This is an untitled work by Anni Albers created in the year 1925. Albers was a German artist who is most well known as a student of the famous Bauhaus school, a liberal art school located in Germany during the 1920’s. Anni Albers, like much of the Bauhaus artists, used everyday materials to create modern art. This was not fine art in nature, but work that often had a practical use, and above all glorified the materials from which it was created over the subject matter that it displayed.
Anni Albers wanted initially to be a painter, and was reluctantly driven into the weaving workshops. Rather than letting this discourage her artistic ambitions, Albers sought to create the most effective art that she possibly could with the medium chosen for her. In the Bauhaus, many women were sent to work in weaving because it was seen as the traditional type of work for women, and men were given the more “prestigious” mediums like painting and sculpture. Even with its patriarchal tendencies, the Bauhaus was a progressive environment. It allowed women to enroll alongside men—something that was highly uncommon in previous institutions.
This particular work of Albers’s is a wall hanging woven from silk. Again, as a part of the Bauhaus, Albers’s did not seek to create art that had some sort of literal representation or easily perceived narrative. Therefore this wall geometric wall hanging, which does not appear extraordinary to the twenty-first century eye, was revolutionary. At that time, wall hangings showed literal depictions of people, animals, floral patterns, or objects. Albers’s modern work, on the other hand, does not use materials to glorify a subject, but rather her subject is chosen so that it may glorify the materials. The forms in the pattern highlight the pattern in the weaving’s texture. Yet, even though it is merely a series of lines and rectangles, their juxtaposition creates a horizontal sense of movement, as though the shapes are sliding back and forth against each other. The Bauhaus sought to create modern art that was dynamic in nature, and felt that this could be achieved through the use of geometric forms and pure, intense colors.
The colors in this particular work appear now quite faded, but in the day that it was created the saturated yellow color against the black, white, and grey values would have made a shockingly sharp image. This work does not have a distinct focal point, but an even composition. This again speaks of the work’s modernity, as creating a work without a focal point defies the traditional academic notion that one was necessary to create a visually pleasing composition.
This piece is also an example of one of the main differences between the work of Bauhaus artists and the work of Russian Constructivist artists. The two had many similar ideas, but the Bauhaus more that the Constructivists retained a fine art quality to their work. While the Bauhaus did begin to infuse modern art into everyday objects like textiles and furniture, they still kept traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture. The Constructivists, on the other hand, abandoned all art seen as traditional and without a practical use. I believe that this particular work of Albers’s is an example of that difference because though it is a textile work it is not one with a use value. In other words, Albers’s did not create this textile to be used as a rug or as curtains, but instead as a wall hanging, something with a purely aesthetic purpose. She also created this work out of silk, a valuable material. It incorporates modern ideas without abandoning traditional art entirely. This may result from Albers’s previous ambition to be a painter, which speaks to the desire to have a traditional sort of prestige in creating unique and valuable work. Perhaps Anni Albers’s, though very passionate about the Bauhaus’s approach to the value of materials and creating art for everyday life, tried to create art that was unique while still incorporating those ideas.
Even today, one could not encounter this piece and mistake it for anything other than modern art. As a viewer, it is important that we imagine what a piece that appears modern to us must have looked like to an audience nearly a hundred years ago. This work, as it provokes thoughts, emotions, and sensations without the use of figures, exemplifies then modern artistic ideals, making the piece as avant-garde as the Bauhaus itself.
Webber, Nicholas Fox, Anni Albers. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1999.
 Nicholas Fox Webber, Anni Albers (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1999), 9.