Anni Albers

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of work by Anni Albers (1899–1994) at the 537 West 20th Street location in New York. Curated by Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, this will be the gallery’s first solo presentation of the artist’s work since having announced exclusive representation of the Foundation, in 2016, and Albers’s first solo exhibition in New York since her 2000 retrospective at the Jewish Museum.

One of the most important abstract artists of the twentieth century, Albers combined a deep and intuitive understanding of materials and process with an inventive and visually engaging exploration of form and color. Following recent showings of her work in Europe at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in 2017 (which attracted 383,000 visitors) and the widely acclaimed 2018–2019 retrospective at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, and Tate Modern, London, this exhibition will provide American audiences with a rare opportunity to experience the breadth of Albers’s decades-long career, including her pioneering wall hangings, weavings, public commissions, and a range of her innovative and colorful works on paper. On view for the first time outside of Mexico, will be Albers’s 10-foot tall wall hanging Camino Real, 1968. Commissioned by Ricardo Legorreta and Luis Barragán for the newly built Hotel Camino Real in Mexico City, this vibrant work brings together a number of important facets of Albers’s practice, in particular the profound impact of Latin American art and culture on the artist’s oeuvre.

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Image: Anni Albers, Camino Real, 1968 (detail)

Dates
September 10October 19, 2019
Opening reception
Tuesday, September 10, 6–8 PM
Curators
Brenda Danilowitz
Artist

Camino Real (1968), a wall hanging measuring more than 10 foot square, is on view outside of Mexico City for the first time. One of Anni Albers’s largest works, this seminal work represents the breadth of the artist’s practice, in particular the profound impact of Latin American art and culture on her oeuvre. Read on to learn how Albers arrived at this remarkable work.


Above: Anni Albers’s wallhanging Camino Real in the Lobby Bar at Hotel Camino Real, 1968. Photo by Armando Salas Portugal. © 2019 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © Armando Salas Portugal, Courtesy Fundación Armando Salas Portugal

A photo of Anni Albers, Europe, c.1930–33. Photo by Josef Albers.

Anni Albers, Europe, c. 1930–33. Photo by Josef Albers. © 2019 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“Threads to build a future?”

 

Albers’s career began at the Bauhaus in the early 1920s. Fascinated by the visual world since childhood, she had wanted to study painting, but on arrival at the Bauhaus discovered that the only classes open to female students were in the weaving workshop. As she later recalled, “My beginning was far from what I had hoped for: fate put into my hands limp threads!” She was, however, also given opportunities—far from the school being a “readymade spirit” when she arrived, Albers later emphasized the altogether experimental environment she encountered: “The Bauhaus today is thought of always as a school … to which you went and were taught something.… But when I got there in 1922, that wasn’t true at all…. It was exciting that you knew you had the freedom to try out something. You were a contributor.… There was a need for doing something new.” 


 

Albers embraced the possibilities of weaving as a medium, exploring materials and structural forms to create bold new work. “Anni was a great person for working with limitations,” says Nicholas Fox Weber, executive director of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. “She used thread to make abstract art.”

A textile by Anni Albers made of cotton and linen titled With Verticals, dated 1946.

Anni Albers

With Verticals, 1946
Cotton and linen
61 x 46 1/2 inches (154.9 x 118.1 cm) 
A photo of Anni Albers card weaving at Black Mountain College.

Anni Albers card weaving at Black Mountain College. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

A huge influence on Albers’s developing practice was the pioneering modernist Paul Klee, who began teaching Theory of Design in the Bauhaus’s weaving workshop in 1927. Klee’s famous instruction to “take a line for a walk” proved crucial to Albers’s experiments with nonrepresentational composition in her own medium. “I was trying to build something out of dots, out of lines,” she reflected, “out of a structure built of those elemental elements and not the transposition into an idea.” 

 

The formal impact of Klee’s work is perhaps most visible in the “pictorial” weavings Albers began making in the 1950s. By hanging these on the wall, Albers clearly defined her ambition for woven works to be viewed as art. Although they reference the work of painters such as Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, the pictorial weavings transform their material in unique ways. As Ann Coxon and Maria Müller-Schareck have argued, “Her role within a history of abstraction is not to bring weaving close to painting but, on the contrary, to make the specific character of weaving—its structure and process—its own experiment in making art relevant to contemporary life.”

A wool weaving by Anni Albers, titled In Orbit, dated 1957.

Anni Albers

In Orbit, 1957
Wool
16 3/8 x 23 1/4 inches (41.6 x 59.1 cm) Framed: 21 5/8 x 29 5/8 inches (54.9 x 75.2 cm)
A photo of Anni Albers in Mitla, Mexico, dated 1936–37.

Anni Albers, Mitla, Mexico, 1936–1937. Photo by Josef Albers. © 2019 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“We learn to dare to make a choice, to be independent; there is no authority to be questioned.… Still, there is one right opinion as to quality of a work of art, spontaneous and indisputable—one of our absolutes.… In art work any experience is immediate.” —Anni Albers, “One Aspect of Art Work,” 1944

 

In 1949, Albers became the first textile artist to have a solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

On moving from Germany to the United States with her husband, Josef Albers, in 1933, Anni Albers was able to deepen her experimental practice while leading the weaving department at the newly established Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The artist couple made many trips to Mexico during the 1930s and 1940s, driving to archaeological sites including Mitla, Chichén Itzá, Monte Albán, and Teotihuacán. Albers was deeply affected by pre-Columbian art and textiles, and went on to employ long-forgotten techniques mastered through her in-depth study and collection of these works.

A cotton, lurex, and jute weaving by Anni Albers, titled Black-White-Gold II, dated 1950.

Anni Albers

Black-White-Gold II, 1950
Cotton, Lurex, and jute
23 x 19 inches (58.4 x 48.3 cm) Framed: 29 7/8 x 25 7/8 inches (75.9 x 65.7 cm)
Diagram showing modified and composite weaves

Anni Albers

Diagram showing modified and composite weaves.Plate 18 from On Weaving, 1965. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Anni Albers Papers, 27.6.© 2019 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, c. 1965
Black masking tape and pencil on gridded paper
11 x 8 1/2 in. (27.9 x 21.6 cm)

In addition to the works she created, Albers wrote extensively on the history and diversity of and technical methods for creating textiles. Her aim was not simply to revive ancient techniques in order to reproduce them; rather, she sought to strengthen her modernist project through a special connection with these precedents, investing contemporary abstract work with formal and structural elements learned from ancient cultures. As art historian Briony Fer writes in the publication accompanying a major retrospective of Albers’s work at Tate Modern last year, the artist defied assumptions “about what ‘the modern’ should look and feel like.”

 


Albers’s seminal book On Weaving, published in 1965, is a luminous meditation on the art of weaving, its history, tools and techniques, and its implications for modern aesthetics. She dedicated the book to “my great teachers, the weavers of ancient Peru.”

In 1967, Albers was offered a unique opportunity to create a contemporary work in the region that so inspired her. The artist was commissioned by the architects Ricardo Legorreta and Luis Barragán to create a large tapestry for Legorreta’s newly built Hotel Camino Real in Mexico City. Constructed for the 1968 Olympics, the hotel was conceived to reflect “a unique personality and the feeling of true Mexican culture.“ Ambitious and cutting-edge, the hotel embodied the energy and ambition of its designers and of Mexico City in the late 1960s.

 


To greet guests in the lobby, Albers created “a resoundingly contemporary work notable for its scintillating chromatic spatial vibration.” The critic Lynne Cooke describes the work in further detail as “A complex, layered structure of pink, red, and crimson ziggurats, zigzags, and stepped triangles [that] deftly fused the ethos of an emerging generation of abstract artists, such as Bridget Riley, with Central America’s indigenous heritage.”

 



To realize Camino Real at such a large scale, Albers enlisted Abacrome, a Manhattan company that fabricated appliquéd flags and banners for artists like Robert Indiana, Richard Lindner, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, and Claes Oldenburg in the 1960s. Delighted with the results, she adapted her original gouache drawing as the basis for an eponymous screenprint.

A felt textile by Anni Albers, titled Camino Real, dated 1968.

Anni Albers

Camino Real, 1968
Felt
116 x 105 3/4 inches (294.6 x 268.6 cm)
A screenprint on paper by Anni Albers, titled Blue Meander, dated 1970.

Anni Albers

Blue Meander, 1970
Screenprint on Mohawk Superfine Bristol paper
Image: 19 1/2 x 16 inches (49.5 x 40.6 cm) Sheet: 28 x 24 inches (71.1 x 61 cm) Framed: 29 3/4 x 25 3/4 inches (75.6 x 65.4 cm)

Approaching her seventh decade at the end of the 1960s, Albers transferred her attention from weaving to more manageable graphic media. Her works on paper range from lithographs and screenprints to pencil sketches, ink and felt-pen drawings, and colorful gouaches. Like her arrangements using thread, the artist’s graphic compositions are uniquely inventive—”her art sings and vibrates and keeps you looking,” critic Adrian Searle observes, “following patterns and meandering lines, maze-like structures, grids and colourways.” Albers’s only known notebook, used regularly from 1970 until 1980, reveals the way she went about making different patterns, exploring them piece by piece, line by line in preparation for her graphic work and knot drawings.


 

Realized using pencil and paint or a printing press rather than a loom, Albers’s later work lost none of its complexity. Fox Weber recognizes in this period, “microcosms of clarity, balance, and wholeness, each with a certain irregularity … that adds to its strength and interest. Her prints have always been more than mere translations of the drawings.” Diverse and energetic, these works affirm Albers’s enduring curiosity about the potential of technique, as well as her commitment to visual communication in its many possible forms.

A two-color copper plate etching and aquatint on paper by Anni Albers, titled Second Movement III, dated 1978.

Anni Albers

Second Movement III, 1978
Two-color copper plate etching and aquatint on mould-made white Arches Cover paper
Image: 22 1/4 x 17 inches (56.5 x 43.2 cm) Sheet: 30 1/2 x 25 1/2 inches (77.5 x 64.8 cm) Framed: 26 3/4 x 27 5/8 inches (67.9 x 70.2 cm)
An untitled ink work on paper by Anni Albers, circa 1981.

Anni Albers

Untitled, c. 1981
Ink on paper
5 1/2 x 6 inches (14 x 15.2 cm) Framed: 8 5/8 x 9 1/4 inches (21.9 x 23.5 cm)

“How do we choose our specific material, our means of communication? ‘Accidentally.’ Something speaks to us, a sound, a touch, hardness or softness, it catches us and asks us to be formed.… The finer tuned we are to it, the closer we come to art. Art is the final aim.” —Anni Albers, Material as Metaphor,” 1982

A spread from a book, titled On Weaving by Anni Albers.

Anni Albers On Weaving

First published in 1965, this splendidly illustrated publication is Albers’s seminal meditation on the art of weaving, its history, its tools and techniques, and its implications for modern design. She dedicated the book to “my great teachers, the weavers of ancient Peru.”

 

Order now from David Zwirner Books

For ten years beginning in 1970, Albers used her notebook to compose drawings and complex patterns relating to her large body of graphic work. This rare document reveals how she explored a range of dramatic and beautiful geometric compositions.

 

Order now from David Zwirner Books

A cover of the publication titled Anni Albers Notebook 1970-1980.

Anni Albers: Notebook 1970–1980  
An untitled large, handwoven fabric by Anni Albers, circa 1950-1959.

Anni Albers

Untitled, c. 1950-1959
Handwoven fabric
195 x 29 inches (495.3 x 73.7 cm)
A watercolor work on screenprint by Anni Albers, titled Wall V, dated 1983.

Wall V, 1983
Watercolor on screenprint
28 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches (72.4 x 57.2 cm)
A watercolor work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Wall VII, dated 1983.

Anni Albers

Wall VII, 1983
Watercolor on screenprint
28 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches (72.4 x 57.2 cm)
An untitled drawing by Anni Albers, dated circa 1981.

Anni Albers

Untitled, c. 1981
Ink on paper
5 1/2 x 6 inches (14 x 15.2 cm)
An untitled drawing by Anni Albers, dated 1982.

Anni Albers

Untitled, 1982
Ink and gouache on paper
6 1/4 x 9 inches (15.9 x 22.9 cm)
A multimedia work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Drawing for Nylon Rug, dated 1958.

Anni Albers

Drawing for Nylon Rug, 1958
Ink, graphite, and gouache on paper mounted on board
8 1/2 x 6 inches (21.6 x 15.2 cm)
A wool weaving by Anni Albers, titled In Orbit, dated 1957.

Anni Albers

In Orbit, 1957
Wool
16 3/8 x 23 1/4 inches (41.6 x 59.1 cm)
A gouache and graphite work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Color Study (Reds and Orange), circa 1970.

Anni Albers

Color Study (Reds and Orange), c. 1970
Gouache and graphite on blueprint paper
19 x 17 inches (48.3 x 43.2 cm)
A gouache work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Drawing for a Rug II, dated 1959.

Anni Albers

Drawing for a Rug II, 1959
Gouache on photostat photographic paper
17 7/8 x 5 1/8 inches (45.4 x 13 cm) 
A gouache work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Drawing for a Rug II, dated 1959.

Anni Albers

Drawing for a Rug II, 1959
Gouache on photostat photographic paper
17 3/8 x 5 1/8 inches (44.1 x 13 cm)
A graphite study on paper by Anni Albers, titled Study for Second Movement III, circa 1970.

Anni Albers

Study for Second Movement III, c. 1970
Graphite on paper
22 x 17 1/8 inches (55.9 x 43.5 cm)
An untitled graphite work on paper by Anni Albers, dated 1963.

Anni Albers

Untitled, 1963
Graphite on graph paper
17 1/8 x 22 inches (43.5 x 55.9 cm)
A gouache and diazotype work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Fox I, dated 1972.

Anni Albers

Fox I, 1972
Gouache and diazotype on paper
15 x 13 1/2 inches (38.1 x 34.3 cm)
A gouache and diazotype work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Color Study in Green Squares, dated 1970.

Anni Albers

Color Study in Green Squares, 1970
Gouache and diazotype on paper
17 7/8 x 13 7/8 inches (45.4 x 35.2 cm)
A gouache and diazotype work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Study in Red Stripes, dated 1969.

Anni Albers

Study in Red Stripes, 1969
Gouache and diazotype on paper
22 1/8 x 17 1/8 inches (56.2 x 43.5 cm)
A gouache and diazotype work on paper by Anni Albers, titled Color Study (Blue and Reds), dated 1970.

Anni Albers

Color Study (Blue and Reds), 1970
Gouache and diazotype on paper
23 1/8 x 18 inches (58.7 x 45.7 cm)
A photo offset print with gouache and ink by Anni Albers, titled Orchestra III, dated 1980.

Anni Albers

Orchestra III, 1980
Gouache and ink on photo offset print
17 3/4 x 16 3/4 inches (45.1 x 42.5 cm)
A photo offset by Anni Albers, titled Orchestra III, dated 1980.

Anni Albers

Orchestra III, 1980
Photo offset
17 3/4 x 16 3/4 inches (45.1 x 42.5 cm)
A textile by Anni Albers, titled Wallhanging, dated 1924.

Anni Albers

Wallhanging, 1924
Cotton and silk
66 1/4 x 39 1/2 inches (168.3 x 100.3 cm)
An untitled textile by Anni Albers, dated 1950.

Anni Albers

Untitled, 1950
Cotton and bast
25 1/2 x 15 inches (64.8 x 38.1 cm)
A pictorial weaving by Anni Albers, titled Code, dated 1962.

Anni Albers

Code, 1962
Pictorial weaving
23 x 7 1/4 inches (58.4 x 18.4 cm)
A hand weaving by Anni Albers, titled Haiku, dated 1961.

Anni Albers

Haiku, 1961
Hand weaving
22 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches (57.2 x 18.4 cm)
A weaving by Anni Albers, titled Scroll, dated 1962.

Anni Albers

Scroll, 1962
Woven fibers
55 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches (141 x 54.6 cm)
A cotton, lurex, and jute weaving by Anni Albers, titled Black-White-Gold I, dated 1950.

Anni Albers

Black-White-Gold I, 1950
Cotton, Lurex, and jute
25 x 19 1/4 inches (63.5 x 48.9 cm)
A cotton, lurex, and jute weaving by Anni Albers, titled Black-White-Gold II, dated 1950.

Anni Albers

Black-White-Gold II, 1950
Cotton, Lurex, and jute
23 x 19 inches (58.4 x 48.3 cm)
A cotton and linen weaving by Anni Albers, titled With Verticals, dated 1946.

Anni Albers

With Verticals, 1946
Cotton and linen
61 x 46 1/2 inches (154.9 x 118.1 cm)
A textile by Anni Albers, titled Camino Real, dated 1968.

Anni Albers

Camino Real, 1968
Felt
116 x 105 3/4 inches (294.6 x 268.6 cm)
A drawing by Anni Albers, titled DR XVI, dated 1974.

Anni Albers

DR XVI, 1974
Ink on paper
14 5/8 x 11 3/4 inches (37.1 x 29.8 cm)
A screenprint by Anni Albers, titled Camino Real, dated from 1967 to 1969.

Anni Albers

Camino Real, 1967 -1969
Screenprint on Mohawk Superfine Bristol paper
23 1/2 x 22 inches (59.7 x 55.9 cm)
A drawing by Anni Albers, titled Study for Camino Real, dated circa 1967.

Anni Albers

Study for Camino Real, c.1967
Gouache and graphite on blueprint paper
17 x 15 7/8 inches (43.2 x 40.3 cm)

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