This is my final blog featuring three of Anni Albers pictorial weavings. The previous two featured here were in the Ruthin exhibition catalogue, but sadly not in the show itself. The one I’m going to discuss here certainly was, and I spent much time standing in front of it in blank amazement – just how was it done? Having looked in close detail at two other pictorial weavings I have now got more of an idea. I think until I try some of her techniques on my own loom I won’t know for sure, but it’s a step in the right direction.
City was woven in 1949 and is solely in linen and cotton and set against a simple geometrical ‘frame’ in cotton thread. Everytime I look at this piece I think I understand it, but then my perception of it changes. Just a few minutes before writing this I suddenly realised the bottom sixth of the woven image seems to (could be) be water and reflections. Looking carefully at the warp ends top and bottom there is the evidence of this technique of putting together thick and thin yarn and alternate black and white colours. Having said that (and slept on the problem) I now think this weaving is in double weave – examine the top of warp section and then look at the bottom. By 1949 Albers had made the first of her many South American journeys and perhaps had started to investigate the double, triple and quadruple weaves made on traditional Peruvian backstrap looms. Albers talks in some detail about this phenomenon in the final chapter of her book On Designing. But it is the mysterious chemistry of selecting different thicknesses and colours of weft, choosing what is to be inlaid and where, and how the multiple warps may be used, that is surely the clue to this extraordinary creation. Like the previous two weavings the range of colour is small, but the difference and play of texture is formidable.