web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Sections » Arts »

Out-Knitting Bubby: Weaving Jewishly Anni Albers At The Cooper-Hewitt

Josef and Anni Albers: Designs for Living
October 1, 2004 through February 27, 2005
Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Fifth Avenue at 91st Street, New York
http://cooperhewitt.org



The ancient Greek poets wrote myths about the Fates – the three daughters of Nyx, the powerful goddess Night. They are also called the Moerae sisters.

Clotho spun the tapestry of life, Lachesis measured it, and Atropus cut it, all the while singing to the Sirens’ tune. Lachesis sang of the past, Clotho of the present, and Atropus of the future. The Greek poets also sang of Penelope, famous for faithfully awaiting her husband Odysseus’ return for 20 years. She appeased the suitors who daily ate and drank away her fortune by claiming that she must finish weaving her father-in-law’s funeral shroud before choosing a husband. (Every night she shrewdly unwove that day’s work).

The literary move of mapping out weaving as a metaphor for life and time permeates the Jewish canonical metaphors as well. The Book of Psalms (19:4) speaks of “Their line is gone out through all the earth.” The Hebrew kav (line) conveys an image of threads encircling the globe. The Book of Exodus (35: 26) tells of “the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair” for the Tabernacle. And the author of The Book of Koheleth (4:12) meditates, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Despite the profusion of textile reference in the Bible, Director Sylvia Herskowitz, of the Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) wrote in the catalog entitled Tradition and Fantasy in Jewish Needlework (November 1981-June 1982) that although historians have dissected virtually every facet of Jewish sociology and culture, “one area that remains virtually unscrutinized is the flourishing of Jewish arts and crafts.”

The YUM exhibit showcased tallitot, ark curtains, Torah coverings, challah covers and a variety of woven ritual objects. Further in the catalog, Judith Gottesman Friedman’s writes in her essay “Stitches in Time: Thirty-Five Years of Ceremonial Judaic Needlework in America” that “Needlework has traditionally been women’s work, and as such, it has been smiled at with condescension. History, however, argues that needlework has been a respected profession practiced by men as well.”

An example of Jewish female needlework – and one that differs from the ritual objects of the YUM in everything from temperament to tone ? is Anni Albers’ (1899-1994) textiles – which serve as the subject of the current Cooper-Hewitt exhibit. She created this in conjunction with her husband, Josef Albers (1888-1976).

Albers studied and then taught textiles at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, until she and Josef immigrated to America after the Nazis closed the school in 1933. (Josef was not Jewish. Anni – who was born Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann in Berlin to a wealthy Jewish businessman and his wife from the prosperous Ullstein family which published books and magazines – subsequently converted to Protestantism). Anni typically weighs in as “the other Albers,” as Hilton Kramer notes in “Bauhaus’ Brave Albers Was a Tedious Weaver” in the New York Observer (8/14/00). She studied weaving since the Bauhaus more or less quarantined women to the domestic crafts. In the weaving workshop, Albers studied with Paul Klee (whom the Nazis called a Jew, though he was hardly one).

The Bauhaus, which was founded in 1919 in Weimar by Walter Gropius, functioned as a school of art, design and architecture. “Functioned” is an apt term, actually, for the Bauhaus tolerated nothing but hyper-pragmatism. When asked how he painted “Homages to the Square” (perhaps Josef’s most famous works, which tended to present circumscribed squares within other squares, all solid color), Albers responded, “I paint the way I spread butter on pumpernickel.”

In the Cooper-Hewitt catalog, Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Nicholas Fox Weber compared the Albers’ notions of food preparation and painting. Both necessitated the correct arrangement of appropriate ingredients. “Nothing fancy, please. Don’t make grandiose claims. And understand that a simple domestic activity – the following of a recipe, the spreading of butter on a piece of honest black bread…is noble.”

The Nazis’ hatred of Modernism, coupled with Anni’s Jewish background, led the couple to move to America, though Anni noted that her family never affiliated as Jewish until forced by Hitler to do so. She even noted that the “Hitler business” turned out well in that it forced the Albers to emigrate to America.

Some of Anni’s work is Jewish in subject matter. The Jewish Museum commissioned Anni Albers’ for “Six Prayers” (1965-66), a conglomeration of cotton, linen, bast (a strong woody fiber from plant phloem) and silver threads, to serve as a memorial for the Six Million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The fibers in “Six” line up unevenly, but they suggest a continuous horizontal line that binds them together.

No matter how much the borders seem to try to alter the symmetry, organizational order manages to survive. The coloration further underscores the notion of endurance. The tones mostly reside in the earthy realm: umbers and blacks and beiges, but subtleties of coloration emerge upon careful inspection. Strictly speaking, the forms are non-objective (though I would hardly call them abstract), but they maintain a very natural and believable network of forms, very straight and solid.

Necklace, c. 1940 somehow manages to turn a metal-plated drain strainer, a chain and paperclips into a necklace. Every element contributes to the function of the larger machine. The paperclips fulfill no ornamental purpose. The two paper clips connecting the chain and the strainer play integral roles, just as the clips on the bottom serve to break up the circular form and to lend some weight to what would otherwise remain entirely top-heavy. The necklace sets itself diametrically opposed to the standard jewelry form: glittery and extravagant.

If “Necklace” conveys a soft and humble aura, Drawing for Rug II, 1959 has something of Jackson Pollack in it. It reads like a maze, with bright colors ? reds, yellows, oranges, greens, blues, grays and browns, all fairly pure – that move in a wiggling formation that suggest spaghetti or worms.

On its surface, the painting – gouache on paper – seems flat, but further inspection reveals a visual plane that unfolds slowly with the warm colors pressing forward, while pushing the blues and greens to the background. Despite the movement, “Rug” does not show off, and the detail is minimalistic in that no extraneous matter neutralizes the message.

Anni Albers is the quintessential secular Jewish artist, who thinks of herself as “all artist” and as little Jew as possible. She cared far more for the Bauhaus than she did for her Jewish identity. Her work was immediately abstract and, perhaps, Jewish at times as an afterthought. Ironically though, life cast her irrevocably into a situation in which she had to recognize her Jewishness in her flight from Nazi Germany, which she expressed in her creation of many Jewish ritual objects. Even when she walked away from her religious heritage in her work, her no-nonsense, utilitarian approach to art making (that questioned the boundary between art and craft in a way that only the Bauhaus did) had something of a Jewish sensibility to it. And one can only speculate what would have been were Anni Albers Orthodox, and as interested in forging a visual Jewish culture as she was in object making.

Menachem Wecker edits the Arts and Culture Section of the Yeshiva University Commentator. As an artist, he has trained at the Massachusetts College of Art. Menachem may be contacted at: mwecker@gmail.com.


For more information about the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, please visit the website:
www.albersfoundation.org

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Out-Knitting Bubby: Weaving Jewishly Anni Albers At The Cooper-Hewitt”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Gaza
Mashaal Vows Cease-Fire a Step to New ‘Resistance’ War against Israel
Latest Sections Stories
Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot together in concert.

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

Mordechai-082214-Armoire

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

Einhorn-082214-Water

Stroll through formal gardens, ride mountain bikes, or go rock climbing.

As they fall upon us we go
To the WALL.

One minute you’re shaving shwarma off a pit, then the shwarma guy tells you he read a (fake) WhatsApp that the boys are dead.

I probe a little deeper and Shula takes me into the world of phantom pains and prosthetic limbs.

This went on until she had immersed eighty times, and then Hashem at last took pity upon her.

Because Menachem lives in Israel, he can feel the ruach in the air.

Perhaps you can reach a compromise during this news frenzy, whereby you will feel more comfortable while he can still follow the latest events.

Leon experienced the War of Independence from a soldier’s perspective, while remaining true to his Jewish ideals and beliefs.

Chabad of Arizona centers recently hosted an evening of remembrance to mark the 20th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

Weck-051812

It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/out-knitting-bubby-weaving-jewishly-anni-albers-at-the-cooper-hewitt/2004/12/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: