The work of Anni and Josef Albers is currently on view in separate solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Anni Albers: Touching Vision and Josef Albers in Mexico offer a very rare opportunity to see concurrent presentations by a husband and wife at a major international museum.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal explores how the couple became "leading lights of 20th-century modernism," taking in 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. In 2018, a series of exhibitions in Japan, China, Russia, and Brazil will anticipate the 100th 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.
In Bilbao, the recent exhibition 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. For Elly Parsons, writing in Wallpaper, the show highlighted "Albers’s lifelong artistic ambidexterity, through a catalogue of examples taken from each of her 'phases' . . . we see the queen of weaving's singular modernist vision unfold across discipline, decade and timezone."
Anni Albers enrolled as a student at the Bauhaus in 1922 before becoming the director of the weaving workshop in 1931 ("Fate put into my hands limp threads!" she later recalled). Following her emigration to the United States with her husband Josef in 1933, the couple taught at Black Mountain College, where Anni Albers continued expanding her experimental practice. An in-depth profile in The New York Review of Books incorporates a review of Touching Vision—an exhibition the writer calls "an act of reclamation, even rediscovery"—as well as many quotes from the artist about her work. 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 was on view in the Bilbao exhibition. On the heels of Touching Vision, a large-scale retrospective of Anni Albers's work will open in June 2018 at Düsseldorf's Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen museum before traveling to Tate Modern in London in October.
At the Guggenheim in New York, Josef Albers in Mexico (through March 28, 2018) presents photographs, photo collages, canvases, and works on paper relating to Josef Albers's many visits to Mexico—a place that struck him, as he later wrote to his former Bauhaus colleague Vasily Kandinsky, as "the promised land of abstract art." A major review by Roberta Smith in The New York Times describes "a quietly stunning exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum that contrasts Albers's little-known photographs of the great Mesoamerican monuments of Mexico with his glowing abstract paintings."
Albers visited Mexico with Anni 14 times between 1935 and the late 1960s. The black-and-white photographic works in this exhibition, many of which have never been shown publicly before, are drawn from hundreds the artist took at pre-Columbian archaeological sites and monuments. The exhibition also features related materials including maps tracing Albers's travels, letters and journals, images of the excavation sites, films, and undeveloped contact sheets drawn from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation archives. A slideshow featuring nine works from the exhibition is included in Forbes. In a review of the show in The Wall Street Journal, Richard B. Woodward describes a "quietly provocative exhibition" that uncovers "previously hidden dimensions" in the artist's work.
A Guggenheim publication accompanying Josef Albers in Mexico features essays by Lauren Hinkson, who curated the exhibition, and Joaquín Barriendos, a map, and reproductions of works in the show. These are organized by region based on the pre-Columbian archaeological sites that the Alberses frequented. Related public programs at the museum include curator's tours of the show.
Josef and Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, 1949 (detail). Photo: Theodore Dreier. Courtesy The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937 (detail). Photo by Helen M. Post. Courtesy of The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut.
Anni Albers, Untitled (Josef Albers, Mitla, Mexico), 1935-39 (detail). The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.