Yesterday, to see the Annie Albers Exhibition at Tate Modern. The Tate web site sets the scene.
‘As a female student at the radical Bauhaus art school, Albers [1899-1994] was discouraged from taking up certain classes. She enrolled in the weaving workshop and made textiles her key form of expression. She inspired and was inspired by her artist contemporaries, among them her teacher, Paul Klee …. [the] exhibition illuminates the artist’s creative process and her engagement with art, architecture and design …. discover why Albers has been a profound influence on artists around the world via more than 350 objects [excluding many documents in display cases] from exquisite small-scale ‘pictorial weavings’ to large wall-hangings and the textiles she designed for mass production, as well as her later prints and drawings.’
The exhibition surprised in two ways, leaving aside the content: its popularity considering the relative anonymity of Albers and the rather specialist subject; and the scale of it, the 350 objects spread over 11 rooms. A very pleasant surprise on the first count – it’s good to see craft treated as an equal to art. On the second I think this is a case where less might have been more – too much detail, the ‘book on a wall’ problem, diluted the impact of the most significant work. We sat for a while enjoying one particular piece, South of the Border (see below) and noticed how little time people were giving to each one, mostly seconds only. Giving each object, and the letters and texts, full attention would have required a long and demanding visit. As a consequence of the scale it is easy to forget or simply miss works of significance.
We came away with lasting memories of four pieces: the hanging Ancient Writing, 1936, for its perfectly balanced composition; and the pictorial weavings Northwesterly, 1957, Pasture, 1958, and South of the Border, 1958, for their evocations of landscape and command of colour.