Though not a household name, Anni Albers was a leading innovator of twentieth century modernist abstraction, helping to transform the way weaving could be understood as a medium for art, design and architecture.
Tate Modern has honoured Albers as one of the most influential figures for a generation of artists and designers through examining her engagement with both the history and future of weaving, through a thorough retrospective of her works on paper and fabric, as well as her written work and teaching endeavours.
Born in 1899 to a middle class German family, Albers was encouraged to study drawing and painting, culminating in her attending the Bauhaus in 1922. There she met her husband, Josef Albers, an artist, who encouraged her with her artistic endeavours. The couple immigrated to the US after the rise of Nazism, settling in North Carolina where they both became teachers at the experimental Black Mountain College, passing on their deep knowledge of the woven arts.
The Tate’s exhibition takes a deep dive into the life works of Albers, documenting her watercolour sketches and patterns for her fabric designs whilst at the Bauhaus and her students’ notes from her classes at Black Mountain College to her memorial work commemorating the six million Jews who had been killed in the Holocaust to her work for student bedrooms at Harvard Graduate Centre. Over 350 objects including beautiful small scale studies, large wall hangings, jewellery made from everyday items and textiles designed for mass production can be discovered across the eleven rooms.
Albers’ work reads like mathematical equations, her exquisite and precise watercolour masterplans for her full-scale weaves are just as beautiful as the final results which they are displayed next to. Influences from her time at the Bauhaus are noticeable in her choice of colour palette and compositional structure; bringing architecture and design together in a fresh and modern way. What is most evident from this exhibition however, is the level of intricacy and devotion to weaving that one must be submerged in in order to create such beautiful fabrics as these. Albers’ devotion to the art form saw her travel all over the world to research ancient techniques and styles which subtly translated into Albers’ body of work.