Anni Albers at Tate Modern (11 October 2018 – 27 January 2019)
There was clearly was a buzz in the room when I entered the show at the Tate Modern. It was Saturday afternoon and the show was packed with inquisitive faces. Anni Alber’s exhibition was arranged to highlight her life’s work and show how her ambitious ideas started. The ancient craft of weaving portrays the potential to impact peoples lives with beauty and functionality on its own terms. Textiles are at the heart of many cultures and this knowledge is passed on through the generations. In this exhibition, Anni Albers weaves her magic, by combining the attitude of the Bauhaus with the roots of modern abstraction.
When looking for an exciting art exhibition, textiles is not something I am usually drawn to. Similarly this must of been how Anni Albers felt when she joined the Bauhaus. On her arrival at the Bauhaus in 1922, Albers was encouraged to participate in the ‘Women’s workshop’ and dissuaded from joining the men’s painting class. Although Anni was initially unenthusiastic about weaving, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to her.
Weaving has the potential to interlink many disciplines including art, design and craftsmanship. Here Albers was able to explore her creative ideas away from any direct male competition. She found a unique way forward incorporating beauty and delight in the structural principles of textiles and abstraction. Textiles allowed her see the perfect marriage of grids, lines and repetitive patterns.
Anni Albers weaves her magic
Albers was able to fully capitalise on the Bauhaus way of teaching by going back to basics where form follows function. She saw the opportunity to combine it with ideas from highly influential key figures around her. People like Josef Albers, the painter and colourist who she married in 1925, and the painter Paul Klee. Her weavings and wall art helped Anni Albers earn a passport to the US, enabling Albers and her husband to flee from the rise of the Nazi party in 1933.
From the US, Albers made frequent trips to Peru, Cuba, Chile and Mexico. These inspiring trips encouraged her to see textiles from a new perspective. She found that weaving was capable of serving a communication purpose in different cultures with no written language. It was also able to compete with painting and sculpture and had an impact on architecture and printmaking.
Albers took massive strides forward with what she later called ‘pictorial weavings’. The amalgamation of geometric abstraction into textiles were beautiful artworks in their own right. Albers cemented her position in the world of art by hanging her weavings on the wall, competing directly with other forms of art like painting. She became a catalyst in the revolution between arts and craft, aesthetics and function. The ideas developed at the Bauhaus have filtered into our daily life. I recommend a trip to see this thought-provoking interlace of ideas.