Six Prayers (1966-7)
Anni Albers (1899- 1994) was a leading innovator of 20th Century modernist abstraction. Her work combined the ancient craft of weaving with the ideas and styles of modern art. She was a lady of many trades: an artist; a designer; teacher and a writer. The exhibition explores different aspects of her life: how her work transitions and evolved as she experienced new things as well as the processes she used to develop her ideas about textiles.
Anni Albers’s eight-harness Sructo-Artcraft 750 loom (Date unknown, wood and metal)
Her career and passion for weaving started when she began her studies at the Bauhaus (Weimar, Germany). It was her that she met her husband Josef Albers. They emigrated to the US (after the rise of Nazism in Germany resulted in the closer of the Bauhaus) where they both became teachers at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
Development in Rose II (1952- Linen)
This piece has a subtle colour palette with black used to creates accents within the weave. Lots of texture is created with small twists and knots throughout. These are achieved using a technique known as leno or gauze weave; the vertical warp threads twist over each other around the horizontal weft threads.
Top left to bottom right: Anni Albers and Alexander Reed: Necklace (c.1940- plastic rings on black grosgrain ribbon), Necklace (c.1940- Bobby pins on metal-plated chain), Necklace (c1940/88 reconstruction of the original made by Mary Emma Harris, Eye hooks and pearls on thread), Necklace (c.1940s- Aluminium washers and red grosgrain ribbon).
An interesting section of the exhibit was a glass box filled with wonderful jewellery creations by Anni and a colleague, Alexander Reed. The necklaces shown at the exhibition feature everyday objects such as bobby pins or metal washers. These pieces take items that are mundane and turn them into something unique and sophisticated. Anni Albers was definitely ahead of the times with her inventive ideas, clearly demonstrated here!
Open Letter (1958, cotton)
Featuring a wide range a weaving techniques, Open Letter is a striking monochrome piece. Accents of red are dispersed throughout, breaking up the linework that is similar to zentangling that is seen throughout illustration work popular today. Each column of the piece is constructed from little bars, each with their own personality and style.
Dotted (1959, wool)
This piece was among many ‘pictorial weavings’, created as artwork to be hung as opposed to fabric for everyday use. Utilising an ancient technique, Anni was able to create bobbles on the weave surface. The gradient of colour and the scattered placement of the dots results in a highly textured, playful piece of work.
Intersecting (1962, Cotton and rayon)
Using only four colours for the plain weave ground, a floating thread has been used to create a raised brocade effect. The unplanned nature of these threads was very pleasing to view; the organised base with the random thread creates a visual oxymoron. Work similar to this one stemmed from drawings of knots, tangled lines and mark making that Anni Albers created.
Overall, the exhibition was an excellent glimpse into the creative-mind and thought process of a lady who was an innovator, ahead of her time. This is not a display to be missed, if you get the chance to see it as it closes soon!
By Amy Pickard. All photos by Amy Pickard.
Anni Albers Exhibition
11th Oct 2018- 27th Jan 2019
53 Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Sundays to Thursdays: 10:00- 18:00
Fridays to Saturdays: 10:00- 22:00
Adults £18 / Concessions & Student £17
See the Tate Modern website for further discounted tickets and details.
The exhibition features new paintings, including works from the iconic My Eternal Soul series, painted bronze pumpkin and flower sculptures, and a large-scale Infinity Mirrored Room, created for this presentation, Kusama’s twelfth exhibition at the gallery.
Yayoi Kusama exhibition Victoria Miro: Infinity Mirrored Room, 2018
Upon arrival, we were ushered up a vertigo inducingly narrow staircase into a dark upstairs, after a brief queue, we were told that we will have 60 seconds in the Infinity Mirrored Room. Infinity Mirror Rooms are an iconic staple of Kusama’s repertoire of work; once these rooms open their doors to a new city, social media swiftly becomes inundated with these tiny universes of cosmic infinity. 60 seconds is nowhere near long enough to fully appreciate this all encompassing experience, however one cannot complain as the queue was but a fraction of the size of a theme park’s.
Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. © YAYOI KUSAMA
In the following room, we were greeted with the vision of three immense spotted pumpkin sculptures, another recurring theme in Kusama’s work. Accompanying the sculpture are paintings from the series ‘Dots Obsession’ and other polka dot dominated paintings, this is almost a real-time amalgamation of the whole body experience from the Infinity Room and the everyday life as we see it; fusing both installation and painting together to create a quasi-reality.
Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. © YAYOI KUSAMA
Once through this room, we were guided outside to step amongst three larger-than-life sculptures of childlike fantasy polka dotted flowers. Walking through this sculpture terrace feels like entering a scene from The Day of the Triffids, only on a sugar high. Kusama’s poignant hallucinations, for which her art is therapy, are clearly an inspiration for these gigantuan florals. Almost in correlation with Kusama’s rise to fame in recent years, has been the explosion of discussion around mental health and destigmatisation of mental illness.
Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. © YAYOI KUSAMA
The final room in the exhibition consisted of a wall of 20 square canvases presented edge to edge; each canvas shows a completely unique composition, we could gather no running theme in these paintings bar Kusama’s distinctive painting style. The sensation of feeling overwhelmed returns; each canvas portrays a keyhole insight into Kusama’s mind, thousands of tiny staring eyes wriggling around in the negative space upon the canvas surface. The shapes appear to move around your peripheral vision; as if they are slothing about when their guardian is not watching.
Our intern stood next to the paintings for some size reference!
We left the exhibition feeling satisfied that our pattern cravings have been satiated – for the meantime at least! Although small, the exhibition packed a mighty, colour filled punch. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for the next Kusama exhibition in London anytime soon and will be sure to let you know in advance!
Yayoi Kusama – The Moving Moment When I Went To The Universe Exhibition Visit
3 October – 21 December 2018
Free Timed Tickets, Currently Sold Out
Victoria Miro Gallery, 16 Wharf Road, N1 7RW
By Jessica Strain
The exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up is currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and we recently took the chance to visit. This unique show gives a detailed overview of Kahlo’s life: her family and heritage; her politics; her relationship with mural painter Diego Rivera; the near-fatal accident that caused her a lifetime of pain; and most importantly, how she constructed her image and the way in which she lived her life.
Upon Kahlo’s death in 1954, her husband Rivera locked up her most valuable possessions in the bathroom of the Casa Azul (The Blue House, their home in Mexico) and instructed that it not be opened until 15 years after her death. In 2004 this bathroom was opened, and the contents of the room went on display at the Casa Azul as a museum dedicated to her life. These objects are what now fill the exhibition space at the V&A, carefully shipped thousands of miles to be shown outside of Mexico for the first time.
The exhibition begins with old photographs of Kahlo and her family, some of which are adorned with Kahlo’s handwritten notes. Some simply label family members, whereas others are more personal: for example, on the back of Kahlo’s Communion photo she has scrawled “¡IDIOTA!” as she renounced Catholicism later in life.
The show continues through a series of rooms to Kahlo’s accessories: heavy jade necklaces; crescent earrings featuring paired birds, which are traditional of Mexican jewellery; and hand-woven ‘Rebozo’ shawls and ‘Morrale’ sack bags. These items highlight Kahlo’s pride in her Mexican heritage.
We then move on to Kahlo’s possessions, perhaps one of the most personal parts of the exhibition. Intimate items are on display such as used lipsticks and empty medicine bottles accompanied by letters to and from her various doctors.
Kahlo’s suffering due to childhood polio and a car accident at the age of 18 lies at the foundation of some of these objects. For most of her life she wore uncomfortable corsets to help support her back and alleviate pain, some of which were made of plaster and decorated with painting as Kahlo used them like a canvas.
Finally, the main feature of the exhibition is a stunning display case of Kahlo’s clothing. Kahlo is renowned for her combinations of indigenous garments from different regions of Mexico, and she was photographed in such outfits many times. To see them up close in real life is breathtaking.
Detailed embroidery is present in most of the outfits, from complexly shaded flowers and birds to cross stitch to traditional Chinese embroidery (due to Kahlo’s fascination with Chinatown when she moved to the USA with Rivera). The exhibition gives details of her most striking outfits, describing how she was followed by children when in the USA, who asked “Where is the circus?”.
There are some of Kahlo’s paintings – mainly self portraits as she used herself as a subject when painting from her bed – but the exhibition mainly focuses on Kahlo’s items and how she presented the complex layers of her identity within her life. It states that her wardrobe was not staged: she dressed up even when she wasn’t expecting visitors, and even when she was in bed rest.
Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up is a bewitching and intimate exhibition. The items on display are fascinating, and through them the personal details of how Kahlo naturally lived an artistic life – despite her misfortunes and pain – are revealed. A must-see for anyone interested in textiles, and anyone interested in Frida Kahlo’s complex and inspiring life.
Purchase tickets at the V&A website here.
Written by Laura Hill
A few weeks ago, we seized the opportunity to visit the new photography exhibition at Opera Gallery. Featuring german photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, titled ‘Ladyland’, whose fashion work have been published in American, Italian, and British Vogue, Interview and Vanity Fair . Stepping into the gallery, we were greeted by a series of playful yet sensual photographs, which are Unwerth’s celebrated style. Although provocative in nature, there is an atmosphere of silliness and spontaneity, we often do not see in fashion and beauty photoshoots.
Upon unearthing more about Unwerth, we discovered that much of her photo taking style is attributed to her experience as a model. She explains “I know how vulnerable and naked people can feel in front of the camera, so I’m very positive.” She gives girls roles to play, for example, because she found the lack of freedom to express herself as a model frustrating. “I like to go big and wild! I want the models to be silly in front of the camera, I want them to live their life!” Being frustrated with standing still in fashion shoots, Unwerth decided to be behind the lens instead, giving her subjects the freedom to be silly.
In some of her photographs, the spontaneity shines through in absurd poses that happen often when the models think she has finished shooting. This contributes to the feeling of movement, and heightens the carefree spirit that runs through much of her work, that makes it so appealing.
Check out her work! It is definitely not unwerth it to see.
The Fashion and Textiles Museum, London, has just opened an exhibition dedicated to Louise Dahl- Wolfe, an American photographer who is credited with modernising fashion photography. The exhibition spans the the whole of the long gallery as well as part of the upper area. It looks at Dahl-Wolfe’s early works and how she defined the image of the post war women. It has over 100 photographs on display which some contain the work from various designers such as Chanel, Balenciaga and Dior.
Located in the long gallery, you must first pass a room on the left which currently has a small display of work from Wallace Sewell, who designed the upholstery fabric for Transport for London, continuing on you walk through a corridor of Dahl-Wolfe’s colour Harper’s Bazaar covers and enter a large open space full of beautifully framed photos. The airiness of the room allows the work to breath and gives you space to enjoy it.
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The gallery displays mainly black and white image from Dahl-Wolfe’s career as well as a selection of coloured work. Dahl-Wolfe trained in San Francisco’s Art Institute in 1914, and it was here that she took classes on anatomy, composition and colour theory fundamentals. These proved to aid her later in life when starting out in photography.
Dahl-Wolfe’s first photo to be published, Mrs Ramsey, was in Harper’s Bazaar’s November 1933 issue. Mrs Ramsey was Dahl-Wolfe’s neighbour when her and her husband moved to Tennessee. As with a lot of Dahl-Wolfe’s photos there is an element of calmness about them whilst simultaneously displaying the soul and character of her subject.
Dahl-Wolfe started working at Harper’s Bazaar from 1936 until 1958. During this time they published 600 coloured photographs, 3,000 black and white images and 86 front covers taken by the artist. During her Hollywood period, 1938-1946,Dahl-Wolfe shot on her Rolleiflex camera using natural lighting and had her models posing outside, providing an alternative to the “clever lighting and retouching”1 that was already apparent within the industry.
Even within the black and white photos Dahl-Wolfe took, the texture and material of the clothing still stood as as one of her key focal points. This was achieved by clever set dressing and good use of composition within the photographs.
Continuing through the exhibition it looks at Dahl-Wolfe’s era within Fashion photography, 1938-1949. When Dahl-Wolfe started, fashion photography was still among its early stages, this meant that there was room to develop and evolve the practice. Took in a variety of settings including Arizona, California Desert, North Africa and Mexico Dahl-Wolfe’s photos erd towards simple compositions that compliment the Dior and Balenciaga dresses.
Dahl-Wolfe had a knack for capturing her subjects unaware and in seemingly natural movements. Mary Jane Russell, who was one of the most successful fashion models of her time, worked with Dahl-Wolfe for over 12 years, producing 8 Bazaar covers and 100’s of editorials and adverts.
The exhibition has a good amount of information spanning Dahl-Wolfe’s early career and through to her retirement as a photographer. It is running from 20th October- 21st January 2018 at the Fashion and Textiles Museum, London. Prices are £9.90 for adults, £7.70 concessions and £6 for students (Remember your Student ID).
All images and videos courtesy of Charlotte Pearson (@c_textiles) unless otherwise stated.
 Louise Dahl-Wolfe- A style of her own, Fashion and Textile Museum. Pamphlet pg.3. 2017.
Last month Burberry held an exhibition of British photography, in celebration of their September 2017 collection at the Old Sessions House which is a Grade II listed building. The exhibition spaned out across three floors in 14 unique rooms and was curated by Christopher Bailey, Alasdair McLellan and Lucy Kumara. The British photography used within the exhibition documents all elements of the British culture, class and clans that form together to create what truly is and makes Great Britain, ‘Great’. We sent our intern, Lauren to the exhibition to find out more.
The 14 rooms were themed sections which break down the exhibition into a sort of narrative story, which helps the visitors to understand the background inspiration behind the Burberry, September 2017 collection. The unique rooms are titled for example, room 5 called ‘Romance’ was based upon the modern attitude towards race, equality and love in all shapes and sizes featuring the iconic photograph ‘Notting Hill Couple (1967)’ by Charlie Phillips. The photograph represents a British woman with a Jamaican-born male:
“Notting Hill was the London destination for many Afro-Caribbean immigrants who arrived in the UK in the immediate post-war period. A severe housing shortage was among the causes of racial tension there throughout the 1950s, and in 1958, the area was marred by race riots. A carnival was held the following year in response, celebrating Black British culture. In the summer of 1966, the first Notting Hill Carnival took place.”
The above information was taken out of the ‘Here We Are’ exhibition guide. The photograph is so beautiful and powerful as it shows how love will always conquer hate in all forms. As a united society we have grown to love one another and is fascinating to discover the history behind the Notting Hill Carnival that is still celebrated today, 51 years later.
The composition of the exhibition as a whole was perfect. The high ceilings and coffered dome allowed natural light to fill the Grade II listed building. The Palladian-style building was constructed in 1779 with a façade of solid Portland stone and columns which was some of the most expensive materials during that period. The building itself celebrates British architecture and could not of been a better fit to compliment the ambience of the exhibition.
Each photograph has carefully been selected and include work from talented photographers such as Dafydd Jones, Brian Griffin, Jane Bown, Jo Spence and many more. In particular the English documentary photographer, Daniel Meadows who lived on a double decker bus for 14 months in 1973-74. During this time he covered 10,000 miles and at each pit stop he photographed the town’s inhabitants, in total he took portraits of over 1000 individuals. My favourite portrait has to be of the 12 year old boy, John Payne with his pigeon, Chequer. Once again this photographer has captured a timeless moment of British culture, simply 3 young boys who would capture and race pigeons as a form of entertainment which in that time was a normal thing however it also makes you realise how much generations have evolved and adapted to the ever-growing nature of society who would now see this form of entertainment as cruelty to animals and morally wrong.
For us, our favourite garment of the September 2017 collection has to be the green lace applique dress, it is beautifully elegant and also comes in an option of pink too. It is clear how ‘The Garden As a Self-Portrait’ themed room has influenced the design of this garment. The ‘Here We Are’ exhibition is a tribute to the history of Britain, celebrating our culture from past to present day.
By Lauren Stewart September 2017