Intertwined – probably the best word to describe the pattern of the wall-hanging designed by Anni Albers and woven by Gloria Finn Dale in 1959. The motive illustrates Europe’s plurality as well as the connectedness of its ideas. It also outlines the scope of our research.
The image, the technique of this work and its history are in the focus of our interests as well as the question whether the European origin of both artists may have influenced Untitled (Rug) itself.
Anni Albers and her work showcase the complexity of our research topic. It is seen as an example for the complexity of the topic. Albers was studying, working and finally leading the Bauhaus’ weaving workshop between 1922 and its final close-down in 1933. In her exile in the United States, Albers pursued the ideas of an art crossing social and regional boundaries, ideas which had circulated at the Bauhaus. In her new environment, Albers was able to broaden her textile-working skills. She incorporated them into a concept of universal art, also inspired by her travels to Central and South America. Together with her husband Josef Albers and other colleagues, Anni Albers was lecturing at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. Here, she had the opportunity to pass on to her students what she had learned in Europe and what was fostered at the Bauhaus: her cultural curiosity and her eagerness to experiment. In her publications On Weaving and On Designing she put her programmatic impressions and thoughts into a written form.
Untitled (Rug), a knotted rug, is by its technique a rather untypical piece of work within the artist’s oeuvre. Still, it exemplifies Albers’ interest to explore all kinds of possibilities of textile design as surface decoration. In the course of the 1950’s this interest lead to the fruitful collaboration between her and the English artist Gloria Finn Dale, who knotted the work.
Similar to weaving, knotting uses warps. However, in the latter, short threads are knotted around the warp with a special needle. The finished row consisting of many single threads is usually stabilized by two filling yarns and eventually homogenised into a consistent pile.
This technique was first brought to Europe with the so called oriental rugs and was studied by Albers and Finn Dale centuries later in separate contexts. Unlike in oriental rugs, however, the pile in Untitled (Rug) is kept rather deep. Due to this the visual appearance of the ornament changes with the angle of the light and creates the impression of movement. The special dying technique of the wool used for this wall-hanging further emphasises this impression.
During the late 1940’s and the 1950’s these kinds of textile works were discussed as a form of artistic expression in order to create an universally accepted non-hierarchic and cross-cultural art.
Contemporaries, like Le Corbusier, who himself was weaving wall-hangings at this time, regarded them as genuine to the post-war culture. For Le Corbusier, wall-hangings not only symbolized the desire to find a place in the diverse traditions in the history of civilization. From a sheer pragmatic perspective, he valued them to fulfil the requirements of the time, to be transportable and flexible, to fit into multiple environments and functions.
Barbara Lange and Elisabeth Weiß