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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anni Albers Is at BAM! Really!

Anni Albers, Wall Hanging, 1984, wool, 98"x89". Collection of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
When you next visit the BAM Peter Jay Sharp building, take a good look at the artwork hanging next to the escalator. It's a 1982 weaving by none other than Anni Albers, one of the leading lights of the Bauhaus (from which she received a degree in 1930) and its informal American outpost, Black Mountain College, where she taught from 1933 to 1939 along with her husband, Josef. The college is inspiration for Black Mountain Songs at the BAM Harvey this week, a collection of music put together by Bryce Dessner and Richard Reed Parry by some of our most creative songwriters, sung by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus under the baton of Dianne Berkun-Menaker.

Anni Albers did not intend to pursue textiles when she entered the Bauhaus School, but it was the only course available to her. As history shows, she immersed herself in its potential, taking full advantage of the array of nuanced filaments, as well as the density of each fiber's saturation. She included knotting and intertwining as methods to enrich the textures. She worked primarily in geometric patterns, and her palette was always surprising for its focus and elegance. Albers was the first weaver to receive a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which now boasts prime examples of her output. In a show on the Bauhaus in 2009, her textiles stood out amid a who's who of the influential German movement, which was ultimately shut down by the Nazis.

Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937. Photo: Helen M. Post
Walter Gropius, through the Bauhaus school, advocated "form follows function," which remains an important credo in industrial design along with the fusion of theory and practice. It's impressive to note that Anni Albers' carpet and textile designs continue to be produced by major manufacturers such as Knoll and Christopher Farr. Her design aesthetic is timeless, with its burnished or bright palette and well-balanced, rhythmic forms.

Anni Alber's husband, Josef, teaching at Black Mountain College. Photo: Hazel Larsen Archer
In addition to Albers' weaving in the BAM lobby, check out the rest of the exhibition in the Natman Room and the mezzanine gallery of the BAM Harvey Theater, through January 5. You may recognize a number of characters who have performed at BAM, take in some fascinating works by BMC's alumni, and see what inspired this latest generation of artists in performance at the Harvey this week.

Black Mountain Songs plays BAM Harvey November 20—23.

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