Anni Albers, the Bauhaus and the pliable plane

Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937

Pushed into weaving because she was a woman, Albers became fascinated by the medium’s architectural uses says the curator of the Tate’s retrospective

As a young woman entering the Bauhaus in 1922, Anni Albers was encouraged, like most of the women students, to join the weaving workshop. Initially irritated by the implicit hierarchy – the covert assumption of gender bias that weaving was somehow less important – she soon became immersed in the medium and its possibilities.

Alongside the other great Bauhaus weavers like Gunta Stozl and Otti Berger, Anni Albers was largely responsible for creating the idea of the modernist textile, creating numerous one-off wall hangings as well as designs for manufacture.

The striking grids and asymmetries of Albers’ classic wall hangings from her Bauhaus years show her transforming the textile medium, using the ancient craft techniques of a basic handloom to convey a modern geometric sensibility.

As well as making one-off works she also produced designs for manufacture throughout her career. Her Bauhaus diploma piece of 1929 used cellophane in a soundproofing fabric made to line the walls of an auditorium of a trade school designed by Hannes Meyer in nearby Bernau. The successful design shows how already at this early period she was thinking about the close relationship between weaving and architecture.

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