DECEMBER 1 Josef Albers's Science and Soul of Seeing Holland Cotter, New York Times

NOVEMBER 29 The Little-Known Photo Collages of Josef Albers Philip Gefter, The New Yorker

NOVEMBER 11 A Tonic for Trump? On the Global Josef Albers Frenzy and How Abstraction Can Ease the Pain Rachel Corbett, Blouin Art Info

OCTOBER 31 The Hidden Sources of the Bauhaus Adrien Goetz, Le Figaro

OCTOBER 31 From Weimar to Dessau: Art and Life at the School of Utopia Valérie Duponchelle, Le Figaro

MARCH 5 The Spirit of the Alberses, from the Bauhaus to Senegal Philippe Dagen, Le Monde

FEBRUARY 12 Becoming Bauhaus: the Defining Eras of Josef Albers, at Stephen Friedman Jessica Klingelfuss, Wallpaper*

FEBRUARY 1 Anni Albers, The Thread of Life Christian Simenc, L'Oeil

Josef Albers
Marli Heimann, All During an Hour, 1931–32
twelve gelatin silver prints mounted to board
overall: 11 11/16 x 16 7/16 in. (29.7 x 41.8 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Josef Albers's Science and Soul of Seeing

"Purity of heart is to will one thing," the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote. It's tempting to think of the painter Josef Albers, renowned for his late-career devotion to—not to say obsession with—the mechanics of color in art, as someone who was pure in that narrowing-down way.

He wasn't, though. Where Kierkegaard called for a spiritual discipline that would shut the world out, Albers developed a hands-on, eyes-on art practice that opened the world up, a world he approached with a craftsman's care and experienced with the scintillated focus of a mescaline high. And in a pair of concurrent exhibitions, one at the Museum of Modern Art, the other at the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea, we can see his expansive version of single-mindedness unfold.

Craftsmanship came naturally to Albers, who was born in Germany in 1888 and learned practical skills from his father, a builder and house painter. When painting a door, his father told him, start in the middle and paint outward. "That way you catch the drips, and don't get your cuffs dirty."

Keeping cuffs clean took practice, and Albers liked the dynamic of learning through repetitive doing. He had the patience and the curiosity for it, which made him an avid student and a tireless teacher. He enjoyed craft—the manipulation of forms and materials —as an end in itself. When, in 1920, he discovered the Weimar Bauhaus, where art and craft were on a par, he knew it was the place for him.

The Bauhaus encouraged multitasking. He arrived as an abstract painter with a particular interest in color, or how colors changed in intensity and mood when one was put next to another. That interest would stay with him, but in Weimar he explored many others, from furniture-making to stained-glass design to photography.

At this period, photography was still only tentatively viewed as an art medium, and the pictures he took in the Bauhaus years have remained little seen. He may have wanted it that way. It was only after his death in 1976, by which time he had lived in the United States for more than 40 years, that photographic works he had made in Germany were brought out of storage. A handful of them—16 pieces—are now the subject of One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers, an exhibition at MoMA, organized by the curator Sarah Meister and Kristen Gaylord, a curatorial fellow.

By the time these works were made, between 1928 and 1932, the Bauhaus had moved from Weimar to Dessau. And, on one level, the photocollages can be seen as institutional souvenirs, incorporating as they do casual, snapshotlike portraits of the school's celebrity teachers—El Lissitzky, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer—along with others of Albers's wife, Anni, and their friends. Yet there's nothing at all casual about the way he used the pictures.

In several cases, he arranged several different images of one person together on a cardboard background. But the arrangements aren't really about portraiture; they're about creating compositions in photographic tones of black, white and gray. An emphasis on chromatic abstraction is particularly evident in collages with architectural or landscape themes: paired shots of Albers's Dessau garden taken in winter and spring could be mistaken for positive and negative versions of a single image, or for just patterns of vertical stripes.

Albers clearly valued these works. (A total of 70 photocollages survive, all reproduced in the MoMA exhibition catalog.) He packed them up and took them with him when he and Anni fled Nazi Germany for the United States in 1933. They accompanied him to Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he taught and where he resumed painting after a several-years Bauhaus gap. The collages were with him still when he moved north to lead the design department at the Yale School of Art.

That was in 1950, the same year he initiated his best-known work, Homage to the Square, the series of paintings that would occupy him for much of the next quarter-century. Remarkably, the very first painting in that series, Homage to the Square (A), and the one that established the format for all that would follow, is now on view in the dreamy exhibition Josef Albers: Grey Steps, Grey Scales, Grey Ladders, at Zwirner.

With some 40 pieces, this is a museum-scale affair of a sort that our richer galleries have taken pride in pulling off in recent years. And, not coincidentally, it gives public notice that Zwirner now represents the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, which Albers established in 1971 and which continues under the stewardship of its longtime director, the art historian Nicholas Fox Weber.

The show is more than just an advertisement. It's a genuine, if highly selective and jumpy, traversal of a passionately sustained career. Chronologically, it begins with pre-Bauhaus ink landscape drawings and continues with a suite of design studies that bridge the Bauhaus and Black Mountain years. Most of what's here, though, is Homage to the Square material, in the form of minutely annotated color studies or full-scale paintings.

While named for its repeated graphic component of nested squares, the Homage series is above all about color. Color, for Albers, was a psychological and spiritual phenomenon as much as an optical one, a mood-changer and a projection device, the way the North American sky was for the Yankee yogi Henry David Thoreau. And color in the Zwirner show mostly means, as it does in the case of the MoMA photocollages, white, black and gray.

Homage to the Square (A), done when Albers was 62, begins, like a properly painted door, with a small patch of midnight-black at its center, which sits within a larger charcoal-gray square, which in turn sits within a larger off-white one. An oil study from around the same time shuffles these variables: small white square, within black square, within gray. That's how the formal game, which is also a perceptual meditation, works: colors gain visual and emotional value from other colors—complementary, contrasting—around them. They develop metaphorical meaning the same way. Seen in a certain frame of mind, a 1962 Homage in loamy brown, black and gray is a Mahleresque song of the earth; and one subtitled In Ivory Mist is a modernist holy picture—a Duccio without a Madonna.

All this chromatic activity is, of course, basically science—rods and cones doing their thing—as Albers knew and appreciated. But there are other dimensions to it, and he knew that too. In the 1928 essay How It Feels to Be Colored Me, the African-American novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston wrote: "I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background." I don't know if Albers ever read Hurston—she visited Black Mountain College briefly—but he would have understood exactly what she meant about color being relative, volatile, political.

This dimension of Albers's art is important to acknowledge in this time of political emergency, though it can be hard to see. His role as an influential teacher gets some attention, but his art is assigned an off-to-the-side place in the canon, effectively shelved as an artifact, highly polished, hermetically sealed. In reality, purity wasn't of interest to Albers, but the heart was. And I find myself more and more approaching his art in personal terms: as an embodied lesson in paced discipline; as a buffer against distraction (it's anti-clickbait work, for sure); as an exercise in secular devotion; and as an act of resistance to normal in every form.

Late in his life, he likened the interactions of colors to the meetings and clashings of social forces in the world, the point being that even the most abstract-looking art had, if your eyes were open to it, everything to do with life. "And from all this, you may conclude," he wrote, "that I consider ethics and aesthetics as one."


Josef Albers
Andreas Grote, Frühjahr '30 + Mama, 1930
(Andreas Grote, Spring ’30 + Mother)
gelatin silver prints mounted on cardboard
11 1/2 x 16 in. (29.5 x 41 cm)

The Little-Known Photo Collages of Josef Albers

In 1923, decades before he began his pioneering work in color theory, Josef Albers became the first student of the original Bauhaus, in Weimar Germany, to join the school's faculty. He had trained there as a painter, and was hired to teach a workshop on the craft of stained glass. But the school's climate of experimentation—and in particular its animating interest in the tension between handcrafted and mechanical forms of production—would eventually push him to explore the emerging medium of photography. In 1925, his Bauhaus colleague László Moholy-Nagy published his polemical book Painting Photography Film, in which he suggested that it was the latter two media, and not the centuries-old tradition of painting, that were best equipped to glimpse the soul of a newly industrialized society. Three years later, when Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus founder and director, resigned, students and faculty gave him a book of their photo collages. When Albers moved into the house Gropius vacated, he discovered a darkroom in the basement. He soon picked up a Leica, the first handheld camera on the market, and by the time he left the Bauhaus, in 1932, had made seventy photo collages of his own based on pictures he took during the latter half of his decade at the school.

This month, this little-known body of Albers's work is being published for the first time, in the Museum of Modern Art's volume One and One is Four, which coincides with an exhibit at the museum organized by the curator Sarah Meister. The practice of photo collage, which had become a pervasive tool of advertising and political propaganda after the First World War, was naturally suited to the Bauhaus interest in integrating the machine-made object with the art of handicraft. But Albers's pieces, which engage vigorously with conceptual ideas of perception and form, are equally intriguing for the intimate look they provide at the consequential artists of the Bauhaus, who appear in his photographs in informal moments of playful artistic dialogue.

Take, for instance, Albers's study of his admired colleague El Lissitzky, the Russian artist and designer, who appears in one collage from two angles: the first, oriented vertically and taken from Lissitzky's left, shows him smiling and looking into the camera; the second, oriented horizontally and taken from the right, shows him talking and looking away. Albers's work isn't a portrait per se but, rather, a perceptual meditation on his friend, as well as an investigation of photography and time, playing with the cinematic. Other collages by Albers show a single subject in a sequence of poses—Paul Klee in the flow of conversation, or Vasily Kandinsky smoking a cigarette—that mimics the movement of images in a film reel or the repetition on a contact sheet. In the magnificent Bullfight, San Sebastian, 1929, Albers presents three photographs arranged to create a swirling theatre-in-the-round view of the crowded arena stands, while a fourth image, arranged below, shows rows of cars in traffic shot from above—a deliberate comment on the encroaching mechanization of human experience.

Albers's geometric arrangements of photographs prefigured some of his lifelong artistic preoccupations as a painter: serial variations, studies of perception, the use of the "square" as a signature graphic device in his investigations of color. In 1933, Albers left pre-Nazi Germany to come to the United States, where he was asked to create the curriculum for the brand-new Black Mountain College, in North Carolina. At Black Mountain, where Albers would remain as the head of art education for a decade and a half, and recruit faculty members including John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, and Robert Motherwell, he would deliver his only lecture about photography, a 1943 talk titled "Photos as Photography and Photos as Art." The young medium, he said, "has all the advantages and disadvantages of childhood. It is still unafraid of spontaneity and directness." He also touched upon the science of perception: "The most significant difference between the human eye and the camera is that the lens of the eye is flexible, and the lens of the camera, inflexible." In his photo collages, though, it's as if Albers was working against this perceived limitation: with his fragmented and layered sequences of images he conjured movement, played with time, and seemed to bend photography to the lively demands of his own eye.


Josef Albers
Untitled (Kinetic), 1945
oil on masonite
14 x 22 in. (35.6 x 55.9 cm)

A Tonic for Trump? On the Global Josef Albers Frenzy and How Abstraction Can Ease the Pain

After Nazis shut down the Bauhaus in 1933, Josef Albers and his wife, textile artist Anni Albers, fled Germany for the U.S. They both took positions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where Josef spent 15 years teaching color theory and drawing to students including Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Ray Johnson. When he left, in 1949, he debuted his now iconic series Homage to the Square. Nearly 70 years and 3,000 squares later, the late artist's legacy is reaching new heights. David Zwirner Gallery announced its exclusive representation of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation earlier this year and it currently has an exhibition of Josef Albers's gray, black, and white works on view in New York, through December 17. In January, Zwirner's London gallery will exhibit his yellow works in a show titled Sunny Side Up.

Meanwhile, both Josef and Anni will be the subjects of several major museum exhibitions opening around the world in the coming years: New York's Museum of Modern Art is opening an exhibition of Josef's photocollages, November 23 through April 2; the Yale University Art Gallery is staging a joint exhibition of works by Josef and Anni, February 3 through June 18; the Tate Modern will mount a retrospective of Anni Albers in 2018, and the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2017; and the artists will again be shown together at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2019.

We spoke to Albers Foundation director Nicholas Fox Weber the day after Trump's victory about the growing fascination with the German artist, the long-awaited rise of Anni Albers, and how abstraction can ease the pain in times of political turmoil.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today despite everything that's going on in the world.

It's interesting that we're discussing politics today, or something even larger than politics—systems of government and issues of freedom—because Josef and Anni Albers were part of a great progressive moment that was shut down by a totalitarian government. After the Bauhaus closed they fled to the United States, so for them issues of immigration were of vital importance. Abstraction was the vehicle toward sanity for both of them. With all that we cannot control in life, and all the evil we have to see, Josef and Anni needed to get away from the natural world and to feel deeply engaged with something other. I often think about the way that in 1933, Josef did the calmest abstractions, where technique gave him emotional balance.

His current show at Zwirner gallery in New York focuses on his gray works. Do you think gray had a calming effect on him?

When we think about black and gray they are not deeply emotional colors. They don't immediately evoke a response the way red becomes a color of passion or green is associated with the natural world. But black and gray are something in a way simpler, purer, like the form of the square itself. Now the idea of a black, white, and gray show was not mine specifically, but was really the gallery's and there had already been a wonderful black, white, and gray show organized by Leslie Waddington in London. It was the last exhibition that Leslie ever worked on before his death.

Josef told me that as a young man, his earliest visual memory was being a child and going to the post office with his mother and there was a black-and-white marble checkerboard pattern on the floor. He liked walking between the black and white squares; he liked the interplay. Some of the windows in his work have black-paned glass and white mullions and some of white-paned glass and black mullions. That's not likely what happened factually, it's more that he liked playing around with black and white, and gray was part of that. Also, Josef simply loved gray. He loved the degree of warmth and coolness in the gray. It just absolutely appealed to him.

There's a discussion going on now about whether the black in Rothko symbolized sadness and depression. Albers would have never favored that direct emotional reasoning for color. The important thing for him is how we each perceive it.

Will there be works on view from when he was living under the Nazi regime and preparing to the move to the U.S. in 1933?

There are works in the show from exactly that period. There's one of the treble clef paintings that Josef began in Germany and finished at Black Mountain. He went from being the husband of a rich woman in Berlin to seeing her family fortune dwindle to nothing and yet he stuck to abstract art the whole time. That's what grounded him.

The show in New York includes what is thought to be Albers's first "Homage to the Square" work. Can you tell me a bit about what inspired that picture and how the series unfolded afterward?

Why he started the squares is something we're going to be investigating much further at the Albers Foundation. It's something that Jeannette Redensek, the art historian who is writing the catalogue raisonné, really wants to pursue. She feels we don't know much about it. He was exploring pure color on its own and he always painted on a white background, then he developed the square format. All of his homages to the square—and he did nearly 3,000 of them in many sizes—have the same proportionate relationship. If you look at the units of space underneath the central square you can see that to the left and right of it they are doubled, and above it they are tripled. With that mathematical setup he felt you simultaneously got movement in and out, left right, up and down. You read the painting as flat and three dimensional. Once he found the format, all he wanted to do was explore color.

When do you expect to complete the catalogue?

Hopefully within the next couple of years. We have a big problem with Albers fakes so this is necessary.

What about Albers's relationship to the color yellow, which is the focus of an upcoming show at David Zwirner in London?

It was proposed by our curator Brenda Danilowitz and I came up with the name: Sunny Side Up. Josef referred to certain paintings as square fried eggs. He liked that straightforward talk. I discovered a few years ago that it's a fantastic thing to look at a yellow Albers painting and listen to the song On the Sunny Side of the Street because that's what art does. It takes you to the sunny side of the street.

How do you think the Zwirner representation will affect the Albers legacy?

I'm not naive about the art market and I know that issues of who has power and influence make a great difference, but I'd like to think that the quality of Josef and Anni's work will ultimately be the result of the art itself. It's a very unusual thing has occurred in the case of Josef and Anni's art, that one person who knew them and absolutely loves their work has been batting for it for over 40 years. I do so out of an abiding love for this art. I'm nearly 70 and it has been the greatest pleasure to devote myself to art that has lasting value. I'm very aware today particularly that a couple years ago Barack and Michelle Obama picked a pair of Alberses to hang in the White House, and we gave them two wonderful Homages to the Square and had a fantastic Anni Albers rug woven, which is in the family dining room. So I'm absolutely delighted that Zwirner represents us, but there's a whole lot going on. The purity of their art and the morality of their art is being favored all over the place. People are understanding its worth—and by that I mean spiritual worth.

How has the growing reputation of Josef Albers impacted that of Anni?

Anni has always been an extraordinary artist and was certainly recognized in her lifetime. She was the first textile artist ever to have a solo show at MoMA, which was organized by Philip Johnson in 1949. While she was alive there was show at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian and at Yale Art Gallery. Following her death there was a terrific small show at Peggy Guggenheim's and we did a show at the Cooper Hewitt called Anni Albers: Design for Living, where Toshiko Mori did a brilliant installation. Anni, with her brilliant textile art, was also an incredibly innovative printmaker. I've had a real dream of a full-scale retrospective and that is going to take place at the Tate Modern. There will be some large tapestries and functional materials made by [designer] Christopher Farr, some of which were part of a great exhibition at Somerset House the summer before last, and Uniqlo has applied Anni's designs to clothing.

Of course people are interested in a woman artist but Anni did not like to be categorized as a woman artist or a German artist or a weaver or anything else. Her hero was Paul Klee and one can take it from there. She was developing abstraction in the most glorious ways in the 1920s and finally people are getting to know it better and better.


Josef Albers
Gitterbild (Grid Mounted), ca. 1921-22
glass assemblage
12 3/4 x 11 3/8 in. (32.4 x 28.9 cm)

The Hidden Sources of the Bauhaus

This is the English translation of the article "Aux sources cachées du Bauhaus" about the exhibition L'Esprit du Bauhaus (The Spirit of the Bauhaus) at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The article was published in Le Figaro in October 2016. The original French is below.

At the entrance of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the visitor of the exhibition L'Esprit du Bauhaus expects to see furniture in metal tubes and models in the form of a set of cubes painted in the three primary colors. He discovers a fifteenth-century sculpted oak lectern—a Gothic edifice in miniature. Behind it, next to the Petit Retable made in 1920 by Gerhard Marcks, hangs a triptych carved around 1420. For Olivier Gabet, the museum director, the Bauhaus was only seemingly this insurrection that transformed architecture and the arts by creating out of thin air a simple, unprecedented, essential language. The exhibition restores the movement to its share of madness inherited from its great ancestors, and reveals its hidden sources.

Alongside medieval artifacts, reminiscent of those collected eagerly by people in a Germany that worshipped the time of the cathedral builders, stand simple shaped Japanese pottery that fascinated Walter Gropius, as well as Arts and Crafts wallpapers from the 1870s. Of course, there is no formal analogy between the lectern surmounted by an eagle to receive the Gospel and the creations of Marcel Breuer or Mies van der Rohe, gospel for all future designers. But this legacy of a cumbersome past expresses this idea of a total work, in which, each one can recognize oneself, an object in perfect harmony with its liturgical function, with its time, and the place for which it was conceived. The eagle of St. John shows, in an unexpected way, the spirit of the Bauhaus: the school, the church, and the workshop, all at the same time—while waiting for the apocalypse. This fascinating exhibition becomes a display of power; it allows the visitor to understand from inside that creative inspiration which impelled the reformers of Weimar and Dessau. The image of Lyonel Feininger's Cathedral opens Gropius's Manifesto in 1919. It resembles a crystal to illuminate future times—it also remains a romantic theme par excellence, a Wagnerian vision. Dessau succeeding in a logical way to the great construction site of Cologne and that of Bayreuth? The high priests of poor modernism and industrial design are going to be shocked.

In the catalogue that follows this original reflection, Jean Louis Gailletin studies under another angle the theme of the cathedral-crystal. On the basis of the reading of Kandinsky and Johannes Itten, he insists on the extravagant esoteric dimension of the Bauhaus—a taste for occultism too long eclipsed. With humor, Nicholas Fox Weber dares to describe the meals of the founding fathers, meals that did not consist of parallelepiped pâtés. He reveals some good recipes signed by Paul Klee—at opposite ends of the aseptic, odorless and tasteless legend that until now surrounded this monument called Bauhaus, which we may understand better when we enter it, without manners, by the kitchen door.

Aux sources cachées du Bauhaus

Moyen Âge, bonne cuisine et ésotérisme . . . À Paris, le Musée des arts décoratifs insiste sur les origines parfois inattendues du mouvement.

À l'entrée de la nef du Musée des arts décoratifs, le visiteur de l'exposition L'Esprit du Bauhaus s'attend à voir des meubles en tubes de métal et des maquettes en forme de jeu de cubes peintes dans les trois couleurs primaires. Il découvre un lutrin en chêne sculpté du XVeme siècle, édifice gothique en miniature. Derrière lui, un triptyque sculpté vers 1420 est accroché à côté du Petit Retable de Gerhard Marcks, une oeuvre de 1920. Pour Olivier Gabet, directeur du musée, le Bauhaus ne fut qu'en apparence cette insurrection qui transforma l'architecture et les arts en inventant de toutes pièces un langage simple, inouï, essentiel. L'exposition rend au mouvement sa part de folie, héritée de ses grands ancêtres, et en révèle les sources cachées.

À côté d'objets médiévaux rappelant ceux qu'on aimait collectionner dans une Allemagne que vénérait le temps des bâtisseurs des cathédrales, prennent place des poteries du Japon aux formes simples, qui fascinèrent Walter Gropius, et des papiers peints Arts and Crafts des années 1870. Aucune analogie formelle, bien sûr, entre le lutrin surmonté d'un aigle destiné à recevoir l'Évangile et les créations de Marcel Breuer ou de Mies van der Rohe, évangile de tous les designers à venir. Mais ce vestige d'un passé encombrant exprime cette idée d'une oeuvre totale, dans laquelle chacun peut se reconnaître, un objet en adéquation parfaite avec sa fonction liturgique, avec son époque, avec le lieu pour lequel il a été conçu. L'aigle de saint Jean dit de manière inattendue l'esprit du Bauhaus, école, église, et atelier tout à la fois—en attendant l'Apocalypse.

L'exposition, passionnante, prend la force d'une démonstration, elle permet de comprendre de l'intérieur ce souffle qui anima les réformateurs de Weimar et de Dessau. L'image de la cathédrale, dessinée par Lyonel Feininger, ouvre le Manifeste de Gropius en 1919. Elle ressemble à un cristal, pour éclairer les temps futurs—elle demeure aussi un thème romantique par excellence, une vision wagnérienne. Dessau succédant de manière logique au grand chantier de Cologne et à celui de Bayreuth? Les grands prêtres du modernisme pauvret et du design industriel vont sursauter.

Dans le catalogue, qui prolonge cette réflexion originale, Jean Louis Gailletin étudie sous un autre angle le thème de la cathédrale-cristal. Il insiste, en se fondant sur la lecture de Kandinsky et de Johannes Itten, sur la dimension ésotérique délirante du Bauhaus, un goût pour l'occultisme trop longtemps éclipsé. Avec humour, Nicholas Fox Weber ose décrire les repas des pères fondateurs, qui ne se composaient pas de pâtés parallélépipédiques. Il révèle quelques bonnes recettes signées de Paul Klee—aux antipodes de la légende aseptisée, inodore et sans saveur qui nimbait jusqu'à présent ce monument nommé "Bauhaus," qu'on comprend peut-être mieux quand on y entre ainsi, sans façons, par la porte de la cuisine.


Josef Albers
Scherbe ins Gitterbild (Shards in Screen), ca. 1921
glass, wire, and sheet metal
14 × 11 3/4 in. (35.6 × 29.8 cm)

From Weimar to Dessau: Art and Life at the School of Utopia

This is the English translation of the article "De Weimar à Dessau, l'art et la vie à l'école de l'utopie" about the exhibition L'Esprit du Bauhaus (The Spirit of the Bauhaus) at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The article was published in Le Figaro in October 2016. The original French is below.

As in any novel on university life and its stakes, the characters are numerous and stereotypical, from different tastes, generations and origins, more often men in the starring roles, always with strong temperaments; each provides the story with material for a chapter, a new development or a dead end. "In the collective imagination, the Bauhaus is linked to Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, two of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. The Bauhaus is sometimes seen as a gathering of avant-garde painters—Josef Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, Lyonel Feininger—thus concealing all the complexity of its existence as well as the diversity of practices of these artists," counter-attacks Anne Monier, curator of this show with Olivier Gabet, the director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

The Bauhaus is primarily a school. Moreover, it is the purpose and the banner of this scholarly exhibition—the first in France since that of the Musée National d'Art Moderne held at the Palais de Tokyo in 1969. Ideas and practices: the same fight! And to prove it more than 900 works, objects, furniture, textiles, drawings, models, paintings, treasures arranged in a succession of symbolic semicircles which take up the Schema of the Bauhaus teaching program designed by Walter Gropius in 1923. A vast panorama that passes from the intellectual to the concrete, from medieval, Asian, or esoteric influences to the Goetheanum, headquarters of the Universal Anthroposophical Society and the School of Spiritual Science, founded by Rudolf Steiner as a tribute to Goethe and built near Bale between 1925 and 1928 (its neighbor, the Vitra Design Museum, placed it at the center of its exhibition The Bauhaus #itsalldesign, at the end of 2015).

A Novel of Giants

It is wise to read the red, yellow, or blue catalogue, beautifully designed by Philippe Apeloig, before plunging into it for the delight of pondering (Josef Albers's stained-glass windows realized in 1921 with humble shards of glass). The Bauhaus school lasted only fourteen years, from 1919 until 1933, but the contribution of this marginal phenomenon was crucial for the history of Europe and humanity. As evidence, the reputation of its American inspiration, Black Mountain College, a free experimental university founded in 1933 near Asheville, North Carolina, where Josef Albers taught, exiled with his scant prototypes of metallic sculptures, as well as his wife, Anni, the great textile artist—a medium still intended for women. Besides, the German painter will invite many personalities of the Bauhaus to Black Mountain: Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Xanti Schawinsky, Lyonel Feininger. One can judge for oneself in Paris (Vassily and the young Nina Kandinsky photographed as statues in the dining room of their mansion in Dessau, on 1927).

At the entrance, a large photograph of that time period brings together all the great figures of the Bauhaus on a bright yellow background, characters in search of an author that history has transformed into a giants' novel. Sporting a bourgeois hat, with a direct look and impeccably dressed, Walter Gropius is in the center. His first marriage in 1915 with Alma Mahler, widow of Gustav Mahler, recalls his important social position. He came from a family of great German architects (father and great-uncle) studied architecture in Munich, and then worked in Peter Behrens's agency in Berlin until 1910. His famous Manifesto founded the Bauhaus in 1919 in Weimar. Its purpose was to merge the teaching of fine arts, hitherto the prerogative of the Weimar School, and that of the decorative arts, until now provided by Henry Van de Velde's School of Applied Arts: therefore, to abolish borders and any hierarchy between disciplines. Architecture, design, photography, costume creation, and dance are all part of a frugal and joyful feast. Within the Bauhaus Group, Walter Gropius is the thinker the master the messenger. "Instead of teaching he spent much of his time traveling through Germany to give lucrative conferences for the school which might interest in it generous sponsors."

Utopia is an unprecedented mixture of wild freedom and strict codes. "How was a school able to bring together teachers as opposite as the mystic Johannes Itten and the rational Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and train students as different as the painter Albers and the photographer Florence Henri? The history of the Bauhaus is fraught with more or less violent quarrels between these strong personalities, between painters and architects, expressionists and constructivists, mystics and rationalists, socialist militants and advocates of apoliticism," emphasizes Anne Monier. Community life is also a utopia that sublimates the harshness of material life. "Couples are formed between students, between professors and students; marriages take place including the emblematic one of Josef and Anni Albers; rumors of love affairs go round; children are born out of wedlock and will be raised within the school," reminds the art historian.

From this deliberate and alive chaos comes to us a youthful wind, a flood of bold and daring images (Balcons du Bauhaus à Dessau, 1927, by Moholy-Nagy), festivities moving from imaginative improvisations to the rhythm of the seasons, reversing the law of society, heritage of the carnival (costumes parties, white party, beards, noses and hearts parties, metal party, masks party), beautiful picnics.

Overall, in addition to artists, architects and designers, 1250 students went through the spirit of the Bauhaus during the free years of the Weimar Republic before the arrival of Nazism. After this great Parisian lesson, one must visit the Centre Pompidou-Metz. It invites you to live the unique experience of Oskar Schlemmer with his Triadic Ballet and appreciate his personal invention of a total art.

De Weimar à Dessau, l'art et la vie à l'école de l'utopie

Présentation des personnages. Comme dans tout roman sur la vie universitaire et ses enjeux, ils sont nombreux et typés, différents de goûts, de générations et d'origines, plutôt des mâles dans les rôles vedettes, toujours de fort tempérament, qui, chacun, donnent à l'histoire matière à un chapitre, un rebondissement ou une impasse. "Dans l'imaginaire collectif, le Bauhaus est lié à Vassily Kandinsky et Paul Klee, deux des plus grands artistes du XXe siècle. On voit parfois le Bauhaus comment un rassemblement de peintres de l'avant-garde, Josef Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, Lyonel Feininger, occultant ainsi toute la complexité de son existence, ainsi que la diversité de pratiques de ces artistes," contre-attaque d'emblée la normalienne Anne Monier, commissaire de ce cours magistral avec Olivier Gabet, directeur du Musée des art décoratifs.

Le Bauhaus c'est d'abord une école. C'est d'ailleurs le propos et la bannière de cette savante exposition, la première en France depuis celle du Musée national d'art moderne en 1969, alors au Palais de Tokyo. Idées et pratiques, même combat! La preuve en plus de 900 oeuvres, objets, mobilier, textiles, dessins, maquettes, peintures, trésors disposés en une succession de demi-cercles symboliques qui reprennent le Schéma de la structure d'enseignement du Bauhaus dessiné par Walter Gropius en 1923. Un vaste panorama qui passe de l'intellectuel au concret, des influences médiévales, asiatiques ou ésotériques au Goetheanum, siège de la Société anthropomorphique universelle et de l'École libre de science de l'esprit, fondées par Rudolf Steiner en hommage à Goethe, construit de 1925 à 1928 près de Bâle (le Vitra Design Museum, son voisin, le mit au centre de son exposition "The Bauhaus #itsalldesign," fin 2015).

Un roman de géants

Il est sage de lire le catalogue rouge, jaune ou bleu, à la belle conception graphique signée Philippe Apeloig, avant d'y plonger pour le délice de la contemplation (les vitraux de Josef Albers réalisés en 1921 avec d'humbles tessons de bouteille). L'école du Bauhaus ne dure que quatorze ans, de 1919 à 1933, mais l'apport de cette marginale est déterminant pour l'histoire de l'Europe et de l'humanité. En témoigne le renom de son émule américaine, le Black Mountain College, université libre expérimentale fondée en 1933 près d'Asheville en Caroline du Nord, où enseignera Josef Albers, exilé avec ses maigres prototypes de sculptures métalliques, et son épouse, Anni, grande artiste du textile, le domaine encore dévolu aux femmes. Le peintre allemand y invitera d'ailleurs nombre de personnalités du Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Xanti Schawinsky, Lyonel Feininger. On peut juger à Paris sur pièces (Vassily et la jeune Nina Kandinsky photographiés comme des statues dans la salle à manger de leur maison de maître, à Dessau, 1927).

À l'entrée, une immense photo d'époque réunit tous les grands du Bauhaus sur fond jaune vif, personnages en quête d'auteur que l'histoire a transformés en roman de géants. Chapeau pincé de bourgeois, regard direct et tiré à quatre épingles, Walter Gropius est au centre. Son premier mariage en 1915 avec Alma Mahler, veuve de Gustav Mahler, rappelle sa dimension de notable. Il vient d'une famille de grands architectes allemands (père et grand-oncle), a étudié l'architecture à Munich, puis à Berlin, a travaillé dans l'agence Peter Behrens jusqu'en 1910. Son fameux Manifeste fonde le Bauhaus en 1919 à Weimar. Objectif? Fusionner l'enseignement des beaux-arts, jusque-là l'apanage de l'École de Weimar, et celui des arts décoratifs, jusque-là assuré par l'École des arts appliqués d'Henry Van de Velde. Soit abolir les frontières et toute hiérarchie entre les disciplines. L'architecture, le design, la photographie, l'art du costume et la danse sont tous du banquet, frugal et joyeux. Au sein de la "Bande du Bauhaus," Walter Gropius est le penseur, le maître, le messager. "Au lieu d'enseigner, il passe une bonne partie de son temps à sillonner l'Allemagne pour donner des conférence lucratives pour l'école, susceptibles d'y intéresser de généreux mécènes."

Chaos voulu et vivant

L'utopie est un mélange inédit de liberté sauvage et de codes stricts. "Comment une école a-t-elle pu réunir des professeurs aussi opposés que le mystique Johannes Itten et le rationnel Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, former des élèves aussi différents que le peintre Albers et la photographe Florence Henri? L'histoire du Bauhaus est émaillée de querelles plus ou moins violentes entre ces fortes personnalités, entre peintres et architectes, expressionnistes et constructivistes, mystiques et rationalistes, militants socialistes et tenants de l'apolitisme," souligne Anne Monier. La vie en communauté est aussi une utopie qui sublime la dureté de la vie matérielle. "Des couples se forment, entre étudiants, entre professeurs et étudiants; des mariages se nouent dont celui, emblématique, de Josef et Anni Albers; des rumeurs de liaisons circulent; des enfants naissent hors mariage qui seront élevés au sein de l'école," rappelle l'historienne.

De ce chaos voulu et vivant, nous viennent un vent de jeunesse, un flot d'images décalées et audacieuses (Balcons du Bauhaus à Dessau, 1927, par Moholy-Nagy), de fêtes rythmées comme les saisons, inversant la loi de la société, héritage du carnaval (fête blanche, fête des barbes, des nez et des coeurs, fête du métal, fête des masques), de pique-niques beaux comme des citadins en pleine nature.

Au total, outre les artistes, les architectes et les designers, ce sont 1250 étudiants qui traversent l'esprit du Bauhaus pendant les années libres de la République de Weimar, avant l'arrivée du nazisme. Il faut, après cette grande leçon parisienne, faire le voyage au Centre Pompidou-Metz. Vivre l'expérience unique d'Oskar Schlemmer avec son Ballet triadique et mesurer son invention personnelle d'un art total.


Artist Andrea Bergart introduces the technique of cyanotype to women in Sinthian during her residency at Thread, Senegal (spring 2016). Photo: Andrew Seguin

The Spirit of the Alberses, from the Bauhaus to Senegal

This is the English translation of the article "L'esprit des Albers, du Bauhaus à la brousse sénégalaise" about the Albers Foundation's residency program for artists—Thread, Senegal. The article was published in Le Monde in April 2016. The original French is below.

January in Sinthian, southeastern Senegal, near Gambia and the river bearing the same name. Moderate heat, visible dryness. The village is ignored by Google Maps, for which this yet highly populated area appears blank. Before reaching this village of farmers, it takes one hour's drive of track from the road that connects the city of Tambacounda to the Gambian border. The village is surrounded by fields and sparse bush, with termite mounds for unique curiosity and goats for all wildlife. Nothing spectacular, nothing remarkable.

Except that Sinthian is also since last year an artists' village: March 4, 2015, the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, based in Bethany (Connecticut), opened an artist residency called Thread. "Fil" in French, such as the one linking the foundation to this village, but also those that wove Anni Albers (1899–1994). Long threads for a long history that must be told to explain how, on this January morning, young women of the region and a New York artist in her thirties, Andrea Bergart, work together on the composition and fabric printing of blue-and-white images, thanks to the process of cyanotype.

Everything started with Josef Albers (1888–1976) and his wife Anni, born Annelise Fleischmann. They met at the Bauhaus in Weimar, when she registered in 1922. He was already there since 1920. The Alberses married in 1925. At that time, Josef was no longer a student but "a master," in the Bauhaus specific vocabulary. It was then the only school in the world where the principles of modern art were experienced, reflected, and taught. Gropius, Kandinsky, Klee, and Schlemmer were its leading figures. They accepted Albers among them, the first student they deemed worthy of this distinction. In 1925, the school left Weimar to Dessau, where the Alberses remained until 1933. However, even in their very early days, the Nazis persecuted the Bauhaus members, forcing the school to close. The couple soon left Germany for the United States, where Josef was already known for his teaching skills. He took over visual arts teaching in an institution founded that year, the Black Mountain College near Asheville (North Carolina). In turn, it quickly became one of the major places of modernity, home of John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and many others. Josef taught there until 1949 while developing his pictorial work, his most famous achievement being the series Homage to the Square: squares of nested compositions whose colors harmonize beautifully. Anni taught weaving, further developing experiments begun at the Bauhaus: new textiles, new rhythms of shapes, pay attention to what comes from elsewhere, particularly from Latin America.

From 1950 until his teaching retirement in 1958, Josef ran the design department at Yale University. When they were not in their workshops, the Alberses stayed in their favorite country, Mexico, where Josef observed vernacular architecture whose lines and angles he reproduced on paper and canvas, while Anni studied Aztec and Native American fabrics. "In Mexico, art is everywhere," they liked to say. The desire to communicate was one of their constants, as their interest in non-Western art. The foundation that bears their name respects these principles. In 1971, the Alberses created this place, which is dedicated to the preservation and study of their archives and to the exhibition of their work—but not only. Nicholas Fox Weber, an art historian who has written books on Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus, among many others, has led the foundation since 1976. Since 2005, the foundation has been committed, far from contemporary art and abstraction, to development aid to Senegal. It expanded its possibility by creating the NGO American Friends of Le Korsa (AFLK). "Korsa" means "love" in Pulaar, the dialect spoken by the Fulani people of Senegal. AFLK acts in the field of health and education. Starting with the capital, Dakar, where it supports Fann, the main hospital of the country, AFLK created a health center designated for women. AFLK's action then continues inland, in Tambacounda, the strategic road linking Dakar to Bamako (Mali), where it helps to modernize the city hospital. From this city of nearly 100,000 inhabitants, AFLK further extends its engagement to the villages of the region: a medical center in Fass, a primary school in Goumbayel, a medical center and a school in Sinthian.

It was only after a decade of commitment to health and education that the foundation considered it possible to return to its chosen field, visual arts. Since Sinthian is the furthest village from its African roots, the organization decided to try there the experience of its artist residency, Thread. In Dakar, where, since 1992, the Biennale of Contemporary African Art takes place, and where there are artist residencies and exhibition spaces, the initiative would be at best added to an already long established network and would not have been experimental—which would not have been consistent with the Alberses' principles. It is naturally quite different in a bush village.

If the goal was only to offer artists a place to work for a few weeks or months, doubt or even strong reservations would be allowed. What would be the purpose to show the country to a few creators desperate for exoticism and new sensations? If that was Thread's only intention, it would be of little interest. But the principle is different: artists are invited if they express the desire to work, in one way or another, with the population of Sinthian and surrounding areas. Collaboration is not an option but the rule, and it applies to all—artists, designers, musicians and filmmakers. The long eight-shaped building, with brick walls and thatched roof, was voluntarily designed by the Japanese architect Toshiko Mori, and built by local masons. It houses two workshops. Since its opening, all disciplines have coexisted through African and Western artists: the inventor of writing and calligraphy Yelimane Fall, the rappers Saliou Samb and Alioune Niang, the textile designer Aissa Dione and her Norwegian colleague Siri Johansen, the London film director Ivana Bobic, and the Antwerp sculptor Elise Eeraerts.

That morning, Elise Eeraerts seeks the best way to reproduce, with earth, geometric volumes she has in mind, while Andrea Bergart and her group of village women prepare their art performance. The principle used by the visual artist is simple, similar to Man Ray's and Christian Schad's rayograms in the Dada era. A tissue—or a paper—is soaked with a potassium ferricyanide solution and ferric ammonium citrate, a photosensitive mixture. The ultraviolet rays reduce iron and produce a bright Prussian or cyan blue. If one sets objects on the fabric surface before exposure to the sun, the protected areas will appear white or gray after washing the surface with water. Therefore objects emerge on the blued tissue in hollow—like ghosts. The color intensity depends on the sun and the duration of exposure. In Senegal, during the dry season, it takes very little time; so one has to go fast, very fast.

In one of the circular courtyards of the cultural center, in full sun, female attendees present the objects they wish to introduce in their compositions: plants, leaves, stones, sand, jewelry, dead birds, a teapot, a knife, their hands with fingers spread ... On the cement, each of them prepares its assemblage by arranging the objects in an imaginary rectangle that fits the dimensions of the fabric. Depending on the corrections, additions, deletions, this phase is longer or shorter. It is not that easy to conjure up a mental image of the two-dimensional figure, composed of shades of blue and white, that will produce the composition. Once it is done, it is immediately reconstituted on the photosensitive material which is out of its protective envelope, and then placed on the ground in the shade of fabric spread by other women or the Thread team. No more hesitating: the sun prints the ghost shapes as soon as they are positioned. Participants have less than a minute to complete their practice, and wash the textile with water to stop the chemical process and secure forms. Then, the works are hung out to dry on a wire, like clothes after washing, and one observes the result. For over an hour, the process is repeated. Andrea Bergart looks at it but has very little say. In her studio in Queens, she accurately measures the exposure time, which can be longer, she said. Here it is empirically assessed and must be brief.

When the fabric stock is exhausted, dozens of still lifes, more or less symbolic or autobiographical, dry in the wind. Later on, we see several hanging outside the houses of village women who participated in the artist's experience. Some are very successful, but all become family emblems, almost coats of arms. With such a success, the initial reluctance dissipates. Thread is the material link, and a link has been made between the village women of Sinthian, a New York artist, and art design which was the Alberses' lifeblood. Matthias Person, artist and Finnish writer, attends the art performance with great care: a few days later he will succeed Andrea Bergart. It is now up to him to hold the thread.

L'esprit des Albers, du Bauhaus à la brousse sénégalaise

La fondation de Josef et Anni Albers a créé dans un village au Sénégal une résidence d'artistes fondée sur l'échange.

Janvier à Sinthian, sud-est du Sénégal, près de la Gambie et du fleuve du même nom. Chaleur modérée, sécheresse visible. Le bourg est ignoré de Google Maps, pour qui cette région pourtant très peuplée semble vierge. Avant d'atteindre ce village d'agriculteurs, il faut une heure de piste depuis la route qui relie la ville de Tambacounda à la frontière gambienne. Il est entouré de champs et d'une brousse clairsemée, avec des termitières pour unique curiosité et des chèvres pour toute faune.

Rien de spectaculaire, rien de remarquable. Si ce n'est que Sinthian est aussi, depuis un an, un village d'artistes: le 4 mars 2015, la Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, basée à Bethany (Connecticut), y a inauguré une résidence d'artistes nommée Thread. « Fil », en anglais, comme celui qui lie la fondation à ce village, mais aussi ceux que tissait Anni Albers (1899–1994). Longs fils pour une longue histoire qu'il faut raconter pour expliquer comment, ce matin de janvier, de jeunes femmes de la région et une artiste new-yorkaise trentenaire, Andrea Bergart, travaillent ensemble à la composition et à l'impression sur tissu d'images bleu et blanc, grâce au procédé de la cyanotypie.

A l'origine se trouvent donc Josef Albers (1888–1976) et son épouse Anni, née Annelise Fleischmann. Ils se rencontrent au Bauhaus, à Weimar, quand elle s'y inscrit en 1922. Lui y est déjà depuis 1920. Ils se marient en 1925. A l'époque, Josef n'est plus étudiant mais « maître », dans le vocabulaire propre au Bauhaus, alors la seule grande école au monde où s'expérimentent, se réfléchissent et s'enseignent les principes de l'art le plus moderne. Gropius, Kandinsky, Klee ou Schlemmer en sont les grandes figures. Ils acceptent Albers parmi eux, premier élève qu'ils jugent digne de cette distinction.

En 1925, encore, l'école quitte Weimar pour Dessau, où les Albers demeurent jusqu'en 1933. Mais à peine au pouvoir, les nazis persécutent les membres du Bauhaus et forcent l'école à fermer ses portes. Le couple quitte aussitôt l'Allemagne pour les Etats-Unis, où Josef est déjà connu pour ses qualités de pédagogue. Il prend en charge l'enseignement des arts visuels dans un établissement fondé cette année-là, le Black Mountain College, près d'Asheville (Caroline du Nord). Lequel devient vite à son tour l'un des lieux majeurs de la modernité, où passent John Cage, Willem De Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly et bien d'autres.

Josef y enseigne jusqu'en 1949 tout en développant son œuvre picturale, sa réalisation la plus connue étant la suite « Hommage au carré » : des compositions de carrés emboîtés dont les couleurs s'harmonisent admirablement. Anni y enseigne le tissage, dans la continuité des expériences commencées au Bauhaus : nouveaux textiles, nouveaux rythmes de formes, attention à ce qui vient d'ailleurs, d'Amérique latine particulièrement.

De 1950 jusqu'à sa retraite de professeur, en 1958, Josef dirige le département de design de l'université de Yale. Quand ils ne sont pas dans leurs ateliers, les Albers séjournent dans leur pays de prédilection, le Mexique. Josef y observe l'architecture vernaculaire, dont il transpose les lignes et les angles sur le papier et la toile, et Anni les étoffes aztèques et amérindiennes. « Au Mexique, l'art est partout », affirment-ils alors volontiers.

Le désir de transmettre est donc l'une des constantes de leur vie, tout comme leur intérêt pour les arts non-occidentaux. La fondation qui porte leur nom respecte ces deux principes. Ils ont eux-mêmes créé en 1971 ce lieu consacré à la préservation et à l'étude de leurs archives—immenses—, ainsi qu'à l'exposition de leurs œuvres—mais pas uniquement. Dirigée depuis 1976 par l'historien d'art Nicholas Fox Weber, auteur entre autres d'ouvrages sur Le Corbusier et sur le Bauhaus, la fondation s'engage à partir de 2005, loin de l'art contemporain et de l'abstraction, dans l'aide au développement au Sénégal. Elle s'en donne les moyens en créant l'ONG American Friends of Le Korsa (AFLK), korsa signifiant « amour » en langue pulaar, celle que parlent les populations peules du Sénégal.

AFLK agit dans le domaine de la santé et de l'éducation. En commençant par la capitale, Dakar, où elle soutient le centre hospitalier universitaire de Fann, le principal du pays, et crée un centre de santé réservé aux femmes. Son action s'étend ensuite vers l'intérieur des terres, à Tambacounda, sur la route stratégique qui relie Dakar à Bamako (Mali), où elle aide à la modernisation de l'hôpital de la ville. Puis, de cette cité de près de 100 000 habitants, vers les villages de la région : un dispensaire à Fass, une école primaire à Goumbayel, un dispensaire et une école à Sinthian—que l'on rejoint enfin.

Ce n'est qu'au terme d'une décennie d'engagement dans la santé et dans l'éducation que la fondation a considéré qu'il était possible de revenir vers son domaine de prédilection, les arts visuels. Et puisque Sinthian est le site le plus éloigné de son point d'ancrage africain, c'est là qu'elle a décidé de tenter l'expérience de sa résidence d'artistes Thread. A Dakar, où se tient depuis 1992 la Biennale de l'art africain contemporain, où il existe un village d'artistes et des lieux d'exposition, l'initiative se serait au mieux superposée à un réseau déjà constitué de longue date et n'aurait eu aucun caractère expérimental—ce qui n'aurait guère été conforme aux principes des Albers. Dans un village de brousse, il en va naturellement tout autrement.

A vrai dire, s'il ne s'agissait que de proposer à des artistes un endroit où travailler pendant quelques semaines ou quelques mois, le doute—et même de fortes réticences—serait permis. A quoi bon faire voir du pays à quelques créateurs en mal d'exotisme ou de sensations nouvelles? Si Thread n'aspirait qu'à cela, on ne s'y intéresserait guère. Mais le principe est autre : les artistes sont invités dans la mesure où ils manifestent le désir de travailler, d'une façon ou d'une autre, avec la population de Sinthian et des environs. La collaboration n'est pas une option mais la règle, et elle vaut pour tous, plasticiens, designers, musiciens et cinéastes. Le long bâtiment en forme de huit, aux murs de brique et au toit de chaume, a été dessiné bénévolement par l'architecte japonaise Toshiko Mori, puis construit par des maçons locaux. Il abrite deux ateliers. Depuis l'ouverture, toutes les disciplines s'y sont côtoyées, en la personne d'artistes africains ou occidentaux : l'inventeur d'écritures et de calligraphies Yelimane Fall, les rappeurs Saliou Samb et Alioune Niang, la designer textile Aïssa Dione ; mais aussi sa consœur norvégienne Siri Johansen, la réalisatrice londonienne Ivana Bobic ou la sculptrice anversoise Elise Eeraerts.

Ce matin-là, cette dernière cherche le meilleur moyen de reproduire avec de la terre les volumes géométriques qu'elle a en tête, pendant qu'Andrea Bergart et son groupe de villageoises préparent leur performance. Le principe employé par la plasticienne est simple, proche de celui des rayogrammes expérimentés par Man Ray et Christian Schad à l'époque Dada. Un tissu—ou un papier—est imprégné d'une solution de ferricyanure de potassium et de citrate d'ammonium ferrique, un mélange photosensible. Sous l'effet des rayons ultraviolets, le fer réduit et produit un bleu vif, de Prusse ou cyan. Si l'on pose des objets à la surface du tissu avant de l'exposer au soleil, les zones ainsi protégées apparaîtront en blanc ou gris après le lavage de la surface à l'eau. Les objets se dessinent donc en creux, tels des spectres, sur le tissu bleui. L'intensité de la couleur dépend de celle des rayons et de la durée de l'exposition. Au Sénégal, en pleine saison sèche, il suffit de très peu de temps. Il faut donc aller vite, très vite.

Dans l'une des cours circulaires du centre culturel, en plein soleil, les participantes présentent les objets qu'elles désirent introduire dans leurs compositions : des plantes, des feuilles, des pierres, du sable, des bijoux, des oiseaux morts, une théière, un couteau, leurs propres mains aux doigts écartés ... Sur le ciment, chacune prépare son assemblage en disposant les objets dans un rectangle imaginaire, aux dimensions du tissu à impressionner. Cette phase est plus ou moins longue, en fonction des corrections, des ajouts, des suppressions. Avec, toujours, cette difficulté : se représenter l'image en deux dimensions, composée de nuances de bleu et de blanc, que produira la composition. Une fois arrêtée, elle est aussitôt reconstituée sur le tissu photosensible sorti de son enveloppe protectrice et posé par terre, à l'ombre d'un voile déployé par d'autres femmes ou l'équipe de Thread. Plus question d'hésiter, puisque le soleil imprime à mesure les fantômes des formes. Les participantes disposent de moins d'une minute pour réaliser l'opération, puis courir laver le tissu à grande eau pour interrompre le processus chimique et fixer les formes. Il ne reste plus qu'à mettre les œuvres à sécher sur un fil, comme des vêtements après une lessive, et à observer le résultat. Pendant plus d'une heure, le processus se répète, sous l'œil d'Andrea Bergart qui n'intervient presque pas. Dans son atelier du Queens, elle mesure précisément le temps d'exposition, qui peut être plus long, dit-elle. Ici, il est évalué empiriquement et doit impérativement être bref.

Quand le stock de tissu est épuisé, des dizaines de natures mortes plus ou moins allégoriques ou autobiographiques sèchent au vent. On en a revu plusieurs par la suite : elles étaient suspendues devant les maisons des villageoises qui ont accepté de suivre l'artiste dans son expérience. Certaines sont très réussies, toutes sont devenues des emblèmes familiaux, presque des blasons. Devant ce succès, les réticences initiales se dissipent. Un fil s'est bien noué entre les villageoises de Sinthian, une artiste new-yorkaise et la conception de l'art qui fut la raison de vivre des Albers. Matthias Person, artiste et écrivain finlandais, assiste à la performance avec grande attention : quelques jours plus tard, il succédera à Andrea Bergart. C'est à lui qu'il revient désormais de tenir le fil.


Installation view of Albers and the Bauhaus at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, February 2016. Photograph: Mark Blower. Courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery

Becoming Bauhaus: the Defining Eras of Josef Albers, at Stephen Friedman

The German-born American artist Josef Albers is much celebrated for his Homage to the Square paintings, but a new exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery in London is bringing to light a seldom-seen chapter of his life and oeuvre. Opened this week, the show tells the story of the Bauhaus—the German revisionist school founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius—through Albers's prolific output, alongside furniture, objects, ceramics and photographs by his colleagues including Marcel Breuer, Otto Lindig and Marianne Brandt.

It's the most substantial exhibition of Bauhaus art and design mounted by a commercial gallery—many of the pieces on show have never been exhibited in the UK before—bringing together material loaned by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, as well as from private collections. "We look at Bauhaus design and assume that because the designs are so famous and were produced in greater number later that there are lots of them, which isn't the case," explains curator Oscar Humphries.

In the main gallery space, an eye-catching glass painting—City, 1935—hung in the far corner immediately draws us in for a closer look. "To have an Albers glass work in the show is really special," says Humphries, arguing that works such as this are Albers's most important Bauhaus-era pieces. Sadly, as is the case with so many Bauhaus designs, few examples of Albers's glass works exist, either broken during the war or by being mishandled by US customs when he moved to America.

This particular painting was made to record a lost glasswork from a decade earlier; as with much of Albers's work, there is more to the piece than meets the eye. "The painting," Humphries explains, "is in an Albers-designed frame and together show how much he valued—as we should—his work from the Bauhaus period."

Elsewhere in the show, Albers's Tea Glass with Saucer and Stirrer is a wonderful sort of Duchamp-esque arrangement of found objects. The porcelain dish, for example, was originally produced by Meissen for scientific use; the only element created by Albers himself is the connecting metal and the ebony handle. "It's very Bauhaus to take these mass-produced elements and make another thing from it. And very Albers," Humphries explains of the tea glasses, which never went into production.

As pivotal as Albers was to the Bauhaus, it would be impossible to paint a full picture of the German art school without including works by his influential peers. An 18-year-old Marcel Breuer joined the Bauhaus in the very same year as Albers. The exhibition features a rare example of his Lattenstuhl, 1923—actually made at the Bauhaus workshop—and rarer still, the Wassily Club Chair, 1927, which only existed in prototype form before the version on show was produced (both are courtesy of Galerie Ulrich Fiedler). The curator adds: "Few people bought Breuer's furniture when he first made it—it wasn't until the 1950s that taste caught up with him."

Other highlights include a Bauhaus wallpaper sample book, a Brandt-designed inkwell and archival photographs of the school, as well as a characterful chess set by Josef Hartwig and Joost Schmidt.

In 1933, the Bauhaus bowed to mounting pressure from the newly elected Nazi government and closed. Albers went into exile in America. "Albers was in his 40s when he moved to the US; he could have simply taught and his contribution to the Bauhaus would have been enough to cement his place in art history books," says Humphries. "He didn't though. His best work—arguably—was ahead of him."

Enter Annelise Fleischmann—or, as we know her now, Anni Albers. The textile artist/printmaker met Josef in 1922 at the Bauhaus, marrying him three years later. After the closure of the school and the subsequent transatlantic move they travelled frequently to Mexico and throughout the Americas. "Mexico," wrote an enthused Josef to Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky, "is truly the promised land of abstract art." Anni, meanwhile, became a keen collector of pre-Columbian art—a passion that manifested itself visually in her work.

To wit, a second room of the exhibition explores the couple's post-Bauhaus endeavors. Nicholas Fox Weber, executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, quipped, "How great to be discussing this exhibition with someone from Wallpaper*, because the absolute thriller in the show is the use of wallpaper." Here, Lucy Swift Weber—who leads the foundation's special projects—has transformed Anni's 'E' pattern into bold wallpaper in collaboration with Christopher Farr Cloth.

It's the very first time Josef's work, too, has been exhibited on Anni's wall coverings. "Oscar Humphries papered a room with it—an act of sheer panache," Weber adds. "The Bauhaus joie de vivre in everyday living has been brought to life as never before nearly a century after the school was created." But mostly, the Stephen Friedman exhibition offers a rare and poignant example where a whole—the Bauhaus, and Mr and Mrs Albers for that matter—was equal to the sum of its truly brilliant parts.

Photograph: Mark Blower. Courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery ©REPRODUCTION RESERVED

Anni Albers
Red Meander, 1954
linen and cotton
20 1/2 × 14 3/4 in. (52 × 37.5 cm)
Private collection 1954.12.1

Anni Albers, The Thread of Life

This is the English translation of an article about Anni Albers on the occasion of the exhibition A Beautiful Confluence: Anni and Josef Albers and the Latin American World, at Mudec, Museo delle Culture, Milan, 28 October 2015–21 February 2016. The article was published in L'Oeil in February 2016. The original French is below.

Quite often, the name Albers is automatically connected to the male first name Josef. One should not forget so quickly the other first name that anyone must also link to the famous family name, this time a female first name: Anni. In the Alberses couple, Madam as much as Monsieur had a most substantial work, even if, in the end, we must recognize that Josef still enjoys greater renown. He was a painter and teacher of art, she, an artist and textile designer. Yet this is the gentleman who, in 2008, had the honor of Hermès, which released a collection of his famous square scarves reproducing some paintings of the artist among the best known: the Homage to the Square series. Never mind: last year, this time it was Madam who was propelled to the front of the stage, if not to the podium, by the designer Paul Smith. The Alberses' work, especially works by Anni, amply inspired the British designer in his men's collection autumn-winter 2015. Scarves and coats show a recurrent use of geometric solids. Muted tones (flake oats, gray, or peach) are alongside sunbathed hues, such as orange and green. A pattern is even called Jacquard Bauhaus, and a clutch bag gets more or less the color and proportions of Anni Albers's patchwork from 1941 (Untitled), mixing subtle nuances in various materials (linen, cotton, wool), a work that can now be admired in the Museo delle Culture (Mudec), in Milan, in the splendid exhibition A Beautiful Confluence: Anni and Josef Albers and the Latin American World.

At the Bauhaus, Workshops for Women

Anni Albers was born Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann on June 12, 1899, in Berlin. As a teenager, her mother made her have private art tuition. Discovering portraits of Oskar Kokoschka, Anni took it upon herself to go to Dresden to meet him and take lessons with him. "Why do you paint?" he asked her sharply, at the sight of one of her paintings representing her mother. Consequently, from 1916 to 1919, Anni Albers studied from an Impressionist painter, Martin Brandenburg. In 1920, she attended for a while the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg, before finding the brochure of an "experimental place." On April 21, 1922, Anni Fleischmann, aged 22, embarked on the adventure of the Bauhaus in Weimar. She wanted to be a painter but went to weaving, reluctantly. In fact, Anni Albers was interested in the workshop of colored glass, but the Bauhaus teachers allowed only one person in this matter—accident of history, the unique student was none other than Josef Albers, eleven years her senior. Fundamentally macho, the Bauhaus teachers also considered that wall painting and metal work would be too stressful for her.


Walter Gropius, founder and first director of this forward-thinking art school, had already written to another postulant, Annie Weil, a scathing letter: "Given our experience, it is not advisable that women work in arduous crafts sectors such as framing and so on. This is why a section reserved for women was created at the Bauhaus, for the textile trades. Bookbinding and pottery also accept women. We are fundamentally opposed to the formation of women architects."

"I had no desire at all to go into the weaving workshop because I really wanted to do a man's job and not something as effeminate as manipulating threads," she told one day Nicholas Fox Weber, an art historian and current Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, who met Anni Albers in the early 1970s and saw her regularly until her death in 1994. Despite her resentment, she nevertheless managed to achieve with textiles what her reference artists such as Paul Klee (her "god") and Wassily Kandinsky, accomplished in painting. "I didn't start as easily as I had hoped: destiny put in my hands very thin threads! Threads to build a future? But mistrust turned into belief, and I was on my path," she revealed in 1987 in an interview with Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, professor at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

Weavings like Paintings

At the Bauhaus, Anni Albers progressed particularly under the guidance of Gunta Stölzl. There she made her first wall hangings and her first weavings, using threads to create "visual resting places" according to the words of her friend, the historian and German art critic Wilhelm Worringer. Her compositions are as soothing and distracting as infinitely rich and complex. Whereas in the past, weavers created floral designs and other decorative motifs, as early as the 1920s, Anni Albers made wall hangings whose strong dynamism and amazing visual sensations aroused astonishment. Pioneer of abstraction, the interaction of figure and background prompted her to invent a new language full of right angles, of vast areas of solid color or pure black headbands.

In 1933, with the rise of Nazism, the Alberses left Germany and emigrated to the United States. At the closing of the Bauhaus, a new experimental school, Black Mountain College, opened near Asheville, North Carolina. Both taught in the department of art. Experimentation was encouraged, if not unrestricted. The proof being that Anni Albers designed in 1941 fun jewelries with equipment worthy of a hardware store (paper clips, curtain rings, glass drawer knobs, metal gaskets, electrical equipment, plumbing fixtures, etc.). In textile also, the use of new materials was encouraged. In 1944, she created a curtain for the Rockefellers' guesthouse in New York. Neutral during the day, the piece of cloth that mixes chenille cotton, white plastic and brass sheets, is resplendent in the evening. For the designer, "textiles are utilitarian objects that must remain modest in appearance and blend in with their environment." Those of Black Mountain College reflect her aesthetic sense: particular use of threads rather than for their color effects or textures, and limited range of tones, blacks, whites and natural colors.

In the 1940s, Anni Albers started to make what she called "pictorial weavings," in this case, weavings of small dimensions that she set on canvas and then framed. The following decade, with the Knoll company, she worked on an industrial scale for the production of fabrics by the meter. For Anni Albers, weaving by hand was more than just a "romantic attempt to find a 'lost time' " and should be more considered. "If it was regarded as a preparatory step to industrial production, this practice would go much further than a mere revival of a forgotten handicraft, and would play an important role in the evolution of textiles," she wrote in an article. Orders and museum exhibitions quickly followed on. The architect Philip Johnson, key player of the Alberses coming to the US, was the curator of the first monographic presentation of Anni on the American continent at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1949.

Pre-Columbian Geometry

Long before fleeing Nazi Germany, with the discovery of Mayan and Inca objects in a Berlin museum, the Alberses had discovered a new passion and a deep affinity with the geometric rigor of pre-Columbian civilizations. Between 1934 and 1967, they stayed numerous times in Latin America, particularly in Mexico. Admired in the 1950s, the dry stone walls of the fortresses of Cuzco, Peru, inspired Anni, in the 1980s, to produce the series of watercolors Walls. The Mayan and Inca stylized motifs influenced her splendid embossed papers, Mountainous. Yet the master of the loom did not forget her own art, displaying geometric games on a number of textile pieces, like Red and Blue Layers, a work with strong colors. In Mexico, she confidently deepened her knowledge of weaving by collecting tissue fragments and assimilating new techniques from local artisans. In the 1960s, Anni Albers turned to lithography; she eventually gave up weaving in favor of printmaking, having first written in 1965, the famous treatise "on the basis and methods of textile," On Weaving, published by Wesleyan University Press. "Anni was a fantastic writer," believes Nicholas Fox Weber. "She was a very difficult and complex personality, but intensely intelligent: she had a presence and an incredible ability to see beauty in the thread." Anni Albers died on May 9, 1994 in Orange, Connecticut. According to the architect Richard Buckminster Fuller: "Anni Albers, more than any other weaver, has succeeded in exciting mass realization of the complex structure of fabrics. She has brought the artist's intuitive sculpturing faculties and the agelong weaver's arts into historical successful marriage." In other words, she had succeeded in raising textile to an art form.

Anni Albers, le fil de la vie

Longtemps restée dans l'ombre de son époux Josef, Anni Albers, formée au Bauhaus, est une figure importante de la création textile au XXe siècle que l'on redécouvre peu à peu.

On a souvent tendance à associer d'office au nom d'Albers le prénom masculin Josef. C'est oublier un peu vite le second prénom que tout un chacun se doit également d'accoler à ce célèbre patronyme, un prénom féminin cette fois: Anni. Dans le couple Albers, autant Madame que Monsieur ont eu un travail des plus conséquents, même si, au final, force est de reconnaître que Josef jouit aujourd'hui encore d'une plus grande renommée. Lui était peintre et pédagogue de l'art, elle, artiste et designer textile. Pourtant, c'est bien Monsieur qui, en 2008, eut les honneurs de la maison Hermès, laquelle sortit une collection de ses célèbres foulards carrés reproduisant quelques tableaux du peintre parmi les plus connus: Hommages au carré. Qu'à cela ne tienne: l'an passé, c'est cette fois Madame qui fut propulsée sur le devant de la scène, pour ne pas dire des podiums, par le styliste Paul Smith. Avec sa collection homme automne-hiver 2015, le couturier anglais s'est, en effect, amplement inspiré de l'oeuvre des Albers, en particulier de celle d'Anni. Écharpes et manteaux affichent une utilisation récurrente d'aplats géométriques. Les tons sourds (flocon d'avoine, gris ou pêche) côtoient des nuances baignées de soleil, tels l'orange et le vert. Un motif est même baptisé Jacquard Bauhaus et une pochette reprend peu ou prou les couleurs et les proportions d'un patchwork d'Anni Albers datant de 1941 (Untitled) mêlant des nuances subtiles à divers matériaux (lin, coton, laine), une oeuvre que l'on peut actuellement admirer au Museo delle Culture (Mudec), à Milan, dans la splendide exposition A Beautiful Confluence: Anni and Josef Albers and the Latin American World.

Au Bauhaus, des ateliers pour les femmes

Anni Albers est née Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann le 12 juin 1899, à Berlin (Allemagne). Adolescente, sa mère lui fait donner des leçons d'art. Découvrant des portraits d'Oskar Kokoschka, Anni prend sur elle d'aller à Dresde le rencontrer pour prendre des cours avec lui. "Pourquoi peignez-vous?" lui demanda-t-il sèchement, à la vue d'une de ses toile représentant sa mère. Aussi, de 1916 à 1919, Anni Albers étudiera auprès d'un peintre impressioniste, Martin Brandenburg. En 1920, elle fréquente un temps la Kunstgewerbeschule, à Hambourg, avant de tomber sur la brochure d'un "lieu expérimental." Le 21 avril 1922, Anni Fleischmann a 22 ans lorsqu'elle s'embarque pour l'aventure du Bauhaus, ouvert à Weimar. Elle qui voulait être peintre se met au tissage, non sans réticence. Anni Albers s'intéresse, en effet, à l'atelier du verre coloré, mais les professeurs du Bauhaus n'autorisent qu'une seule personne dans cette matière—hasard de l'histoire, l'unique étudiant n'est autre que ... Josef Albers, alors son aîné de onze ans. Foncièrement machistes, ils considèrent, en outre, que la peinture murale ou le travail du métal seraient trop éprouvants pour elle.

À une autre postulante, Annie Weil, le fondateur et premier directeur de cette école d'art pourtant avant-gardiste, Walter Gropius s'était déjà fendu d'une lettre on ne peut plus cinglante: "Il n'est pas recommandable, étant donné notre expérience, que les femmes travaillent dans les secteurs des artisanats pénibles comme la charpente et ainsi de suite. C'est ce pourquoi une section réservée aux femmes a été créée au Bauhaus, pour les métier du textile. La reliure et la poterie acceptent aussi des femmes. Nous sommes fondamentalement opposés à la formation de femmes architectes." "Je n'avais pas du tout envie d'entrer dans l'atelier de tissage, parce que je tenais absolument à faire un travail d'homme et pas des choses aussi efféminées que de manipuler des fils," racontera-t-elle, un jour, à Nicholas Fox Weber, historien de l'art et actuel directeur exécutif de The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, lequel rencontra Anni Albers au tout début des années 1970 et la fréquenta régulièrement jusqu'à sa mort, en 1994. Malgré son ressentiment, elle fera néanmoins son possible pour réaliser avec les textiles ce que ses artistes de référence, comme Paul Klee (son "dieu") ou Vassily Kandinsky, accomplissaient en peinture. "Mes débuts furent bien loin de ce que j'avais espéré: le destin mit entre mes mains des fils bien minces! Des fils pour construire un avenir? Mais la méfiance se transforma en croyance, et j'étais sur ma voie," confiera-t-elle, en 1987, lors d'un entretien avec Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, professeur au Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

Des tissages comme des peintures

Au Bauhaus, où elle évolue sous la houlette notamment de Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers réalise ses premières tentures murales et ses premiers tissages, usant des fils pour créer "des lieux de repos visuels," selon les mots de son ami, l'historien et critique d'art allemand Wilhelm Worringer. Ses compositions sont aussi apaisantes et distrayantes qu'infiniment riches et complexes. Alors que les tisserands de jadis reproduisaient dessins floraux et autres motifs décoratifs, Anni Albers, elle, réalise dès les années 1920 des tentures murales dont le dynamisme et les sensations visuelles qu'elles suscitent étonnent par leur puissance. Pionnière de l'abstraction, elle réagit à l'interaction du fond avec la figure et invente un nouveau langage truffé d'angles droits, de vastes surfaces de couleur unie ou de bandeaux d'un noir pur.

En 1933, avec la montée du nazisme, les Albers quittent l'Allemagne et émigrent aux États-Unis. À l'heure où ferme le Bauhaus, s'ouvre près d'Asheville, en Caroline du Nord, une nouvelle école expérimentale: le Black Mountain College. Tous deux enseigneront dans le département des arts. L'expérimentation y est favorisée, sinon libre. À preuve: Anni Albers conçoit en 1941 d'amusants bijoux avec un matériel digne d'une quincaillerie (trombones, anneaux de rideau, boutons de tiroir en verre, joint métalliques, matériel électrique, accessoires de plomberie, etc.). En textile aussi, l'emploi de nouveaux matériaux est encouragé. En 1944 elle crée un rideau pour la maison des hôtes des Rockefeller, à New York. Neutre pendant la journée, la pièce d'étoffe, qui mélange chenille de coton, plastique blanc et feuilles de laiton, est resplendissante le soir. Pour la créatrice, "les textiles sont des objets utilitaires qui doivent rester modestes en apparence et se fondre dans leur environnement." Ceux du Black Mountain reflètent son esthétique: utilisation particulière des fils plutôt que pour leurs effets de couleurs ou de textures, et gamme limitée de tonalités, noir, blancs et couleurs naturelles.

Dans les années 1940, Anni Albers commence à faire ce qu'elle appelle des "tissages picturaux," en l'occurrence des tissages de petites dimensions qu'elle monte sure des fonds en toile, puis encadre. La décennie suivante, elle oeuvre cette fois à l'échelle industrielle, avec la firme Knoll, pour la réalisation de tissus au mètre. Pour Albers, le tissage à la main est davantage qu'une simple "tentative romantique de retrouver un 'temps perdu'" et doit être davantage estimé. "Si on le considère comme une étape préparatoire à la production industrielle, cette activité ira beaucoup plus loin que la simple renaissance d'un artisanat oublié et jouera un rôle important dans l'évolution des textiles," écrit-elle dans un article. Commandes et expositions muséales s'enchaînent. Au Museum of Modern Art de New York, en 1949, l'architecte Philip Johnson, principal acteur de la venue des Albers aux États-Unis, sera le commissaire de la première présentation monographique d'Anni sur le continent américain.

La géométrie précolombienne

Bien avant de fuir l'Allemagne nazie, avec la découverte d'objets mayas et incas dans un musée berlinois, les Albers s'étaient découvert une nouvelle passion et une profond affinité avec la rigueur géométrique des civilisations précolombiennes. Entre 1934 et 1967, ils effectueront moult séjours en Amérique latine, en particulier au Mexique. Admirés dans les années 1950, les murs de pierre sèche des forteresses de Cuzco, au Pérou, inspirent à Anni, dans les années 1980, la série d'aquarelle Murs. Les motifs stylisés mayas et incas influencent, eux, ses splendides papier gaufrés, Mountainous. Mais la virtuose du métier à tisser n'oublie pas son art, déployant des jeux géométrique sur nombre de pièces textiles, à l'instar de Red and Blue Layers, oeuvre aux couleurs soutenues. À Mexico, elle n'hésite pas à approfondir sa compréhension du tissage en rassemblant des fragments de tissus et en assimilant de nouvelles techniques auprès d'artisans locaux.

Dans les années 1960, Anni Albers se tournera vers la lithographie, puis abandonnera complètement le tissage au profit de l'estampe, non sans avoir écrit, en 1965, le fameux On Weaving, traité sur "les fondements et les méthodes du textile," publié par la Wesleyan University Press. "Anni était fantastique écrivain," estime Nicholas Fox Weber. "C'était une personnalité très difficile et très complexe, mais intensément intelligente: elle avait une présence et une incroyable habilité à voir la beauté dans le fil." Anni Albers meurt le 9 mai 1994 à Orange, dans le Connecticut. À en croire l'architecte Richard Buckminster Fuller: "Anni Albers, plus que toute autre tisseuse, a réussi à faire prendre conscience au grand public de la structure complexe des textiles. Elle a réussi le mariage historique de l'aptitude sculpturale intuitive de l'artiste et des arts traditionnels du tisseur." En clair: elle a fait du textile une forme d'art.