roll enthusiasm that delivers a glorious visual electricity that feels unique.

In recent times the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K20K21, Düsseldorf Hamburger Kunsthalle
Kunstmuseum Bonn and Von Der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal have acquired works for their permanent collections.

Fox Jensen & Fox Jensen McCrory are thrilled to present this third solo exhibition with Jan Albers.