In Thread and On Paper: Anni Albers in Connecticut at the New Britain Museum of American Art

For those who are willing to venture out, I would encourage an in-person visit to this exhibition before it closes on September 13. The exhibit is part of a year-long exhibition series 2020/20+ Women: All Women All Year hosted by the New Britain Museum of American Art. To learn about the Covid-19 precautions in place, please visit the museum website. Mask compliance was 100% when I visited and social distancing (more than 6 feet of distance) was easily achieved. If you go, plan to take a peek at their amazing permanent collection of American Art (which includes many recognizable names), and a recently-opened exhibition of Shaker work.


Below are a few snapshots for those of you who cannot manage an in-person visit to In Thread and On Paper at this time. The exhibit looks at the relationship between Anni's weaverly work and her drawing and printmaking work later in life. Having trained as a graphic designer before becoming a weaver, the exhibit was of particular interest to me.


Above: Plush rug (original) woven from one of Albers drawings.

The wallpaper in the first gallery was also printed from this maze-like design.


The first large gallery is an overview of her work, with a focus on all aspects of her weaving. (Included is her "other" Structo 750. Its companion is currently on exhibit at MoMA.) There were lots of her textiles in this gallery, including display cases with her woven samples, some prepared and labeled for industry, and it was speculated that many were likely woven on the Structo 750 due to the health issues she had later in life.


Above: Detail from one of the sample pieces Two,1952


The second (transitional) gallery contains manipulatives: a very large tapestry loom that provides space for several weavers, and a huge gridded table with hundreds of wooden triangles for visitors to arrange and rearrange, so one can experience the same design process Albers herself undertook. However, due to Covid-19, this is currently a "no-touch" room, but the visual impact is still worth noting as you pass into the third and final gallery.


Above: Detail of the industrial textiles exhibited, from 1970-80. Some of the textiles reminded me of the NUNO exhibit at Convergence Vancouver 2002. (Manufactured by Sunar, using machine embroidery and acid etching.)


The well-designed gallery lighting even made shadow triangles on the floor

from the translucent bolts of industrial cloth, woven from Anni Albers designs.


The last gallery focuses on her design work with more drawings, various types of prints, a selection of her industrial textiles, and two large commissioned works. I was particularly interested to see her design work starting with a simple triangle, especially having seen Camino Real last fall at a NYC gallery. (See https://www.davidzwirner.com/exhibitions/anni-albers-2019)


Photo above & below: Two very large wall pieces commissioned for AT&T building in NYC

(Architect Phillip Johnson). Orchestra and Orchestra III (1984). On the left, you can see where the triangles have disappeared and only their outlines are highlighted, and on the right, the spaces combine and are filled in to create new solid shapes, where hardly any triangles appear. The contrast between the two works is great (light vs. heavy), and yet both have great movement and use the same colors.


One of the working sketches for Camino Real, 1967.

Everything is based on a triangle: expanding, moving, or removing the base unit, identifying larger triangles in the process, or interrupting the triangle. And everything had flow and movement. While in this room, I was thinking of contemporary weaver Susie Taylor.



I hope you get a chance to view the exhibition personally, as there is so much to discover in her work! These few snapshots cannot do the exhibition justice. 

– Sally Orgren

Additional online resources:

• The exhibition catalog can be viewed here: https://nbmaa.org/anni-albers-catalog

• Curator interview: https://nbmaa.org/curator-interview

• Virtual walkthrough: https://nbmaa.org/virtual-walkthrough-in-thread-and-on-paper-anni-albers-in-connecticut

• Pre-recorded lecture "Anni Albers | Experiments": https://nbmaa.org/experiments




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