I often hear my associations of ideas are off-beat or décalé (or off-the-wall, depending on how polite you are :-).
So let me throw you at the cross between yoga, running and art and see what you think! To me, breathing is at this intersection on my grid – often underestimated, so underrated yet ESSENTIAL!
I practice yoga 3 times a week, no matter what. I am also half way through my marathon training program. So let’s just say I have learnt to pay attention to breathing because my life (an your life) depends on it 🙂
There is a meditative quality to breathing that helps me get through the discomfort of a crescent lunge on my weaker side or the pain that usually comes without a fail after running 17 miles.
I made breathing a life tool and a habit but like most things, I refused to make it bland. My wonderful yoga teacher Karoll B. uses the visualisation of a ball of color that I can match with my mood or my needs of the day. It works wonders and allows me to power through most days!
So much so that I found myself thinking of my yoga practice, breathing and Josef Albers’ colors as I discovered Larry Bell’s installation Pacific Red II at the Whitney Biennial recently.
Larry Bell installed 6 cubes of different saturation red laminated glass on the 5th floor terrace of the Whitney Museum. Inside each cube is a smaller cube of a deeper shade of red – like a matrioshka Russian doll.
As I walked around the installation, the colors kept on changing, pulsating up and down, breathing in and out. To me, Larry Bell’s installation is a 3D homage to Josef Albers’ own 1000-strong Homage to the Square series. It’s an homage to colors, what we think we know of them as facts and our actual perception of them – two very different phenomena as our eyes constantly adjust to contingent colors.
It’s about not allowing colors to be taken for granted – like breathing usually is.
Josef Albers is not nearly as well-known and recognized as Paul Klee despite the fact they used to teach alongside at the Bauhaus until the school was closed by the Nazis in 1933. Klee was the recognised master; Josef Albers was much younger yet his stained glass expertise gave him a unique perspective on color and light. Like Louis Comfort Tiffany before him, colored glass was his way to paint with light itself, exploring the dimensions a flat canvas could provide.
Josef Albers said “painting is color acting” because colors are alive and keep changing, if you pay attention. His self-proclaimed goal was to “open eyes
¹” to the interaction and modification of colors as they are locally applied next to each other. Amen to that because it might just mean you take the time to breathe in the process.
From 1950 until his death in 1976, each Homage to the Square reiterated the same process of nesting three or four squares and demonstrated how colors can be made to glow, protrude when more saturated, subside when less saturated, recessing or even buzzing at the exact intersection between two shades.
For more examples of Albers’ work , follow the link to see Homage to the Square in shades of yellow, black and grey at the Pasadena Norton Simon Museum.
Josef Albers made space expand towards the viewer or contract within the center of the canvas, showing colors’ elasticity², actual movement and acting power.
Despite the rigid and formal approach of his architectural squares, Josef Albers delivered what I would call an illusion of breathing on paper, a play with dimensions that Rothko took to a monumental (almost religious) harmony with his Color Fields paintings.
Following this tradition with Pacific Red II, Larry Bell not only pays homage to the Square but pays homage to Josef Albers’ first trade as stained glass maker, incorporating light and change in the air to his work.
Seeing the reflection of each square recreating an Albers-like composition on the terrace floor showed me that Larry bell’s preoccupation is to make his installation breathe and expand outside its own physical limits.
Using such light reflection as an extension, Larry Bell’s artistic exhale carries you that much further.
It’s the same with yoga, it’s the same with running. Namaste.
This post is gratefully dedicated to Karoll B.
Larry Bell, Pacific Red II, 2017 is part of the Whitney Biennial 2017 and will be on view until June 11, 2017.
² Presentation by Anoka Faruqee at Yale, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YpZX0Xj9-Y
© 2017 Ingrid Westlake
All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.