Contained within the well-known details of Anni Albers’ personal and professional biography as a Bauhaus émigré is another story of migration—of the ideas, influences, materials, and practices defining the Bauhaus that traveled with her to the United States in 1933, when she and her husband Josef resettled near Asheville, North Carolina to teach at Black Mountain College. Alongside the institution’s ambition to reconcile the art/craft divide, its innovative pedagogical model, and the distinctive language of modernist abstraction Albers and her fellow Bauhauslers brought to their new roles as teachers and designers in the U.S., she also carried with her an abiding interest in Andean weaving, a broad designation that includes textiles from various societies and time periods, including the Wari, Tiwanaku, and Pachacamac groups (500–900 C.E), the Ica, Chimu, and Chancay groups (900-1400 C.E), and the Inca society (1438–1534). Although it may appear out of context for a Bauhaus-trained weaver and designer of modern textiles, Albers was introduced to Andean weaving while still a student at the school, and it remained an important touchstone for her work throughout her career. In the U.S., she continued to share her knowledge about and enthusiasm for Andean weaving with her students and colleagues, and beginning in 1935, she would expand this interest to include Pre-Columbian and Meso-American textiles and sculpture through frequent trips to Mexico and the American Southwest.1
Ancient and indigenous textile cultures of the Americas—Andean weaving included—also played a critical role in the development of the work of fiber artists who came of age in the U.S. in the late 1950s and 1960s. Anyone who has studied fiber art of this period, myself included, knows this well. Artists such as Sheila Hicks, Alice Kagawa Parrott, Lenore Tawney, Ed Rossbach, Ruth Asawa, Claire Ziesler, and Kay Sekimachi, to name just a few of the pioneers of the field, openly professed an admiration for traditions ranging from Navaho weaving, to the use of the backstrap loom in Mexico and Central America, to the ancient weaving techniques of Peru. Like Albers, they studied examples from these textile traditions in museum collections and anthropological publications, encountered indigenous weavers through travel, acquired material for teaching and study purposes, and in unique ways replicated, appropriated, translated, incorporated, or otherwise drew inspiration from ancient and living textile traditions in the Americas for use in their own work.