I hadn’t planned on visiting this exhibition, as weaving is not something that has interested me especially. I kept hearing how good it was, and it just goes to show how valuable it can be to go along even if you think it’s not for you.
Ironically Anni was not initially keen on weaving either, and considered it ‘sissy’. Not dissimilar to myself thinking textiles and embroidery boring before I fell in love with them.
Anni Albers wanted to paint, but she was discouraged by teacher Oskar Kokoschka and in her day womens options were limited. She was pushed into pursuing weaving ( a suitable female occupation).
“I used the threads themselves as a sculptor or painter uses his medium to produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts.” Anni Albers
“Six prayers 1966-67” was commissioned by the Jewish Museum, New York as a memorial to the six million lost in the Holocaust.
My friend and I took a seat to fully take in this series. We had no idea of their significance. We were only aware of how they dazzled us. They are described in the guide as sombre, which was surprising as they glowed with a calm beauty. They glittered and shimmered in a subtle yet powerful manner. We sat transfixed marvelling at their complexity which was hidden by their initial simplicity. The colours are limited, yet the warm golden tones drew us in. How could beige, silver, black and white be so mesmerising?
Her energy and prolific work was astounding! To see that she had sat and painstakingly drawn tiny triangles filled with dots in her mid seventies, the sheer concentration and manual dexterity that took was inspiring. Her career and life were long, and when she found weaving to be a strain in later years she began printing.
Another element of great interest was how her mind worked. The process of weaving is both creative and methodical. She excelled at both, whereas I struggle with the methodical aspects. What she has managed to achieve in her career is phenomenal. The meticulous planning, and details, the deceptive simplicity of some pieces in their colours, revealing so much depth upon looking closer. Her commissions alone are impressive. These include room dividers for Harvard dormitories, a light reflecting drapery for the Rockerfeller guest house, and a sound proof hanging for an auditorium which resembled a vast piece of metal.
“To let threads be articulate again and find a form for themselves to no other end than their own orchestration, not to be sat on, walked on, only to be looked at, is the raison d’etre of my pictorial weavings.” Anni Albers
So much of the exhibition is a love song to life, the joy of making, the tactile qualities inviting you in.
Her use of materials also intrigued me, how she pushed them and danced with them creating such innovation. Not only wool was used but cotton, metallic thread, cellophane, nylon, and jute.
An over riding feeling from the exhibition was one of wanting to sit down with Anni and question her. What an interesting life she led. The exciting commissions she got to work on, how her life could have ended brutally if she had stayed in Germany like so many others. Black Mountain College, North Carolina where Anni and her husband went to teach in the 1930’s was a creative and intellectual community. It encouraged experimentation and communal living. Materials were explored and taken to new levels.
I especially enjoyed seeing her necklaces constructed from everyday objects such as washers, and ribbon, drain strainers, paperclips and hair pins. From a distance they were stunning, and only revealed their mundane origins upon a closer look. It took a long time to get around the exhibition, as each object had much to reveal on closer inspection. We needed a tea and brownie break half way through. There was just so much to really study, her typewriter -character pieces were fascinating as she used ordinary symbols like dots, percentages and forward slashes to create patterns on paper.
I highly recommend a visit to see this exhibition if you get a chance before it closes on 27th January 2019. The Tate has done an incredible job. You may enjoy the article below.
Coming up next on the blog in February is the subject of drawing. I hope you can join me then. Please leave a comment. Have you been to the exhibition?