Friday, July 17, 2009

Anni Albers

Anni Albers is considered the foremost textile artist of the twentieth century. Born in Berlin on June 12, 1899 she studied weaving and taught at the Bauhaus until it was closed in 1933, and afterwards immigrated to the United States where she continued to make innovative textiles and prints until she died in Orange, Connecticut in 1994.

From the time she was a young student at the Bauhaus, she created wall hangings that stand on their own as abstract works of art, comparable in their boldness and modernism to some of the bravest paintings of the epoch. In her upholstery, drapery fabrics, and other functional materials, Albers made the thread and structure synonymous with the appearance. Rather than disguise the components, she exulted in them. She bravely broke from the tradition in which textiles reproduced naturalistic imagery or decorative ornament.

Josef Albers died in 1976. Anni had two major exhibitions in Germany the same year, and a handful of exhibitions of her textile and print work over the next two decades, receiving a half-dozen honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards during this time as well, including the second American Craft Council Gold Medal for "uncompromising excellence" in 1980. She continued to travel to Latin America and Europe, to make prints, and to lecture until her death on May 9, 1994, in Connecticut.

Albers worked primarily in textiles and, late in life, as a printmaker. She produced numerous designs in ink washes for her textiles, and occasionally experimented with jewelry. Her woven works include many wall hangings, curtains and bedspreads, mounted "pictorial" images, and mass-produced yard material. Her weavings are often constructed of both traditional and industrial materials, not hesitating to combine jute, paper, and cellophane, for instance, to startlingly sublime effect.

She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century.

Anni Albers was one of the original members of the Bauhaus, and influenced these grosgrain and washer necklaces during WWII, demonstrating that you can craft something beautiful out of something inexpensive and commonplace.

Bauhaus School: (1919 - 1933)

The Bauhaus School was an academy of art and design founded in Weimar, Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Bauhaus is a German expression that literally means "house for building." The Bauhaus school was founded to rebuild the country after a devastating war and also form a new social order. As a social program, the Bauhaus’s ideals were that the artist must recognize his social responsibility to the community and likewise, the community must accept and support the artist. In the artistic theory, the Bauhaus school strived to produce a new approach to architecture that incorporated artistic design, craftsmanship, and modern machine technology. Their aim was the use the principles of Classical architecture in its pure form without ornamentation. Therefore, Bauhaus architects rejected details such as cornices, eaves, and other decorative elements. The Bauhaus was founded by combining the Weimar Art Academy and the Weimar Arts and Crafts School, thus students were trained as both artist and craftsman

The School became one of the best-known progressive institutions for art and design instruction in the twentieth century. The major goals of the school were to encourage craftsman and artists to collaborate, to elevate the status of crafts, and to maintain relations with industry and craft leaders in order to eventually become independent of government control. It was at its height between World War I and World War II, during the somewhat liberal Weimar Republic period. In 1925, the School was forced to move to Dessau. In 1928, Gropius left his position as leader of the Bauhaus and was succeeded by Swiss architect, Hannes Meyer. Meyer was an unfit leader due to political disagreements with the school and was dismissed in 1930. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe then took over as director of the Bauhaus, who eventually turned the institution into a private academy in Berlin in 1932. The Nazis officially closed the Berlin’s institution’s doors in 1933.

Proponents of the Bauhaus school wished to articulate contemporary culture through the creation of new forms that were designed for everyday living. Bauhaus buildings characteristically have flat roofs, smooth facades, and cubic shapes. The colors preferred were white, gray, beige, and black. The buildings’ floor plans are usually open in design and the furniture is functional. The Bauhaus Style was used in the production of lamps, chairs and other household items, and also spread into fields such as typography and theater.

After the school’s closing in 1933, many of its artists moved to the United States in hopes of finding the freedom to pursue their own artistic expression. In the United States, leaders Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe among others, helped to spread Bauhaus architecture. It was re-named the International Style after the book written under the same title by historian and critic Henry-Russell Hitchcock and architect Philip Johnson. The book was published in 1932 at the same time an introductory exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In America, the International Style became a symbol of capitalism rather than social reformation and was the favored style for office buildings and upscale homes. One of the most famous examples of the International Style is the Seagram Building in New York.

The Bauhaus had a major impact on art and architecture trends in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and Israel (particularly in White City, Tel Aviv) in the decades following its demise, as many of the artists involved fled, or were exiled, by the Nazi regime. Tel Aviv, in fact, has been named to the list of world heritage sites by the UN due to its abundance of Bauhaus architecture in 2004[17][18]; it had some 4000 Bauhaus buildings erected from 1933 on.

One of the main objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology. The machine was considered a positive element, and therefore industrial and product design were important components. Vorkurs ("initial" or "preliminary course") was taught; this is the modern day "Basic Design" course that has become one of the key foundational courses offered in architectural and design schools across the globe. There was no teaching of history in the school because everything was supposed to be designed and created according to first principles rather than by following precedent.

American art schools have also rediscovered the Bauhaus school. The Master Craftsman Program at Florida State University bases its artistic philosophy on Bauhaus theory and practice.

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