Picture Piece: Secret Symbol – 图片:秘密符号

Picture Piece - 15 Feb 2017

Picture Piece: Secret Symbol

Josef Albers's secret symbol for the Manuscript society at Yale University

By George Pendle

Secrecy is power. But too much secrecy can be as counterproductive as too little. If people don’t know a secret exists, they can’t covet it – or fear it. Hence the accord struck by Yale University’s senior societies, such as Skull and Bones or Wolf’s Head: sub-masonic groups whose rules and rituals are kept clandestine but whose windowless gothic revival and neo-classical clubhouses – or ‘tombs’– are hidden in plain sight on the streets of New Haven.

These ostentatious structures leave the passer-by in no doubt that something secret is going on within them. All except one: the tomb of Manuscript, a society devoted to the arts, which displays a simple white brick wall to the street that does nothing to mystify or entice. If you were to walk past it, you might think it was the back of a car repair shop. The only adornment visible on its surface is the hint of a circle. A trick of the light? A sigil of street grime?

Josef Albers and King-lui Wu, preliminary drawing of the mural for Yale Manuscript Society House, c.1961, pencil on paper, 50 x 89 cm. Courtesy: Kung-lui Wu papers (MS 1842), Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven

Picture Piece: Secret Symbol - 图片:秘密符号

Josef Albers and King-lui Wu, preliminary drawing of the mural for Yale Manuscript Society House, c.1961, pencil on paper, 50 x 89 cm. Courtesy: Kung-lui Wu papers (MS 1842), Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven

Manuscript’s tomb was designed by King-lui Wu, a professor of architecture at Yale. The building, which has a number of hidden subterranean floors, reflects Wu’s own dislike of ornament. However, upon its completion in 1962, Wu thought the structure too austere even for his angular sensibilities. So he turned to his mentor and the head of Yale’s Department of Design, Josef Albers, to help adorn it.

Albers was then working on the monumental series of paintings for which he is best known, ‘Homage to the Square’ (1949–76), experimenting with the optical and psychological effects that colours can produce over thousands of canvases. He had chosena square for these experiments, precisely because it was a shape devoid of symbolism. Here, colours could be pushed and juxtaposed, given weight and imbued with movement. Within the square, Albers decreed, he could make his colours ‘do what I want, and not what they want’.

Mural facade of Yale Manuscript Society House, 2011. Courtesy: Mark Morosse

Picture Piece: Secret Symbol - 图片:秘密符号

Mural facade of Yale Manuscript Society House, 2011. Courtesy: Mark Morosse

Wu’s white-brick wall offered Albers a release from this meticulous pigmental laboratory. Not only did it allow him to work with a gloriously colourless canvas, but the society’s secretiveness allowed him to incorporate a mysticism into his design that ‘Homage to the Square’ did not permit. So it was that Albers designed a circle for the tomb’s wall – a potent symbol that spoke of both unity and the sun, the latter being one of Manuscript’s secret emblems. In keeping with the building’s occult usage, he created this circle by removing the mortar between the bricks, allowing shadows to define the shape. It was an act of negation quite unlike the methodical accretion that marked his canvases, a whisper instead of a lecture. The result is something of a minimalist mystery: a symbol from a defiant anti-symbolist; a barely discernible shape from a master of perception; a monochrome mural that doesn’t brag of its secrets but leaves you in no doubt that something is going on in there.

George Pendle

George Pendle is a writer based in Washington D.C., USA. 

Picture Piece
Josef Albers
King-lui Wu
George Pendle

Issue 185

First published in Issue 185

March 2017


图片- 15 FEB 2017图片:秘密符号约瑟夫·亚伯斯和39号;耶鲁大学的手稿学会乔治潘德尔秘密的秘密符号是权力。但是太多的保密可能会适得其反。如果人们不知道一个秘密存在,他们就不能觊觎它——或者害怕它。因此,耶鲁大学的高级社团,如骷髅会或保鲁夫的头颅,达成了一致:亚共济会团体,其规则和仪式保持秘密,但其无窗哥特式复兴和新古典会所或“坟墓”隐藏在街道上。纽黑文的这些炫耀的结构让路人毫无疑问地在他们里面隐藏着某种秘密。除了一个:手稿的坟墓,一个致力于艺术的社会,在街上展示一个简单的白色砖墙,没有任何神秘或诱惑。如果你走过它,你可能会认为那是一家汽车修理店的后面。它表面唯一可见的装饰是圆的暗示。灯光的诀窍?街道污垢的一个标志?约瑟夫·亚伯斯和King lui Wu,耶鲁手稿学会社壁画,1961年,铅笔在纸上,50×89厘米的初步绘制。礼貌:Kung lui Wu论文(MS 1842),手稿和档案,耶鲁大学图书馆,纽黑文Picture Piece: Secret Symbol - 图片:秘密符号约瑟夫·亚伯斯和King lui Wu,初步绘制壁画耶鲁手稿学会社,1961年,铅笔在纸上,50×89厘米。礼貌:Kung lui Wu论文(MS 1842),手稿和档案,耶鲁大学图书馆,纽黑文手稿的坟墓是由耶鲁大学建筑学教授King lui Wu设计的。这座建筑有许多隐藏的地下楼层,反映了吴自己对装饰的厌恶。然而,在1962完成的时候,吴认为这个结构过于朴素,甚至是因为他的敏锐的感性。于是他转向他的导师和耶鲁设计系的负责人约瑟夫·亚伯斯,来帮助装饰它。阿尔伯斯当时正致力于纪念他所知的最著名的绘画系列,即《对广场的敬意》(1949—76),对色彩可以产生数千种画布的光学和心理效应进行实验。他有这些实验的正方形,正因为它是没有象征意义的形状。在这里,颜色可以被推和并列,赋予重量和充满运动。在广场上,阿尔伯斯下令,他可以让他的颜色“做我想做的事,而不是他们想要的”。耶鲁手稿学会住宅壁画,2011。礼貌:耶鲁手稿学会大厦马克莫洛斯Picture Piece: Secret Symbol - 图片:秘密符号壁画立面,2011。礼貌:Mark Morosse Wu的白砖墙为阿尔伯斯提供了一个从这个细致的颜料实验室释放。它不仅允许他用一个无色的无色画布工作,而且社会的神秘性允许他将神秘主义融入到他的设计中,“对广场的敬意”是不允许的。因此,阿尔伯斯设计了一个圆形的坟墓墓墙,这是一个强有力的象征,象征着团结和太阳,后者是手稿的秘密标志之一。为了配合建筑的神秘用途,他通过拆除砖块之间的砂浆来创建这个圆圈,允许阴影来定义形状。这是一种否定的行为,完全不同于有意义的吸积,标志着他的画布,是低语而不是演讲。结果是一个极简主义的神秘:一个来自挑衅的反象征主义者的符号;一个从感知大师看不到的形状;一个单色壁画,不吹嘘它的秘密,但毫无疑问,你会在那里发生一些事情。乔治潘德尔是一位作家,总部设在美国,华盛顿哥伦比亚特区。图片片断约瑟夫阿尔伯斯国王卢武乔治乔治发布于2017年3月的第185期


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