Jan Albers works seamlessly across various media. Having studied painting at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf he sensed early on that working within the established protocols of paint and canvas felt limiting. Thus his practice sees him fold, cast, paint, shape, cajole and pressure material to make objects that conflate and enliven the orthodoxies of the dominant genres.
As much as Albers wished as a student to eschew convention his work touches lightly on various 20th century moments. One feels echoes of Judd and Chamberlain in their robust materiality and determined “object” status, the visceral impact of Fontana’s puncturing of the picture plane in his “chain-saw” lacerations. But there are also reverberations in form and composition that recall his namesake Anni Albers’ refined geometries or Frank Stella’s shaped canvases. Critically though Jan’s work has an extraordinary sense of contemporaneity. As cognizant as he clearly is of history, he feels determined to extend his own artistic vocabulary so that it embraces a range of connections both to architecture, even the environment complete with its blend of allure and toxicity.
There is no conceptual or fashionable expediency in this recycling urge but simply Albers work occasionally converts the low-brow and discarded – in a spirit closer to Dada perhaps than it is to a mindful recycling ethos. Stephen Berg has described…“the entire picture is actually a permanent construction site alternating between destruction and repair.” This altercation between making and unmaking, harmony and disharmony runs through all of his work. One gets the sense that Albers views most material as potentially “uncooperative” and unruly – something to be tamed or at the very least bridled.
In all of his works you are compelled to look into them rather than at them from a respectful distance – the enticement and persuasion of the poisonous perhaps. Their complex topography, their nooks and crannies, their structural depth and intricacy suggest an entirely different reading of space that isn’t pictorial nor is it truly sculptural. Whatever the case Albers is certainly up-dating the bas-relief and its traditional viewpoint.
Standing in his Dusseldorf studio on a hot summers day there was a heady mix of fumes – glues, paints and resins perhaps. The works installed were magnificent and various. From the faceted elegance of his bronze wall reliefs to the nigh-on chromatic virulence of his painted cardboard vitrines you could sense a certain joyful investigation – a testing of how material can be tested, strained and transformed in a playful and determined alchemy of trial and error.