Connections & Formulations

TJC Gallery, Spartanburg SC
November 8, 2023 – January 20, 2024

Anni Albers


Anni Albers (1899-1994), a pioneering German-American artist, was renowned for her groundbreaking work in fiber art and printmaking. Born in Berlin, Germany, Anni was initially drawn to painting, but while enrolled at the pioneering Bauhaus school in Weimar, she became captivated by the tactile and rhythmic possibilities of textiles leading to a lifelong passion to elevate textile art to a respected form of fine art. In 1949, the Museum of Modern Art highlighted Anni’s influential career in a solo exhibition—the first of its kind for not only a textile artist but for a woman artist as well.

Despite being widely known for her textile designs, Anni also made significant contributions to the world of printmaking. In 1963 Anni joined a printmaking class at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop and experimented with the medium for her remaining artistic career. Her exploration of techniques, such as screen printing and lithography, allowed her to translate her innovative ideas from textiles onto paper. Anni’s prints often feature geometric patterns, rhythmic repetitions, and a keen sense of color, reflecting her Bauhaus training and her deep understanding of abstraction.

Anni’s prints, like her textiles, are characterized by their precision and meticulous attention to detail. Her ability to merge traditional craftsmanship with modernist aesthetics made her a key figure in both the Bauhaus movement and the development of modern art in the United States through her teaching and mentoring at the North Carolina arts enclave, Black Mountain College. Her legacy in the world of visual and material culture continues to inspire artists and designers today, showcasing the enduring influence of her ability to transcend traditional art-making boundaries.

For the first time in Spartanburg, the Johnson Collection is displaying all nine silkscreens from Anni’s portfolio, Connections. The autobiographical series visualizes pivotal moments in the artist’s lifelong explorations and mastery of weaving and printmaking, connecting the mediums and methods through her sixty-year career. These nine silkscreens were not an end to her artmaking practice, but rather experiments. As Anni stated in her seminal 1965 publication On Weaving, “beginnings are usually more interesting than elaborations and endings. Beginning means exploration, selection, development, a potent vitality not yet limited, not circumscribed by the tried and traditional.”

Josef Albers

Formulation : Articulation

Josef Albers (1888-1976) was a preeminent painter of color and hard-edge geometric abstraction, but his dedication to teaching permeates the entirety of his career—beginning in 1908 when he served as a schoolteacher in his hometown of Bottrop, Germany. In 1920, against a backdrop of political and economic insecurities, Josef enrolled at the newly established Weimar Bauhaus, an exploratory new school that blended art, craft, and functional design with modern technology. Within five years, he was listed as a master instructor for glass workshops. 

As Nazi power coalesced in his home country, Josef and his wife Anni departed the recently closed Bauhaus in 1933, eagerly accepting an invitation to establish a visual arts curriculum at Black Mountain College in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Although the language barrier was initially a challenge (Anni served as his interpreter), Josef engaged students through hands-on demonstrations using the simplest teaching tools: paper and pencil. He gave little credence to traditional academic instruction, emphasizing instead essential Bauhaus concepts such as form, color, and material.

In 1950, Josef was named head of Yale University’s Department of Art, where he remained until 1958. While there, he formulated his major painting series, Homage to the Square, a methodical study of color relationships. Josef’s Homages would later galvanize two of his former students, Norman Ives and Sewell Sillman, to collaborate with him on the landmark production of Interaction of Color (1963), a portfolio of his paintings in silkscreen prints, accompanied by texts and conceived as a teaching manual. 

Formulation : Articulation, published in 1972, is an extension of his color exercises designed to enhance viewers’ visual perceptions. The selected prints of color studies and educational materials on display offer an insightful exploration of how our perception of colors is profoundly influenced by the environments in which they are observed. In his accompanying text to Formulation, Josef explains, “until one has the experience of knowing he is being fooled by color, one cannot be expected to be very careful to look at things inquiringly.”