A day out with Anni and friends
What could possibly be a better day out for a weaver than a visit to the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern? As I discovered in November, it is a visit to the Anni Albers exhibition in the company of 30+ fellow weavers.
As well as my local and the Online Guilds, I am also a member of Complex Weavers which is an international Guild-like organisation. It was thanks to impeccable planning skills of our UK area liaison, Online Guild member Lesley Willcock, that we were all able to gather together for a lecture and viewing of the exhibitionat Tate Modern. In fact, our Anni Albers experience started the previous day with a talk from Alice van Duijnen, another member of the Online Guild. Alice shared Black White Red i , one of Albers’s iconic wallhangings originally woven in 1926. She had not only established that it was possible to weave this complex piece without a Jacquard loom –the Bauhaus weaving workshop also had 24-shaft looms –but had gone ahead and woven a replica herself on her Louet Megado.
Alice’s insights into the design principles used by the Bauhaus weavers, as well as the technical challenges they faced, gave us a really good basis for appreciating the work in the exhibition. We also took advantage of the Tate’s lecture programme, which can be booked privately for groups of 20 or more. Not only did we get a fascinating overview of Anni Albers’s life and work, but the slide show of pieces in the exhibition allowed us to see details of the weavings on a much larger scale.
The exhibition is organised thematically and chronologically, and it was very interesting to move back and forth along the timeline and see how different strands of Albers’ work recurred and evolved.
An area of her work I hadn’t known much about was her designs for interiors, which are illustrated in the exhibit with rugs, room dividers and a mock-up of a student’s dorm room. For her room dividers, Albers employed many of the novel materials of the time, including cellophane and Lurex, in combination with more traditional fibres such as jute.
For all the technical expertise in evidence here, Albers’ work also speaks to the heart. For me the highlight of the exhibition was Six Prayers. This piece was commissioned by the Jewish Museum, New York as a memorial to the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. Albers created six woven panels, presented side by side, using free-wandering yarn elements to, as she put it, ‘produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts’. It is a piece which captures both the stillness of prayer and its dynamic. It has been beautifully displayed by the museum on a dark teal wall and a bench is provided for visitors.
To sit quietly in front of Six Prayers for a time is in itself worth the price of admission.
There is so much in this exhibit for the textile enthusiast to absorb that I cannot possibly do it justice in this brief report. If you haven’t visited the exhibition yet, then I urge you to do so. And take your Guild with you!
Cally Booker, East Central Scotland and Online
i Van Duijnen, Alice (2014) A Journey with Anni, Complex Weavers Journal No. 106, October 2014. Images from the article can be seen in the Complex Weavers Journal Gallery
ii Anni Albers Wall Hanging 1926 Mercerized cotton, silk 2032 x 1207 mm
The Metrololitan Museum of Art, Purcase, Everfast fabrics Inc. and Edward C.Moore Jr. Gift, 1969
©2018 Te Josef and Anni Albers Foudation/Artists Rigts Soiety (ARS), New York/DACS, London
iii Anni Albers
Six Prayers 1966-1967
Cotton/linen, bast/silver, Lurex
1861 x 2972mm
The Jewish Museum, New York Gift of the Albers A. List Family, JM