Monthly archives: January, 2019

Sue Lawty Visits Anni Albers at the Tate Modern

‘Our tactile experiences are elemental’  

I was eleven when On Weaving was first published. I was making dens in the woods and wondering what I’d be when I grew up. 

Anni Albers at the Tate Modern. (Lawty’s favorite piece in the exhibition.) Photo by Sue Lawty.

 Years later Anni Albers’ seminal book was to become pivotal in the development of my teaching and thinking. I actually bought it in 1983 from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, $8.95, black and white, paperback. Yet it wasn’t the images that first grabbed me, but the four pages of chapter eight: Tactile Sensibility. The phrase “tactile sensibility” was new to me, and even if in my fingertips I knew there was such a thing, I’d never heard it named before and given a serious discourse. 

11sl LEAD V Sue Lawty, lead warp and weft, hand woven & beaten, 24″ x 18″ x 1.5″, 61cm x 48cm x 4cm, 2009

Of course, many important influences shape us as we carve our creative journey, not least Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric, Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen’s groundbreaking publication and the first art book I ever bought. However, it was Anni Albers’ rigorous unpicking of the intrinsic relationship between the structure of weaving and the fibers chosen that fired a key part of my working ethos; as she put it  “…the inner structure together with its effects on the outside …the engineering task of building up a fabric …developing the vocabulary of tactile language.” read her words over and over and used them in teaching alongside practical workshops informed by her open, questioning approach. I still do.

Anni Albers at the Tate Modern. Photo by Sue Lawty

Visiting the fabulous Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern in late 2018, I was struck by how rhythm, repetition, a monochromatic/ limited color palette and the austerity of working with the least number of elements, are all essential elements in both our creative outputs. 

Sue Lawty
December 31, 2018


Anni Albers Gets Her Due – Tate Modern through January 27, 2019 (1 of 3)

Legendary artist Anni Albers is getting the long-overdue recognition she deserves in a major retrospective in the United Kingdom. The exhibition, Anni Albers, currently on exhibit at the Tate Modern in London through January 27th, seeks to illuminate Albers’ creative process as well as her engagement with art, architecture and design.

With Verticals, 1946, by Anni Albers, red cotton and linen. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany CT. © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London. Photography: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

One of the most influential textile artists of the 20th century, Anni Albers’ work lead to a reconsideration of fiber and textile as art. Born in Berlin, Annelise Elsa Frieda Fleischmann went to study at the radical Bauhaus art school as a young student in 1922. Fascinated with the visual world at a young age, her parents encouraged her to study drawing and painting. Despite the fact that Albers felt that textiles were considered “toosissy,” she enrolled in the only course open to female students-–weaving in the ‘women’s workshop.’ However, as time passed she developed a passion for the medium, using it as a key form of expression, creating complex and richly colored pliable planes. The exhibition explores how, in the school’s vibrant weaving workshop, traditional hand-weaving was redefined as modern art.

In 1933, Anni’s husband Josef was invited to the USA to make visual arts the center of the curriculum at the newly established Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Anni and Josef saw this as an opportunity to escape the Nazi regime and continue exploring their art. During her time in North Carolina, Anni made extraordinary weavings, developed new textiles and taught. Throughout this period, Albers made frequent visits to Central and South America, immersing herself in ancient culture and methods. The influence these trips had on Albers’ work is evident in her large-scale pieces, Ancient Writing and With Verticals,both of which can be viewed at the Tate exhibition. In addition to Albers’ pieces, the exhibition includes examples of textiles from around the world that fueled Albers’ thinking and creative processes. Visitors are also invited to view textile works by other artists including Lenore Tawney, Olga de Amaral and Sheila Hicks.

Anni Albers at the Tate. Photo by Sue Lawty.
Anni Albers at the Tate. Photo by Sue Lawty.

The exhibition at the Tate Modern is the first major retrospective of Albers’ work in the United Kingdom. It takes an expansive view, exploring Albers’ creative processes– the intersection between art and craft; hand-weaving and machine production; ancient and modern. The Tate has included over 350 objects of Albers’, including small-scale studies, large wall-hangings, jewelry made from everyday items and textiles designed for mass production. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to “see Albers’ work in close focus, experiencing her belief that textile is inherently many-sided,” writes Corinne Julius in Selvedge Magazine (“Fruit of the Loom,” October 11, 2018). Many of Albers’ weavings are hung freely throughout the exhibition space, allowing visitors to examine them front and back. 

Though the exhibition has been organized by two major fine art institutions, the Tate and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, neither of them own any important works by Anni Albers as her work has been considered ‘craft.’ As a result, the vast majority of objects in the exhibition are on loan from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. “The whole show is about a woman who is a weaver and how weaving can be a valid modernist art practice. Anni Albers’ work is not ‘decorative,’ wires Julius. “It’s quite conceptual – corroborating Roland Barthes’ comment that the loom is ‘a maquette of reasoning,’” Ideally, Anni Albers will move the boundary of what is and is not considered fine art.

For more information on the exhibition, which closes on January 27th, visit the Tate’s website HERE.


Art Assembled: New This Week December

3lb Attached, Laura Ellon Bacon, Somerset willow – a variety called Dicky Meadows, 69” x 27.5” x 12”, 2013, photo by sophie mutevelian

It’s hard to believe another year had passed, but we are welcoming 2019 with open arms here at browngrotta arts. We are excited for all the great things to come in 2019, but we’ll shed a light on all the great art we shared on our social media throughout the month of December. From Laura Ellen Bacon’s Attached to Adela Akers Night Curtain there was quite a diverse line up on display in December.

To kick off the month of December we shared Laura Ellen Bacon’s Attached. Bacon, whom we had the pleasure of visiting on our trek through the United Kingdom, consistently creates stunning woven sculptures. Bacon’s unique weaving technique, such as exhibited in Attached sets her apart. The combination of her technique and the use of natural materials allows Bacon to slowly develop the weight and form of her work as she pleases, which she describes as, “Starting out with a frail framework and building curves from the inside out to achieve quite ‘muscular’ forms with a sense of movement, a sense of them being alive somehow.”

Endless, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 10.75” x 12” x 9”, 2016, $3,750
Endless, Rachel Max, plaited and twined cane, 10.75” x 12” x 9”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

Next in the queue was Endless by Rachel Max. Made of plaited and twined cane, Endless’ unique form piques’ the viewers’ curiosity. Through sculptural basketry, Max investigates the relationship between lace and basket making techniques. Often inspired by natural shapes, Max enjoys exploring the concepts of containment and concealment in her work. With this exploration, Max has developed a technique of layering to form structures that probe into the relationship between lines, shadows and space.

Ce qu’il en reste VI, Stéphanie Jacques, willow, gesso, thread, 21.5” x 10.5” x 11”, 2016. Photo by Tom Grotta

The origins of Stéphanie JacquesCe qu’il en reste VI is rooted in her adolescent years with scoliosis. Jacques spent many years wearing corrective corsets, which inhibited her from many activities, such as dance. This series of sculptures, known as the Miss Metonymy sculptures are built as vertebral columns. Jacques has spent many years trying to create a figure that stands up, however, leaving the idea of verticality allowed that to become possible.

Night Curtain, linen, horsehair, paint & metal, 38” x 36”, 2018
Night Curtain, linen, horsehair, paint & metal, 38” x 36”, 2018. Photo by Tom Grotta

To conclude 2018’s New This Week posts we shared Night Curtain by Adela Akers. Unique to Akers’ work is her utilization of horsehair and recycled metal foil strips from the tops of wine bottles. Incorporating metal into her work adds another dimension, one that becomes a veil through which metal can shine through. In Night Curtain the luster of metal and veil of horsehair is reminiscent of stars peeping through a thin curtain of clouds in the night sky.