How Anni Albers’s matzah cover went from a family’s Passover table to the Jewish Museum

Gerard Ortiz

Every Passover when the Cohens set their table for the classic Seder meal, they took out a thing reserved for their table alone—a matzah cover woven for them by experimental textile artist Anni Albers. “It sat on the table next to my father, or my mom following he died,” says Tamar Cohen, daughter of Elaine Lustig and Arthur Cohen, who gifted the personalized-created ritual object to New York’s Jewish Museum in 2021. “The afikoman [a piece of unleavened bread hidden for children to find after the meal] was wrapped within in a napkin.”

A matzah include usually retains three pieces of unleavened bread at the middle of the Passover desk and is decorated with organic patterns. But as the abstracted warp and weft of this Albers piece may well recommend, matters ended up finished a little bit differently in the Higher East Facet townhouse of Lustig Cohen, a graphic designer and artist, and Cohen, an art critic and theologian. (When the address wasn’t in use, it sat on the top rated shelf of a modernist cabinet that Lustig Cohen designed herself.)

Lustig Cohen knew Albers by means of her former husband, designer Alvin Lustig, who was invited by Josef Albers to train at Black Mountain University in 1945. They remained mates, and Lustig Cohen commissioned Albers to make a matzah deal with in 1959. The result was a blue-green square fusing metallic cellophane with bast fiber—typical of the unanticipated combos of synthetic and natural products that Albers started making at the Bauhaus university. The term “matzah” is embroidered in gold Hebrew letters.

“Works of Judaica (Jewish ceremonial objects) by Albers are rather unusual,” Abigail Rapoport, Judaica curator at the Jewish Museum, claims. Albers, who was born into a German Jewish spouse and children but identified as secular, also developed Torah Ark curtains for Temple Emanu-El in Dallas (1957) and Rhode Island’s Temple B’Nai Israel (1961). “Those are home furniture layout a lot more than a touring piece of Judaica that was applied, that was touched, that basically experienced pieces of matzah within just it.”

Albers’s matzah protect is also distinctive simply because its function aligns with her feelings on textiles, her decided on medium. “If the mother nature of architecture is the grounded, the preset, the permanent, then textiles are its very antithesis,” Albers wrote in 1957. “Both are historical crafts…one for a settled lifestyle, the other for a lifestyle of wandering, a nomadic life.” The matzah that Albers’s go over was created to contain symbolizes bread that couldn’t increase mainly because of the rush to flee enslavement in Egypt, and wander on a 40-calendar year nomadic journey toward independence.

Anni Albers, 6 Prayers, 1965-66, cotton, linen, bast and silver thread The Jewish Museum, NY. Present of the Albert A. Checklist Loved ones. © 2022 The Josef and Anni Albers Basis / Artists Rights Culture (ARS), New York

The Jewish Museum was thrilled to get this modernist Judaica item not only mainly because it is a unusual instance of Albers relating to her Jewish heritage, but also simply because she and Lustig Cohen have historically been part of the museum’s material. The Jewish Museum commissioned Albers to make a Holocaust memorial, Six Prayers(1965-66), and mounted a retrospective of her do the job in 2000. At the same time, Lustig Cohen was shaping the graphic institutional id of the museum in the 1960s by building exhibition catalogues, brochures and other print materials. Her styles and paintings had been celebrated in a 2018-19 solo exhibition at the museum.

“The Jewish Museum was an apparent decision,” suggests Cohen about the selection to gift her childhood matzah go over to the museum. “I am pleased other people today ultimately get to share the joy my family members experienced.”

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