Getting To Know Anni And Josef Albers

He is hailed as the father of color theory. She is revered as the modern textile artist. The distinctive works of the Josef and Anni Albers hang at museums all over the globe, and soon they’ll be hanging around your house. Seriously! Today we have a very exciting debut at ICFF in New York (and online)—we’re partnering up with The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation for an amazing, artful collection of products for the table, living room, bedroom, and bath.

You know the story: the two were visionary pioneers of modern art and dedicated, dynamic teachers (spending time at Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale). Yet for some, the name “Albers” synonymous with a single image: the square. And while Homage To Square’s significance cannot be overstated (nor explained in our humble blog post), there’s so much more to the story of Josef and Anni.

 

Seeking to break outside the box and engage a new audience, the Foundation has worked with Fab to open up the wonderful, colorful world of these modern masters. Today’s launch is full of designs inspired by Anni Albers’ prints—Triangulated Intaglio, E, Meander, and Camino. Nicholas Fox Weber, the Foundation’s Executive Director and the foremost expert on all things Albers, kindly shares his expertise and memories of Anni with us today.

First things first, can you tell us a little about the establishment of the Albers Foundation and your mission?

The Foundation was created by Josef and Anni Albers in 1970. Its goal and mission are ” the revelation and evocation of vision through art.”Anni knew she wanted to study art from a young age—which was a pretty radical decision for a woman at the time.

Can you tell us about other ways that she defied conventions and fought for her independence?

There was one obstacle after another. But her parents hired an art tutor for her, Toni Meyer, nicknamed Tonuscha, who had her draw from the nude. Odel. her art teacher, Martin Brandenberg, forbade the use of black, and Anni wanted to use it anyway. A scene came. There were tears, an argument with her mother, and then an apology. For an exam at school, she was told she had drawn a seated woman with her skirt too short. She went to study with Kokoschka, who told her she should go home and become a housewife. She told her father, a furniture manufacturer, about the Bauhaus, and he said, “What do you mean a new style? We have had the Renaissance. We have had the Baroque. There are no new styles.” But she made her way to Weimar, met Josef, and the rest is history.

Many know Anni primarily as a textile maker, but her prints are amazing. Even more amazing is that she started this new medium when she was in her 70s! How did the change in medium open up new creative possibilities for her? 

Anni always listened to the materials and the technique. She saw that lithography allowed her to give the impression of an acid bat. Screenprinting meant that lines which in were jagged in weaving could now be straight. Photo offset allowed for instant reversals of images, and for the effects that occur when you put a negative over a velox. Each printmaking technique was an invitation to explore.

Anni had an affinity for practical objects—used as materials and on their own—do you think she would gravitate towards a particular set of objects from the Fab collaboration?

The melamine. She loved synthetic materials that were easy to clean. 

When considering Josef and Anni Albers, how can we see the influence of each on the other?

They were like a two person religious sect. They believed in creation as the essence of life. Everything for them was about morality and honesty and beauty, in art as in living. They never worked side by side, yet they believed absolutely in the same values.

Anni and Josef were also highly respected, influential teachers. What are some lessons artists and creative minds can take away from their teachings?  

The need to experiment, to respond to what happens during the process, to keep your eyes open and to impose ideas, to recognize that self-expression is personal, whereas pure art can provide balance and beauty in life for people all over the world.

Are there any prints of Anni’s that have special resonance for you?

The Line Involvements are haunting, with a rich sense of discovery and liberation. The Orchestra series shows such courage, the eagerness to go on even when she was so frail. She showed that even when her hand was shaking, she used rather than fought the shake.

Curious to learn more about the Albers and their impact on the art world? Dive into their history at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. And pick up a piece of artful tabletop, inspired by Anni’s work during  today’s sale.

 Meredith Spencer 

Notes

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