Date of this Version
Troy, Virginia Gardner. “Anni Albers: Pre-Columbian Resonances: The Significance of Pre-Columbian Art in Her Textiles and Writings.” Contact, Crossover, Continuity: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 22–24, 1994 (Los Angeles, CA: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1995), pp. 281–291.
Anni Albers is known primarily for her contribution to the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop and her woven prototypes for industrial production; she has rarely been acknowledged for her role in reviving and redefining the Pre-Columbian fiber art tradition. She researched, analyzed, collected, and extensively wrote about Pre-Columbian textiles. Her seminal text, On Weaving, 1965, is not only dedicated to Andean weavers, "my great teachers, the weavers of ancient Peru," but is essentially a textbook of Andean weaving techniques, revived and meticulously analyzed by Albers. Furthermore, she and her husband, Josef Albers, amassed an important collection of ancient Mesoamerican sculpture, acquired during and after their many trips to that region. Her "pictorial weavings," (a term she preferred over tapestry, even though they are not pictorial in a figurative or narrative way), and her industrial designs (often one and the same) owe a great deal to the monuments of ancient Mesoamerica as well as to Andean textiles.
The technical and philosophical approaches that Albers developed at the Bauhaus from 1922 to 1933 are surprisingly similar to those of her Pre-Columbian counterparts; both succeeded in maintaining the inherent truth to their chosen materials, and in creating a visual grammar based on abstraction. Although Albers doubtless had knowledge of the extensive non-western collections in Munich and Berlin, it was only after her emigration to the United States in 1933 and her subsequent direct contact with Pre-Columbian art and source material that her theories were fully refined. This paper will illuminate and analyze some of the essential issues shared by Albers and her Pre-Columbian counterparts.