If you have ever attended art school, you may have come across Color-Aid Paper. And if you have, it was likely the bane of your entire existence. Used for exercises pertaining to color theory, Color-Aid is essentially a packet of glorified paint chips, each a separate gradation of color along an entire spectrum. These piece of paper could be torn, cut, and collaged into designs that, depending upon their complexity, could result in sleepless nights, glue-covered fingers, and one too many X-Acto blade cuts. During one’s first semester of art school, it’s not uncommon to witness fellow Freshman cursing the existence of such abominable “paper” and wondering who was responsible for its necessity in foundation art courses. To answer that question, however, one must venture decades back to Germany’s Bauhaus school and Josef Albers’ preliminary courses in color theory.
Considered the preeminent mind in color theory and one of the founding fathers of modern art education, Josef Albers’ work with color has created an indelible impact on the way art is taught today. Rather than asking students to create finished works of art, Albers forced them to examine color and its interactions almost scientifically, through studies and exercises that elucidated the oftentimes vexing language of the visual world. Many of these exercises were outlined in his 1963 book, Interaction of Color, a volume that is considered the definitive text on color.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the book’s original publication and to celebrate (and bring the book into the twenty-first century), Yale University Press has unveiled the book in iPad app form. Almost a work of art in itself, the Interaction of Color app is a beauty to behold. One is able to, for the first time, actually interact with Albers’ previously static imagery, moving elements around and crafting one’s own takes on Albersian color exercises. Whether you’re using the tool educationally or simply as a relaxing diversion, the app provides a vivid, timeless, and fully-immersive experience. And for those who would rather not ever have to deal with the dreaded Color-Aid paper, it allows your hands to stay wonderfully glue and paper cut-free. —Max