Friday, February 29, 2008

anni albers

Last Sunday I attended a great lecture by Prudence Roberts on the exhibition Women’s Work, currently up at the Art Gym. From the moment I saw the work of Anni Albers on the lecture screen, and then followed up by checking it out at the exhibition, I knew this was another case in which I hung out with the husband and lost sight of the wife. Not good.

Because most people know I love Josef Albers and have had a long standing love affair with his Square Descending. I knew of them even in childhood, in the 1960s. His books I found dull and never really read them, but no matter; the squares were enough.

What was odd, though, was how many comments came my way about her, not him, when people saw my work. Well, sure, I thought, there’s the fabric connection. The Indian blankets of my granddad were my “initial image,” as Audrey Flack calls it. But the sorry fact is I never really thought much about Anni Albers until I saw this show, which only has a couple of her prints anyway. But at least the light finally went off.

She was incredibly smart and persistent – and begrudgingly went into weaving as a student at the Bauhaus, a school which regrettably denied female students all kinds of subjects. She knew from the start how difficult it would be to get respect. But she took every limitation and made it into a strength.

At the library I collected a stack of books and was fascinated with her colors and progression. Check out the piece above, made in the 1960s – not unrelated to my own 60s/80s. Perhaps we were just responding to the same things, save in different decades – to the aggressive and rhythmic optimism of orange, hot pink and red, found in fashion and textiles by entities like Marimekko or YSL.

I liked the entire show. The prints by Wangechi Mutu (see below), imagery based on collage technique, are dynamite.


Anonymous said...

Of course I know about Josef Albers but I can't believe I don't recall ever hearing about his wife until now- especially after I did a Google search and found out how important she is. What's up with that?!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, exactly my point. Why was I always interested in the husband when the wife had really great work?