A comprehensive show traces the lives and work of two modern art trailblazers, from the Bauhaus to Yale.
Anni Albers, Intersecting, 1962, cotton and rayon, 40 x 42 cm/15.74 x 16.53 in, detail, Josef Albers Museum Quadrat, Bottrop
© 2021 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris 2021
Three portraits that were taken from the Bauhaus garden in Dessau in 1925, the year the Albers were married, open this show focusing on their lives and work. Next, a 1948 oil on Masonite (a hardboard made of processed wood) featuring four warm colors surrounded by two shades of blue is on the left, a wide strip of layered red and blue cotton (1954) on the right. The designs, techniques and formats may all be different, but the similarities are what stand out in this true/false diptych by Josef (1888-1976) and Anni, born Annelise Fleischmann (1899-1994). The exhibition features 350 serial works ranging from the Bauhaus period (1920-1933) to Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina (1933-1949), far from Nazi Germany, and Yale (1950-1976). Three “levels of reflection” and three schools of thought set the stage on which the couple, together and apart, created the same clear, simple forms, the only ones capable of bringing people closer together and making life more real and, therefore, more essential.
While their work runs the gamut from tapestry to stained glass, typography, furniture, photography, painting, jewelry, drawings and prints, it is always abstract, geometric, humble and open to everything and everyone. Transmission was at the heart of their approach: halfway through the show, a simulated classroom stresses their experimental teaching methods. Their renowned series—Anni’s wall hangings and pictorial weavings, Josef’s variants and structural constellations—echo each other. The exhibition also features their cross-fertilizing influences (pre-Columbian art and abstract poetry) and parallel projects (Anni's religious commissions, Josef's record sleeves) and gives each artist equal attention at last. It ends with Josef’s vibrant tributes to the square and the prints Anni made after his death.