Archive for October 20th, 2018

Book: Anni Albers

Anni Albers, edited by Ann Coxon, Briony Fer and Maria Müller–Schareck, has been published by Tate Publishing on the occasion of the current Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern.

All the reviews I’ve read of the exhibition are glowing. The book is much more than a catalogue, with a series of strong essays delving into different aspects of Albers and her work. I found each of the essays fascinating, enlightening, thought provoking.

dimensional weave sample 20160708

Brenda Danilowitz writes of the paradox of the linear grid of weaving and Alber’s non-linear surfaces. “Her work captures her determination … to undermine the grid, to make it virtually disappear by twisting and looping its threads.” (p 87) Different, but this resonated with my past explorations of the grid, depth in weaving and the orthogonal (gathered together in the page orthogonal).

When discussing Albers as a collector, Jennifer Reynolds-Kaye concludes “When considering the objects she collected alongside the art that she produced, the distinctions between ancient and modern, thread and clay, art and artefact, are productively dismantled.” (p. 109) That breadth of interest and vision, the ability not just to find connections but to take ideas from one domain to another and enrich all, seems very important to me.

Previously I only knew of Albers in the context of weaving. Nicholas Fox Weber’s essay introduced me to the printmaking Albers did later in life. “Albers was perpetually on the watch for processes she did not yet know, for unprecendented ways of utilising known techniques for new purposes.” (p. 153) The words Process, Transformation, Universal, Timeless, vibrate. Albers had a love of making, and I’d add a curiosity, that led to remarkable innovation and achievement. Ann Coxon provided the final essay, discussing Alber’s artistic legacy, and quotes Albers’ own words: “Experimental – that is, searching for new ways of conveying meaning – these attempts to conquer new territory even trespass at times into that of sculpture.” (p. 167) A path I would love to follow.

For me this book, Albers’ work, is exciting, inspiring, invigorating. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of her in the past.

Only last month I had the chance to examine two of her free-hanging room dividers in the MoMA at NGV exhibition (15-Sep-2018). I didn’t include my blurry photos then, but now I am emboldened by seeing what appear to be the same two works pictured in the new book (p.39) – my brush with fame! Innovative materials, a twist on familiar weave structures.

lace & finger manipulated sampler

My own student sample of spanish lace from ten years ago (24-Aug-2008) has none of Albers’ grace and precision, but in combination has me hankering to experiment in wire.

An aside: I do love having this blog to refer back to. While writing this post I’ve gone back to a previous book review – Bauhaus weaving theory: From feminine craft to mode of design by T’ai Smith (31-Jan-2015). I obviously had a struggle back then, but I’ve just got the book out and hope to give it another go. Smith also has a contribution in the new book.

I posted about Albers’ own book On Weaving 13-October-2012. (That book too is now in the pile on my work table). “Excited” is one of my favourite words (and sensations), and clearly I felt it then. I like my venture into unconventional “drawing media”!

One major impact of the new book is from the comprehensive, high-quality photographs. Smith’s book has some small colour plates, the copy I have of Albers’ book has a decent page size, a few colour plates, but most of the photos are in black and white on rather soft, fuzzy paper. The new book shows some of the same works, and many more, in photographs that are larger, crisper, and all colour. They are thrilling. I had no idea the range and inventiveness of her work.

I’ve already begun some new experiments – still working with components, still in my current palette of materials – inspired by this book. Albers work of course is key, but it’s an extension of that and a real pleasure to have such interesting writing to accompany it.


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