|Top: Albers teaching. Bottom left: Multiplex A, Josef Albers.|
Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art hosts a multi-media exhibit Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 from October 10, 2015 through January 24, 2016. This very thoughtful exhibit, organized by Helen Molesworth, who is also responsible for the catalog, reflects a growing interest in this small, rural school which had an out-sized influence on American art in the 20th century. Cultural figures who studied or taught at the school include Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, M. C. Richards, Ruth Asawa, John Cage, and, although she is not mentioned in the exhibit, one of my favorite children's book illustrators, Vera Williams.
|Left: Robert Rauschenberg, Minutiae. Right, Ruth Asawa, Untitled.|
Holland Cotter's comprehensive review of the show - really, almost a mini-history of Black Mountain - appeared in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/18/arts/design/the-short-life-and-long-legacy-of-black-mountain-college.html?_r=0
Founded by educator John Rice in 1933, in rural North Carolina, the school hired professor Josef Albers, who became a refugee after the Nazis effectively closed the Bauhaus, and is best known for his classic book (and now app) The Interaction of Color. Albers' wife Anni, a noted textile artist and teacher in her own right, taught design and weaving. Women artists, and artists of color such as Jacob Lawrence, found support in the progressive atmosphere of the school. Images of women associated with Black Mountain College, and their work, can be seen at http://mondo-blogo.blogspot.com/2010/07/women-of-black-mountain-college.html
|Top: Anni Albers, Monte Alban. Josef Albers, Variant/Adobe.|
|Knot 2, Anni Albers.|
|Anni Albers, necklaces, detail.|
The exhibit showcases some of Anni Albers jewelry made with found materials; thrift was a necessity at a school with no endowment. Bobby pins, paper clips, corks and hardware washers are all tranformed into wearable art. The washer necklace, below, is among the best known of Anni Albers' works, and there are many tutorials to help you make one. Note that the original necklace features washers in three graduated sizes, with the largest washers in the middle.
The school began during the Depression; there was little money for art supplies so Josef Albers sent students into the woods and fields to collect materials. The rural location continued to influence students throughout the history of the institution.
|Josef Albers, Leaf Study, with natural leaves.|
After Josef Albers left Black Mountain to head the Department of Design at Yale in 1950, his student Warren "Pete" Jennerjahn took over the design and color class; Jennerjahn's teaching materials are shown below. The colored paper has discolored over the years from adhesive, but this material is a rare record of pedagogical methods in the teaching of art and design. More about instructional methods and student life at Black Mountain can be found here: http://black-mountain-research.com/2015/08/11/interview-with-pete-jennerjahn/
|Teaching materials, Pete Jennerjahn.|
|Teaching materials, Pete Jennerjahn.|
There was little in the exhibit on the influence of Black Mountain on the teaching of art, although this issue was perhaps addressed in the catalog, which I have not read. I suspect that Albers' legacy at Yale, which certainly built on his work at Black Mountain, was more influential with academic institutions as they developed studio art curricula.
Black Mountain, always on shaky ground financially and never formally accredited, closed in 1957. The loom below, made by North Carolina craftsmen, is a survivor from Anni Albers' weaving workshop. This manual shuttle-craft loom, restored in 2013 by Mikkel Hansen, features a weaving-in-progress by Massachusetts College of Art student Sarah Peloquin.
|Restored Black Mountain loom with weaving by Sarah Peloquin.|