Earlier this week Claudia and I were lucky enough to have the chance to visit the Anni Albers exhibit at one of my very favorite museums in London, the Tate Modern.
Anni Albers, for those of you unfamiliar, was a weaver who was introduced to her medium at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. In 1933 she moved to the United States with her husband after the Bauhaus closed due to the rise of Nazism. In the States, she established a weaving workshop at Black Mountain College. She encouraged her students to take a simplistic approach to the art of weaving and textile art. It was during this time that Anni began looking at her weaving as pictorial and designing them as wall-hangings.
Anni looked at weaving from a modernist perspective, but also respected and drew from weaving as an ancient art. This resulted in a lot of experimentation in texture and technique.
This focus on experimentation is what interests me most about Anni's work and what connects her work so succinctly to present day weaving.
One of Anni Alber's Looms
Many new weavers today, as Albers did years ago, have been blurring the lines between types of weaving. For a traditionalist, these ideas may challenge the status quo. In tapestry weaving, your warps should never show. But what if you weave a tapestry where, in a section, the warps do show? Is that no longer a tapestry? And if not, what is it? What if you incorporate tapestry techniques into cloth weaving?
For this reason, it is often difficult to articulate the differences between different types of weaving. Why is one loom ideal for one type and not the other? Why are the lines so firmly drawn between weft-faced and even-weave? (Or are they?) How can weft-faced weaving not always be tapestry but tapestry is always weft-faced?
You can see here some experimentation with joins and technique, crossing lines between even-weave and weft-faced.
"Weaving is an example of a craft which is many sided. Besides surface qualities, such as rough and smooth, dull and shiny, hard and soft, it also includes colour, and, as the dominating element, texture... Like any craft, it may end in producing useful objects, or it may rise to the level of art." -Anni Albers
Following are some examples of Anni Alber's work featured in the exhibit. You can see the stark differences in theme and technique among these.
"South of the Border" 1958
"Study for Six Prayers II" 1965-6
"Under Way" 1963
How have you blurred the lines between different types of weaving or do you stick with one type? How have you experimented with the medium?
If you have the chance, we recommend checking out the Anni Albers exhibit at the Tate Modern. You can learn more about it here.