Meditation on Anni Albers’ Notebooks


I was hanging out at the McNally Jackson bookstore in NoLiTa NYC, when I started leafing through a reproduction of Anni Albers’ Notebooks.  I had seen some Anni Albers at Mast Books on Avenue A, so I was ready to appreciate it.

First off, Anni Albers was a textile artist, bauhaus student, black mountain college teacher, and wife of artist and educator Josef Albers. You can check out her wikipedia page and some great pinterest boards. What interests in these notebooks are the way she is constructing the patterns off a grid. There is something very mathematical and repetitive. But even still, there are slight changes and differences. In this piece even though everything is of a piece, there does not seem to be a repetitive unit except for the diagonal or rhombus.

I am very drawn to them, it is like doing excel art or something, or fractals or emergent designs from simple rules – generate art.  The textile is unlike painting is discrete. You essential have a bunch of small knots or loops, you can count the number of times this happens. You can count the warp and weft threads.  Paint is continuous. It washes over the surface. You do not count the paint strokes or paint molecules.

By now it is common knowledge that the Jaquard loom was the first computer. But, looking at these studies for fabric, I think we can say the first generative art was also a textile, probably because unique among the arts it is a discrete art.