Posts Tagged ‘Black Mountain College’

Culture | From Bauhaus to Black Mountain

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Hazel Larsen Archer, Merce Cunningham dancing,
contact sheet, c1952-53
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Leap Before You Look:
Black Mountain College 1933-1957

The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | California | USA
21 February > 15 May 2016



Josef Albers, Tenayuca, 1943
Oil on fibreboard
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



Adolph Hitler did modernism a great service. Paradoxically, in trying to stamp out the movement’s philosophies, in particular by systematically harassing the Bauhaus, whose staff eventually decided to close the school rather than compromise with the Third Reich, he guaranteed the international dissemination of modernist teaching.

Some of the key Bauhaus figures passed through London, leaving a legacy of teaching ideas that would be a major influence on institutions such as the Royal College of Art in the postwar period. But sooner or later, the majority of them emigrated to the USA.

When former director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe arrived in Chicago in 1938, where he was appointed head of the architecture school at the Armour Institute of Technology (later, Illinois Institute of Technology/IIT), László Moholy-Nagy had already established the New Bauhaus there the previous year. Walter Gropius, would become a senior professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, while Marcel Breuer taught at Yale. In 1933, the year the Bauhaus had ceased operations, Josef Albers, speaking no English, had also begun teaching at Yale. However, via a recommendation from the Museum of Modern Art, he was soon hired as the first head of Black Mountain College, a new art school in the relative obscurity of Ashville, North Carolina.

Far less well-known internationally than the New Bauhaus – only scant references are made to it via any currently available UK sources – 10 years ago London’s Arnolfini gallery held an exhibition of a limited selection of the school’s works – the Tate website honours it with just 200 words  – by the 1940s, Black Mountain College became the ideal of experimental arts education in America.

Anni Albers and Alexander Reed, Neck Piece, 1940
Aluminium strainer, paper clips, and chain
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society New York.
Photo Tim Nighswander/Imaging 4 Art



Buckminster Fuller, Black Mountain College,
1948/1990, Nancy Newhall

Gelatin silver print
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
©1948, Nancy Newhall, ©2014 The Estate
of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall.
Permission to reproduce courtesy of
Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd, Santa Fe, NM



John Cage, Hazel Larsen Archer
Gelatin silver print
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Conceived by the – by all accounts – brilliant scholar John A Rice, BMC was a completely new type of college based on US philosopher John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. Dewey – reputedly the most significant educational thinker of his era in America – believed that human beings learn through a ‘hands on’ approach and that teachers and students must learn together. Bauhaus students and staff had lived and eaten side by side and embraced a modern lifestyle that included the whole person – body, mind and soul. In the 1919 Bauhaus manifesto Walter Gropius had announced that theatre, lectures, poetry, music, and costume parties, were all part of the programme. The parties promoted contact between the college and the public, an idea that Dewey also endorsed.

Josef Albers, despite his language difficulties, would quickly develop a system that successfully combined both Dewey’s and Bauhaus educational principles, and assemble a board of directors that included Albert Einstein. With great aplomb he put together a formidable and diverse faculty made up of, among others, his talented textile-designer wife Anni Albers, Walter Gropius, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, R Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, and Cy Twombly. Famous alumni would include Robert Rauschenberg, who would describe Albers as having influenced him to do ‘exactly the reverse’ of what he had previously been taught, and John Cage, who staged his first ‘happening’ at the school.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S 272), c1955
Copper and iron wire
Private Collection. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.
Photo Laurence Cuneo



Albers left in 1949. As a result of a shift in trends that saw students and faculty drawn towards the cities of San Francisco and New York, in 1953, BMC, having endured 10 years longer than the Bauhaus, closed. A powerhouse, modern educational establishment, the college’s revolutionary and influential methods and ideas would fundamentally change the way in which the visual arts were taught across America, and leave behind a lasting legacy.

Presenting a broad selection of paintings, sculpture, textiles and photography, and including over 250 objects by nearly 100 artists, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 at The Hammer Museum is the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the school.

All images courtesy The Hammer Museum


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Sculpture | Ruth Asawa: Line as Form

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions
Christie’s Private Sales
Rockefeller Center
New York City, USA
Exhibition 6th -31st May, 2013

Associated with the formulation of modernism, the concept of line as form is an ineffable paradox that was first explored at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and early 30s. Unlikely then, in 1947, for high-school graduate Ruth Asawa, to stumble upon a language that expressed the complex notion in the looped-wire baskets used for selling eggs in Mexico’s markets. But the promising and curious student, born in 1926 of Japanese immigrant parents, who had grown up during The Great Depression and began studying drawing and painting with professional Japanese artists in the internment camps, where she and her family were confined during World War II, had already travelled to Mexico two years earlier to study Spanish and Mexican Art, and by the time her return visit came around had come under the influence of former Bauhaus master Josef Albers and architect Buckminster Fuller, both teachers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she had enrolled. ‘The artist must discover the uniqueness and integrity of the material’, Albers had explained, and intrigued with the idea of experimenting with wire as a medium, Asawa began to loop and twist it in a similar fashion to the Mexican basket makers, producing 3D forms – essentially, drawings in space – made from a single continuous wire. ‘I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line,’ Asawa said, ‘making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent.’ Many of these sculptures were designed to be hung from the ceiling, and later Asawa hit upon the idea of creating transparent forms within the transparent forms, increasing the complexity and playfulness of her creations.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Asawa began exhibiting her work – in the meantime having been married and given birth to two of the six children she would have by 1959 – in solo and group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of Modern Art and at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time she had met and formed a life-long friendship with legendary photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883 -1976). Cunningham, famed for her images of flowers, nudes and industrial landscapes, sensitively captured the sublime lightness and fluidity of Asawa’s work in still life compositions. She produced many pictures of the artist working, as well portraits in which Asawa becomes an element inextricably enmeshed with the sculptural forms of her creations.

In the 1960s, Asawa received major commissions to make public art and in 1970, her work was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair. So well-established as an artist was she by the early 70s that her sculpture and paintings began being shown in a string of retrospectives at important US venues – San Francisco Museum of Art (1973), Fresno Art Center (1978 and 2001). Asawa is reprented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco. Virtually unknown in Europe, in New York, her work can be found in major collections including that of the Solomon R Guggenheim and Whitney Museum of American Art; Objects & Apparations is her first major solo show in the city in over 50 years. Forty-eight works, including sculpture and works on paper – for sale or for private loan – will be presented in a show that takes place in the elevated setting of the 20th floor of 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at Rockefeller Center. Christie’s will offer the sculpture Untitled, above, from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection at their May 15th Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

Imogen Cunningham photographs from top
Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1956
(Ruth Holding a Form-Within-Form, 1952)

Untitled
Hanging, six-lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form
Estimate $250-350,000 (£160-225,000)

Ruth Asawa 2, 1957

All photos: archive pictures ©Imogen Cunningham
Courtesy Christie’s New York

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin