Review of “Anni Albers: In Thread and On Paper”

by Lauren Moya Ford May 26, 2024

In 1968, Anni Albers gave up weaving. The German-American artist and designer had been weaving since her student days at the Bauhaus school in the early 1920s and had spent the following decades of her career making a name for herself as a master of bold and balanced tapestries. She worked hard to elevate the status of weaving within the fine arts, and she was the first textile artist to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1949. But at nearly 70 years old, Albers was ready to pivot. She donated her looms to a local community college in Connecticut. What would she do now?

A weaving loom once owned by Anni Albers sits on a plinth in the foreground while on the wall in the background hangs one of Alber's weavings.

Alber’s loom at the Blanton Museum of Art

Anni Albers: In Thread and On Paper tells the story of what came next for the artist. Curated by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation’s Education Director Fritz Horstman and organized by the Blanton Museum of Art’s Associate Curator Claire Howard, the exhibition surveys the prolific and experimental period when Albers shifted from weaving to printmaking. The show is one of a number of presentations in recent years that have celebrated Albers’s work independent of her famous husband, and features more than 70 of Albers’s textile samples, weavings, sketches, and prints. 

I think that printmaking offered Albers a lot of possibilities for creating variations within a certain economy of means,” Howard told Glasstire in a recent video call. With printmaking, the artist could maintain her abstract vocabulary while breaking from the rigid grid of the loom. Printmaking contains many diverse methods, and each project also presented her with an exciting opportunity to collaborate and socialize with other artists.

An abstract screen-print consisting of green and white triangles.

Anni Albers, “TR II,” 1970

Albers’s first foray into print was in 1963 at the Tamarind Lithography Studio in Los Angeles, California. She returned the following year to create a set of lithographs that are strikingly unlike her other work. In this Line Involvement series, looping, thread-like white lines meander through space, barely visible through a mysterious haze of dark tones. There’s a marked sense of discovery and looseness in these prints. Perhaps they promised something special to Albers, leading her to focus on printmaking just a few years later.

Albers seems to have had a tireless curiosity about her new medium, and the exhibition shows her moving fluidly between several print processes. Visitors can enjoy an assortment of screenprints, lithographs, etchings, and embossings that Albers produced at Tamarind and Gemini G.E.L. Printers in Los Angeles, Tyler Graphics in Bedford, New York, and Edition Domberger in Stuttgart, Germany. 

A fabric work by Anni Albers featuring a geometric pattern of red lines on a blue background.

Anni Albers, “Red Lines on Blue,” 1979

Working with the master printers of these print shops entailed a significant amount of experimentation and trust. However according to the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation’s Executive Director Nicholas Fox Weber, “Nothing thrilled Anni more than to learn from process and technique, to absorb and take direction rather than impose.” Fox Weber knew Albers personally and introduced her to his family’s commercial printing company in West Hartford, Connecticut. And even though Fox Press wasn’t geared towards fine art editions, Albers collaborated with them to produce Fox I (1972), a photo offset print filled with vibrant red triangles. 

The show also gives visitors crucial insight into the artist’s practice. Her original eight-harness Structo Artcraft 750 loom greets visitors as they enter the gallery, and a handful of textiles that were created during and after her lifetime dialog with their equivalents in print nearby. Albers didn’t leave many records or materials about how she developed her ideas, but the textile samples and drawings on graph paper on display give us tantalizing clues about her process. The exhibition also includes a selection of Albers’s large-scale commissions, emphasizing her non-hierarchical thinking about commercial and fine art projects.

A display case containing fabric samples, loom pieces, small weavings, and a black and white phot of Anni Albers.

A display case with weaving samples at the Blanton Museum of Art

Most of all, the exhibition sheds light on an artist who was immersed in transitioning to new territory. “This is somebody who took a risk in transitioning to a completely different medium late in her life and then continued to really push herself in that new medium. I think she’s very inspirational,” Howard noted. I agree.


Anni Albers: In Thread and On Paper is on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas through June 20, 2024. The exhibition is curated by Fritz Horstman, education director at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, and is organized by the Blanton’s Associate Curator, Claire Howard.

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