In Thread and On Paper: Anni Albers in Connecticut
March 19–June 14, 2020
This month, the New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) will present an exhibition that focuses on the work Anni Albers produced while living in Connecticut from the 1950s until the time of her death. In 1949, the Alberses left Black Mountain College, settling in New Haven, Connecticut in 1950. This period saw the creation of an extensive body of work by Anni Albers, encompassing textiles, wall hangings, commercial collaborations—such as her designs for Knoll—works on paper, and writings, including her seminal book On Weaving, which was first published in 1965.
Organized by The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, In Thread and On Paper is part of the museum’s 2020/20+ Women @ NBMAA initiative, which focuses this year’s program on seven exhibitions of work by groundbreaking women artists. Anni Albers has received renewed institutional attention in recent years—as Peter Chappell writes in The Guardian, “Albers found success not with titanic installations, but with a medium she had to insist was taken seriously.” In 2017 and 2018, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presented an in-depth survey titled Anni Albers: Touching Vision. The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf organized an exhibition of Albers’s work in 2018, which traveled to Tate Modern in London. Last year, Paul Klee and Anni Albers was presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Major Traveling Retrospective
October 11, 2018–January 27, 2019
Presented at Tate Modern in London, this extensive retrospective covered the full range of Anni Albers’s pioneering career, from intricate small-scale works to complex wall hangings and the unique textiles she designed for mass production. Organized by Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Tate Modern, and curated by Maria Müller-Schareck and Ann Coxon, the show traveled to London from Düsseldorf, where it was on view from June 9–September 9, 2018.
Taking place on the heels of the critically acclaimed show Anni Albers: Touching Vision at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and, as both The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have noted, this show is among a slew of international exhibitions focused on the work of Anni Albers and her husband, Josef Albers.
Anni Albers enrolled as a student at the Bauhaus in 1922. Following her emigration to the United States with Josef in 1933, the couple taught at Black Mountain College, where she continued expanding her experimental practice. An article in The Wall Street Journal explores how the couple became "leading lights of 20th-century modernism," discussing their influential work at Black Mountain College, the establishment of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, and the recent resurgence of interest in their respective artistic practices. This year, a series of exhibitions in Japan, China, Russia, and Brazil anticipate the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Bauhaus art school in Weimar, Germany, where Josef and Anni met in 1922. A landmark exhibition will be held at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2019 to mark the official centenary.
Recent and forthcoming publications also offer new opportunities to discover Anni Albers’s work, through her own writings and fresh scholarship. In 2017, Princeton University Press released an expanded edition of On Weaving, a seminal collection of the artist’s essays that was first published in 1965, and David Zwirner Books published Anni Albers: Notebook 1970–1980, a facsimile of Albers’s only known notebook. As Felix Bazalgette wrote in Elephant magazine, Albers’s exercises on graph paper "represent the efforts of a septuagenarian . . . playfully pushing herself onwards into less well-explored territory. It’s in this sense of play . . . that these deceptively simple drawings begin to come alive, with a gradually building, almost psychedelic intensity." An in-depth profile in The New York Review of Books Daily discusses the “kind of aesthetic synesthesia” of her practice: "‘We learn to listen to voices," she wrote in the mid-1940s, "to the yes or no of our material, our tools, our time.’"
On the occasion of the retrospective, a new monograph is being published with groundbreaking analysis of the artist’s most important works, redefining the contributions she made to twentieth-century art and design. Edited by exhibition curators Müller-Schareck and Coxon with art historian Briony Fer, the book includes contributions from Brenda Danilowitz, chief curator of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, and Nicholas Fox Weber, the Foundation’s executive director, as well as Magdalena Droste, María Minera, Priyesh Mistry, Jennifer Reynolds-Kaye, and T’ai Smith.
Image: Installation view, Anni Albers, Tate Modern, London, 2018. © Tate photography (Seraphina Neville)
Anni Albers: Touching Vision
October 6, 2017–January 14, 2018
Anni Albers: Touching Vision was an in-depth survey spanning the pioneering artist's career from 1925 to the late 1970s, exploring the formal developments and continuing influence of her practice. Albers began her career at the Bauhaus, enrolling as a student in 1922 before eventually becoming the director of the weaving workshop in 1931. Following her emigration to the United States with her husband Josef in 1933, the couple both taught at Black Mountain College, where Anni Albers continued to expand her experimental practice.
On the occasion of the exhibition, David Zwirner Books published Anni Albers: Notebook 1970–1980, a facsimile of Albers's only known notebook, the original of which is on view in Bilbao. In addition, an expanded edition of her seminal book On Weaving, first published in 1965, has been newly published by Princeton University Press.
Above: Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937. Photo by Helen M. Post. Courtesy of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut.
Anni Albers: Notebook 1970–1980
Anni Albers: Notebook 1972–1980 is a facsimile of the only known notebook compiled by the artist. This previously unpublished document follows Albers's progression as a draftsman and includes intricate drawings related to her large body of graphic work, as well as studies for the late knot drawings. With an afterword by Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
"An exquisitely produced new book reveals the playful experimentation of original Bauhaus member Anni Albers, cementing her reputation as a powerful force in the graphic arts amidst a flurry of major solo shows," Felix Bazalgette writes in a review of the publication for Elephant.
Thread, a Project of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Senegal
In summer 2017, David Zwirner hosted a benefit exhibition in New York to support Thread, a project of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, with artworks generously donated by gallery artists and others.
Opened in March 2015, Thread is a socio-cultural center with a residency program for local and international artists to live and work in Sinthian, a rural village in Tambacounda in the southeastern region of Senegal. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation originally initiated the project in a remote part of sub-Saharan Africa to allow painters, dancers, photographers, and other artists from all over the world, as well as from within Senegal, to pursue their own work in exceptional conditions while also interacting with the local community. Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, has supported development initiatives in this community for over 15 years through Le Korsa, a non-profit initiative established by the Foundation in 2005 to give support to medical and educational facilities in rural Senegal.
Anni Albers said "You can go anywhere from anywhere." In the two years since it opened, Thread—like Black Mountain College and the Bauhaus, where Anni and Josef both worked and taught—has proved her point.
Thread links efforts of cultural productivity, agricultural development, income generation, sports, education, and female empowerment, all under one roof. Its residency program has already hosted over 30 artists from 18 different countries. Thread's Director is Nick Murphy, who is based in Paris and travels regularly to Sinthian. Together with Moussa Sene, Thread's General Manager based in Sinthian, Murphy devises its programming, as well as developing international attention and collaboration for Thread and the projects associated with it.
Read more about Thread in The Art Newspaper.
Above: Photo by Iwan Baan
Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction
Four works by Anni Albers were included in the critically acclaimed group exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
Two of the works, both entitled Free-Hanging Room Divider, date from 1949, the year Anni Albers became the first textile artist to have a one-person show at The Museum of Modern Art; the exhibition Anni Albers: Textiles subsequently traveled to 26 venues throughout the United States and Canada. The other two works included in Making Space are Tapestry (1948) and Enmeshed I, a lithograph made in 1963 when Anni Albers added printmaking to her artistic repertoire, making it her primary medium from that point on.
In his review of the exhibition in The New York Times, Holland Cotter writes, "the grid as a form gets an impressive pre-Minimalist workout in 1940s room dividers made of cellophane and horsehair by the incomparable weaver, printmaker, art historian, philosopher, teacher, theorist and life-student Anni Albers."
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
In 1971, Josef Albers established a non-profit organization to further "the revelation and evocation of vision through art." Today that organization is The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting the achievements of the artists, as well as the aesthetic and philosophical principles by which they lived.
The Foundation is located in Bethany, Connecticut, near New Haven, and houses offices, archives, and collections. The Foundation mainly works on exhibitions and publications while also assisting with research and supporting educational initiatives. It is open by appointment to individuals, scholars, and curators for tours, study, and research. The Foundation maintains two residential studios for visiting artists who exemplify the seriousness of purpose that characterized both Anni and Josef Albers. The residencies are designed to provide time, space, and solitude, with the benefit of access to the Foundation's archives and library.
Visit the Foundation's website to learn more through in-depth biographies, a chronology of the artists' lives and careers, selected writings, and more.
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation also supports Thread, a cultural center and water source in Sinthian, a rural village in Tambacounda, the southeastern region of Senegal. The center also hosts an artist residency program that allows its participants to experience and be inspired by the village, while developing linkages between rural Senegal and other parts of the globe. Thread has no fixed artistic program, but rather aims to foster connections and community in keeping with the philosophies of Josef and Anni Albers.
The Foundation is also affiliated with the Josef Albers Museum Quadrat Bottrop, which opened in 1983. Located in Josef Albers's place of birth in Germany, the museum preserves 100 paintings in addition to graphic works, studies on paper, glass pictures, and furniture and is closely affiliated with neighboring museums in the Quadrat complex. The museum's collection is largely made up of donations from the Foundation.
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Is Now Exclusively Represented by David Zwirner
Josef and Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, 1949
Photo: Theodore Dreier
Courtesy The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
(New York & London) David Zwirner is pleased to announce its exclusive worldwide representation of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation is devoted to preserving and promoting the achievements of both Josef and Anni Albers, and the aesthetic and philosophical principles by which they lived. The Foundation is based in Bethany, Connecticut, near New Haven, where it maintains a central research and archival facility, as well as residence studios for visiting artists.
David Zwirner will be The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation's exclusive commercial gallery. In this role, David Zwirner will promote the legacies of both Josef and Anni Albers through curated exhibitions at its New York and London gallery spaces; the development of new scholarship on the artists' work through publications and international exhibitions; and through the sale of artworks consigned to the gallery by the Foundation.
The gallery will present an exhibition of Josef Albers's work in its 537 West 20th Street location in New York in November 2016 that will explore the relationship between his Homage to the Square paintings and the monochrome.
As stated by David Zwirner, "Josef and Anni Albers are among the most significant artistic figures of their time. From their grounding in the Bauhaus to their ongoing influence on contemporary art, their pioneering work not only bridges European and American modernism, but also continues to be relevant today. It is a great honor that the Foundation has entrusted us to help further their important legacies."
Nicholas Fox Weber, Executive Director of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation states, "I considered my recent search for the ideal art gallery to represent The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation worldwide to be one of the most significant, possibly daunting, tasks of my forty years at the helm of this wonderful organization. What I thought would be difficult has proved to be a source of enormous pleasure. In David Zwirner, David Leiber, and others on the team of this wonderful art gallery, I have found people with the integrity, energy, passion for art, and human values that were dear to Josef and Anni alike. In 1971, the Alberses established, as the goal of our Foundation, 'the revelation and evocation of vision through art.' With our desire to perpetuate those intentions in places ranging from some of the poorest villages in rural Africa to the most sophisticated museums in great metropolises, we believe that David Zwirner and the gallery embody our interests with aplomb, professionalism, wisdom, and kindness."
Josef and Anni Albers met in 1922 at the Bauhaus, then located in Weimar, Germany, and were married in 1925, the same year that the school relocated to Dessau. Following the closure of the Bauhaus, when its remaining faculty members refused to re-open the school in compliance with the Third Reich, the couple emigrated to the United States in 1933, first settling in North Carolina, where they taught and helped to develop the design curriculum at Black Mountain College, at that time a noted site of avant-garde activity. After becoming U.S. citizens in 1939, Josef and Anni Albers traveled extensively together, spending time, in particular, in Mexico and the American Southwest. They remained at Black Mountain until 1950, when they moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where Josef Albers was invited to direct the department of design at Yale University School of Art.
Josef Albers (1888-1976) is considered one of the most influential abstract painters of the twentieth century, as well as an important designer and educator noted for his rigorously experimental approach to spatial relationships and color theory. He was born in Bottrop, Germany, and studied briefly at the Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, in 1919 before becoming a student at the Bauhaus in 1920. In 1922, Josef Albers joined the school's faculty, first in the glass workshop, and, from 1923, teaching design in the legendary Bauhaus Preliminary Course.
In 1933, he and Anni Albers emigrated to North Carolina, and he began to show his work extensively within the United States, including solo exhibitions at the Addison Museum of American Art, Andover (1935); J.B. Neumann's New Art Circle, New York (1936, 1938); The Germanic Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge (1936); the Katharine Kuh Gallery, Chicago (1937); the San Francisco Museum of Art (1940); and the Nierendorf Gallery, New York (1941).
In 1949, he developed studies for what would become his seminal Homage to the Square series, which he continued to elaborate until his death in 1976. This body of work was featured in a major exhibition organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York (by Kynaston McShine) in 1963 that traveled to 11 venues in the United States and 11 venues in Latin America. Josef Albers retired from teaching in 1958, prior to the publication of his important Interaction of Color (1963), a treatise on color studies and an essential handbook for artists and teachers. Published in 12 languages and in numerous editions (and reissued in an expanded format in 2013), the volume comprises a guide to how colors affect one another. Following numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, as well as his participation in documenta I (1955) and documenta IV (1968), he became the first living artist to be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with his career-spanning retrospective there in 1971.
More recent exhibitions include Painting on Paper: Josef Albers in America, which originated at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, in 2010 (traveled to Josef Albers Museum, Quadrat, Bottrop, Germany; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Kunstmuseum Basel; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Centro de Arte Moderna, Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon; and The Morgan Library and Museum, New York); and Josef Albers: Mimimal Means, Maximum Effect, at the Fundación Juan March, Madrid, in 2014 (traveled to Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway).
Anni Albers (née Annelise Fleischmann; 1899-1994) was a textile artist, designer, printmaker, and educator known for her pioneering graphic wall hangings, weavings, and designs. She was born in Berlin, and studied painting under the tutelage of German Impressionist Martin Brandenburg from 1916 to 1919. After attending the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg for two months in 1920, she enrolled at the Bauhaus in 1922. She was assigned to the Weaving Workshop, and she came to approach the discipline with relentless experimentation, regularly incorporating nontraditional materials into her compositions. Upon completing her course of study there in 1929, Anni Albers joined the Bauhaus faculty. At Black Mountain College, she elaborated on the technical innovations she devised at the Bauhaus, developing a specialized curriculum that integrated weaving and industrial design. It was during this time that she began to avidly collect Pre-Columbian art, in particular textiles. In 1949, she became the first designer to have a one-person show at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the exhibition Anni Albers: Textiles subsequently traveled to 26 venues throughout the United States and Canada. Following the Alberses' move to New Haven, Anni Albers shifted her focus primarily to her workshop, spending the 1950s creating mass-reproducible fabrics (including a commission from Walter Gropius for Harvard University), writing, and developing her "pictorial weavings," culminating in the exhibition Anni Albers: Pictorial Weavings at the MIT New Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1959 (traveled to Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh; Baltimore Museum of Art; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston). In 1963, Anni Albers added printmaking to her artistic repertoire, working primarily in this medium from that point on. Her prints have been featured in numerous exhibitions worldwide, including Anni Albers. Bildweberei, Zeichnung, Druckgrafik at the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf in 1975 (traveled to Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin). A retrospective exhibition on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 1999, organized by the Albers Foundation and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, traveled to the Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; and The Jewish Museum, New York.
Her seminal book On Weaving, published in 1965, helped to establish design studies as an area of academic and aesthetic inquiry and solidified her status as the single most influential textile artist of the twentieth century. Her writings on design, first published as On Designing in 1959, were reissued in 2000.
The works of Josef and Anni Albers have been featured both together and separately in exhibitions worldwide, most recently including A Beautiful Confluence: Anni and Josef Albers and the Latin American World, Mudec, Museo delle Culture, Milan, 2015-2016; and Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 2015 (traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and will be on view at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, from September 17, 2016 – January 1, 2017). Both artists are represented in major international public and private collections.