Following a Thread
A Portfolio Inspired by the Work of Anni Albers
Last fall, we visited three exhibitions that included Anni Albers’ work at: David Zwirner in New York: Anni Albers, The Museum of Modern Art: Taking a Thread for a Walk and the Art Institute of Chicago: Weaving Beyond the Bauhaus. Although we have always drawn inspiration from Anni Albers’ work, the coming together of these shows served to focus our attention on the processes and architecture of her weavings in a more reflective way. We decided at that time to challenge ourselves with the task of creating a postdigital portfolio that would take inspiration from her life and work.
As it happened, Covid-19 became part of our lives and we were forced into isolation mid process. We were fortunate to have our studio with a small proofing press, a CNC cutter and a quiet space to reflect on things. We decided to allow ourselves six months to complete the prints and a custom case for this portfolio using the materials we had on hand. This has kept us going during these challenging times.
This portfolio is the culmination of our exploration of Anni Albers’ work, weaving together the many individual surprises of discovery that we encountered along the way. We researched, sketched, made notes and took photos of elements large and small. In the studio, we refined our images by combining, altering and stripping away information until we arrived at discrete visual elements that embodied for us the vitality and visual vocabulary of Albers’ work, letting the process itself inform our next steps in a nondeterministic way through careful observation. As Albers said: “… listening to it, not dominating it makes us truly active, that is: to be active, be passive. The finer tuned we are to it, the closer we come to art.”1
In the end, we included eight 9”x11” prints. We entitled the series Following a Thread because each print reflects an aspect of Albers’ work or life that resonated with us as each print informed the next. We started with a re-imagination of a sample swatch but as we progressed through each edition, we became more attuned to a vision of the world as seen through Albers’ process and our image sources became more far afield ranging from cut fencing to entire sides of buildings. We also sought to represent some of the historical facts and influences in Albers’ life.
Like Albers, we are highly experimental in our process. The techniques that we used for the prints include 3D printing2,3, CNC cutting, etching, photopolymer, spray paint, watercolor and collage. Also, like Albers we are focused on the physicality of our prints. We build layered prints often over-printing multiple plates and create surfaces using techniques including embossment, layering and surface alteration.
We used the portfolio format so that we could show our images without the context of scale and in ambiguous juxtapositions to give our viewers a path to the rediscovery - moving away from recognition and identification toward seeing and exploration. We want our viewers to immerse themselves in the experience just as we did, share our excitement and leave with the desire to appreciate their own familiar environments in new ways.
We are pleased to present these prints as a record of our visit with Anni Albers and her influence on our work, not only in this portfolio but her influence on our work going forward.
Phyllis and Victor Merriam
Horstman, F. and Medina, K. (2020) Anni Albers – Experiments, New Britain Museum of American Art
Merriam, P. and Merriam, V. (2017) Print to Plate to Print. Printmaking Today. 26(4), pp. 28-29
Merriam, P., Merriam, V. and Kumar, V. (2020) 3D Viscosity Printing. Printmaking Today. 29(114), pp. 32-33
Note: We would like to thank Sage Reynolds for his excellent YouTube series on the construction of a clamshell box.