12 July - 10 August 2012

Abstract Impressions

Josef Albers, Naum Gabo, Ben Nicholson

    Josef Albers, Naum Gabo and Ben Nicholson each believed, in their own way, in the transformative power of abstract art. Born within six years of one another, their lives and work at times ran in parallel and at other points converged. They each came to printmaking at different stages of their careers and, in each case, their prints have endured as an integral part of their oeuvre.

    Abstract Impressions showcases close to 50 prints alongside source material including original printing blocks, trial proofs and preparatory sketches revealing the working methods of these celebrated artists first-hand. It is the first time that the work of these three artists has been brought together in the context of one exhibition. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue which includes essays by Nicholas Fox Weber, Graham Williams and Michael Harrison.

    Gabo and Albers both taught at the Bauhaus before the rise of fascism in Germany forced them to leave. In 1932 Gabo went to Paris where he joined the Abstraction-Création group with Piet Mondrian, before later moving to England and St Ives and into the artistic group that included Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. After the war, he moved to America, eventually living in Connecticut where he remained until his death in 1977. Albers left the Bauhaus for America and a teaching post at Black Mountain College, before ending up, like Gabo, in Connecticut, this time at New Haven where he taught at Yale and where he died in 1976. That two pioneers of 20th Century abstraction, one from Bottrop and one from Bryansk, should end up 25 miles apart is pure chance. What is clearly not a coincidence is that their - and so many of their contemporaries - artistic and ideological vision of abstraction, was in part fuelled by their circumstances as displaced émigrés, forced to move at the hands of an oppressive regime and that in America they found a new international audience which embraced their practice and ideas.

    Ben Nicholson is often cited as the artist who brought an international sense of abstraction to England. His vision was stimulated by well-documented visits to Paris and Mondrian's studio, as well as by their friendship when the latter moved to London. Nicholson and Gabo both edited Circle: An International Survey of Constructivist Art in 1936 and, in Cornwall, they were fundamental in establishing the avant-garde community that changed the history of 20th Century British art.

    In 2007 the Alan Cristea Gallery held the largest ever exhibition of Ben Nicholson prints and to accompany this published the catalogue raisonné of the artist's graphic work. The Alan Cristea Gallery is the sole worldwide representative for the prints of Josef Albers and Naum Gabo.


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