Tag Archives: Rodney Graham

THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 12 artist Wassily Kandinsky

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Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Again today we take a look at the movie “The Longest Ride” which visits the Black Mountain College in North Carolina which existed from 1933 to 1957 and it birthed many of the top artists of the 20th Century. In this series we will be looking at the history of the College and the artists, poets and professors that taught there. This includes a distinguished list of  individuals who visited the college and at times gave public lectures.

The Longest Ride Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Britt Robertson Movie HD

My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards. In the 11th post I discuss the fact that Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain.

In the 12th post I feature Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who was featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE and the film showed Kandinsky teaching at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE which was not true according to my research. Evidently he was invited but he had to decline because of his busy schedule but many of his associates at BRAUHAUS did teach there

Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky

Friends in Exile: A Decade of Correspondence, 1929–1940

  • Edited and with an introduction by Jessica Boissel; Foreword by Nicholas Fox Weber

Josef Albers (1888–1976) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), artists and teachers at the Bauhaus, were exiled from Germany when the school was forced to close in the early 1930s. The 46 letters in this volume document the intimate exchange between these two friends in a period when the world was coming apart. Despite the tumult, each wrote to the other of his continuous creative evolution, while also providing rich impressions of his new world. For Kandinsky, this was Paris where he navigated a new avant-garde scene. For Albers, it was the United States where he and his wife Anni began teaching at the recently founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Kandinsky’s and Albers’s correspondence reveals their warmth and humor, their strength in coping with unexpected circumstances, and above all their conviction in the resilience and power of art. Archival photographs, artwork, and ephemera accompany the collection, which brings together the artists’ full extant correspondence for the first time in English and German.

Jessica Boissel was collections curator at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Nicholas Fox Weber is the executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

Bauhaus: Art as Life – Talk: An Insider’s Glimpse of Bauhaus Lfe

In the book “Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World,”  By Achim Borchardt-Hume, Tate Modern (Gallery)   it is noted that  J.A. Rice, head of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE, invited Wassily Kandinsky and his wife Nina to come to the college  and he told them they could find more supporters in the USA and get more representation in NY Galleries and even possibly a show at the Museum of Modern Art in NY, but they said had to put off a trip. However, in the movie THE LONGEST RIDE, Kandinsky is seen lecturing at Black Mountain College which may have actually happened since many distinguished guests did visit the college and lecture to the local community in the process.

Bauhaus Utopia, Paul Klee and Some Character Design

 Haus party … students at the Bauhaus in 1931. Photograph: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Motif

Bauhaus canteen,Bauhaus canteen, Dessau 1930 Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Personally I had a pretty intimate experience with the term “Bauhaus”. I graduated from an old liberal art college in New York who followed a Bauhaus course arrangement in their undergraduate Art Department. I lived in a new Bauhaus style dorm in my first year there. I later studied post-war architecture history with an emphasis on Bauhaus.

I didn’t like it at the time. I did not take all the required classes in art department. I did not like the dorm’s height or contour that blocked my view when I was walking. I did not like the inner design of it that did not serve its purpose. I did not like the Bauhaus slides in my favorite architecture history class because they were impressively ugly.

To some extent, coming across this term in art history study aroused my memory at the east coast. Now given this chance, I seriously revisited this term and felt refreshed towards it.


 Bauhaus Story

Lucia Moholy Photograph by Michael von Graffenried 1987

Bauhaus 1919-1933 – A Chronology

The Bauhaus occupies a place of its own in the history of 20th century culture, architecture, design, art and new media. One of the first schools of design, it brought together a number of the most outstanding contemporary architects and artists and was not only an innovative training centre but also a place of production and a focus of international debate. At a time when industrial society was in the grip of a crisis, the Bauhaus stood almost alone in asking how the modernization process could be mastered by means of design.

Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus rallied masters and students who sought to reverse the split between art and production by returning to the crafts as the foundation of all artistic activity and developing exemplary designs for objects and spaces that were to form part of a more human future society. Following intense internal debate, in 1923 the Bauhaus turned its attention to industry under its founder and first director Walter Gropius (1883–1969). [16]

Henry van de Velde’s building of 1904, housed The Bauhaus from 1919 to 1925.

Dessau Period 1925-1932 – Prosperity of Bauhaus

The Dessau phase of the Bauhaus is characterized by the consolidation of its orientation towards the new unity of art and technology, which was initiated in Weimar in 1923. In Dessau, the Staatliches Bauhaus became the Hochschule für Gestaltung (school of design). In a departure from craftsmanship, there were now professors and students in place of masters, journeymen and apprentices. In the aspiring industrial city of Dessau, the Bauhaus found the ideal environment for the design of models for industrial mass production. [17]

Surprisingly, following the politically motivated closure of the Bauhaus in Weimar, the change of location to Dessau did not result in a crisis in the school. If anything, it fostered its consolidation on the path to the design of new industrial products for the masses.[17]

On Gropius’s recommendation, the director’s post was handed over to the Swiss architect and urbanist Hannes Meyer, previously the head of the architectural department established at the Bauhaus in 1927. Cost-cutting industrial mass production was to make products affordable for the masses. His rallying cry at the Bauhaus was, “The needs of the people instead of the need for luxury.”[17] Despite his successes, Hannes Meyer’s Marxist convictions became a problem for the city council amidst the political turbulence of Germany in 1929, and the following year he was removed from his post. [17]

With Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1930, the Bauhaus acquired its last and – in contrast to Gropius and Meyer – least politically minded director. The school’s orientation towards architecture grew under his direction; however, there was also an increasing lack of socio-political reference.[17] The students were most affected by the ban on any type of political activity and the discontinuation of production lines. Under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Bauhaus developed from 1930 into a technical school of architecture with subsidiary art and workshop departments.[17] After the Nazis became the biggest party in Dessau at the elections, the Bauhaus was forced to move in September 1932. It moved to Berlin but only lasted for a short time longer. The Bauhaus dissolved itself under pressure from the Nazis in 1933. [17]

Walter Gropius’ building for Dessau Bauhaus.

Recently I read The Bauhaus Ideal: Then and Now. In the book, William Smock presented a vivid overview of the Modernist design and its legacy. I got to know more about the famous Bauhaus dictums “form follows function”, “truth to materials” ,”less is more”.

The Bauhaus story first started out as a school of design. Walter Gropius was the first director of this modern art and design school called Bauhaus. It was an invented word: BAU = Building , HAUS = House. He wanted to unify arts, combining fine art and design. So people could see and use aesthetically pleasing, yet functional artworks/products. However, the Bauhaus school had to go through ups and downs. It had altogether three directors which represented three different periods. It was controlled by Nazis and forced to shut down for good during WWII. Later, it got rebuilt as “the Black Mountain College” in the USA. During this process, it kept changing and widely affected our modern design and aesthetics.  [1]


Masters in House

bauhaus staff

When I read the Chinese version of The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism [18], I saw other sides of those masters who created a new wave of design movement in the early 20th century. I realized that they all had their own belief and personality. The Bauhaus “internal” path was not at all as smooth as we could imagine. What amazed me was their collaboration in building the Bauhaus utopia. Even though they were all giants in their fields, they all served a greater purpose: art enlightenment. This openness of artists’ teamwork truly moved me. Working with others, sharing ideas, not fear of losing credit would happen when the whole team valued growing together and becoming better. The timelessness of Bauhaus was a testament to their achievement.


Paul Klee

Reading the book of The Bauhaus: Masters and Students by Themselves [2], I became very fond of Paul Klee’s works. Since the Bauhaus contained a wide range of styles and values, I chose to study Paul Klee’s art and do a formal breakdown of his work.

Klee said, “A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” [3] In Klee’s art, I saw an “untutored simplicity”[9]. This might be a result of his admiration for children’s “positive wisdom” [10]. “The more helpless these children are, the more instructive their art, for even at this stage there is corruption ‐ when children start to absorb, or even imitate, developed works of art, ” he once said.[10] He tried to break the traditional rules constantly. He didn’t want to have any anticipation or presumption in his creating process. He wanted to stay free and discover things along the way.

Indeed, I always thought that his work is poetic. As I read his book did I recall that when I was a very little kid, it was his painting that I pointed at a music note in it and sang to my parent. I knew nothing about him or that image at that time. But I felt it. Then I read about his theory of “active lines” and “passive planes” in the book[3], I could still feel the same individual behind it – to me, his works were happy, carefree melodies. Therefore, I was not surprised to know that he was also a musician. He played violin to a professional level, yet his father, a music teacher, always encouraged his passion in art. He was a gifted and diligent artist who naturally related drawing to music. He often practiced the violin as a warm up for painting.[7] From 1921 to 1924/25 in Weimar, Klee taught classes in elemental design theory as part of the preliminary course. [8] In his Bauhaus lecture, he even compared the visual rhythm in drawings to the structural, percussive rhythms of a musical composition by the master of counterpoint, Johann Sebastian Bach. And yes, he succeeded in doing so.[7]

Klee said, “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” [3] Klee tried to reveal his vision. As a Modern master, he said, “formerly we used to represent things visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are other, more latent realities…”[11] But how to make the unseen seen? “Klee challenged traditional boundaries separating writing and visual art by exploring a new expressive, and largely abstract or poetic language of pictorial symbols and signs.”[12] That’s why I still remembered a music note in his painting. He used symbols as a language to describe his poem or song; but he used the symbols so simple that even a child could spot them out. I believe this was one of his ways to reveal something invisible to us. But were those jargons?  He did not shout out any definition of his vision if he only used abstract symbols. He might be hiding, or he was simply open to any explanation that the viewers would have. He delivered a vague situation for the audience to experience. I believe this was another reason that his works stayed expressive and provoked interaction.

On the other hand, Martin Heidegger commented Klee’s work that something never seen before was visible in these paintings.[13] This might be another way to make the unseen visible. Klee once said, “Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.” [6]

What were those things never seen before? Well, here I found some other comments on Klee’s works.

“Klee’s career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities – its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity), he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object, from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches, makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space. So most of the time Klee could get away with a shorthand organization that skimped the spatial grandeur of high French modernism while retaining its unforced delicacy of mood. Klee’s work did not offer the intense feelings of Picasso’s, or the formal mastery of Matisse’s.The spidery, exact line, crawling and scratching around the edges of his fantasy, works in a small compass of post-Cubist overlaps, transparencies, and figure- field play-offs. In fact, most of Klee’s ideas about pictorial space came out of Robert Delaunay’s work, especially the Windows. The paper, hospitable to every felicitous accident of blot and puddle in the watercolor washes, contains the images gently. As the art historian Robert Rosenblum has said, ‘Klee’s particular genius [was] to be able to take any number of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the early twentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and translate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child’s enchanted world.

“If Klee was not one of the great form-givers, he was still ambitious. Like a miniaturist, he wanted to render nature permeable, in the most exact way, to the language of style – and this meant not only close but ecstatic observation of the natural world, embracing the Romantic extremes of the near and the far, the close-up detail and the “cosmic” landscape. At one end, the moon and mountains, the stand of jagged dark pines, the flat mirroring seas laid in a mosaic of washes; at the other, a swarm of little graphic inventions, crystalline or squirming, that could only have been made in the age of high-resolution microscopy and the close-up photograph. There was a clear link between some of Klee’s plant motifs and the images of plankton, diatoms, seeds, and micro-organisms that German scientific photographers were making at the same time. In such paintings, Klee tried to give back to art a symbol that must have seemed lost forever in the nightmarish violence of World War I and the social unrest that followed. This was the Paradise-Garden, one of the central images of religious romanticism – the metaphor of Creation itself, with all species growing peaceably together under the eye of natural (or divine) order.“- From Robert Hughes, “The Shock of the New” [4]


Now let us look at some art.

Formal Analysis of Paul Klee’s Work Senecio (An old man)

Senecio, Paul Klee, 1922, oil on gauze, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel

Shape & Line

We see many lines, either hard contours or edges of colors. A big circle, triangles, ellipses and rectangles depict the subject – a human. Proportions are way off. With the face being divided into two halves, basic geometric shapes lay out unsymmetrically. Two halves of the face look unbalanced. Because of the nose shape happening on the left side, we can almost guess that the two halves are separate sides of the face ( This reminds me of Picasso’s works that reveal all the hidden aspects of a figure at the same time ). Lines join together to create eye stopping points. We see shapes mainly divided by flat colors. The lips are abstracted into two squares. The left brow forms a sharp triangle while the right brow remains a smooth curve. Their difference creates different rhythms on the two parts of the face. Apart from the centered eye area, we generally see lines in vertical and horizontal directions, which is overall unified.

Color & Value

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.59.17 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.59.17 PM

Primary warm colors, red, yellow and white, take the lead. We see pink, purple and orange colors too. Colors do not respond to value changes. Values do not respond to light and volume changes. However, the right side’s yellow is higher in saturation and brightness than the left one’s; the orange down below head is less saturated and darker than the upper area background. Also, the value palette shows that there is only one or two darker hues. It is very much possible that Klee uses value to separate colored shapes. High contrast colors accentuate the playfulness of his patterns.

Texture

We see texture of rough brushworks everywhere except for the pupil areas. In the pupils, we see flat rouge. Also, the eye and eyebrow areas have line contours. They are connected, leaning towards one side. Their content density creates our focus.


Character Design

As the saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery. After studying the Bauhaus story and ideal as well as Paul Klee’s work, I fell in love with the Bauhaus age. It had its limit, yet so full of youth and vigor. How I wish to go back to the Bauhaus “golden 10 years” (1923-1933) to witness the masters’ glory. However, time flies only forward. Today, when I look at the master’s work, there is something I can do more than merely looking at the beautiful surface of the final product. I did formal analysis and guessed his process, pretending that I would have been one of his students in the Bauhaus workshop. Hence, when I create something in the master’s style, instead of simply mirroring what I see, I can explain what I do.

Now I am designing characters based on the Bauhaus ideals after studying Paul Klee’s vision of form and color. 

Paul Klee also made some puppets for his son. When making my designs, I looked at some images from this book below. “The artist neither counts them as a component of his oeuvre, nor does he list them in his catalogue raisonné. Thirty of the preserved puppets are stored at the Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern. ” [5]

Paul Klee Hand Puppets Edited by Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Foreword by Andreas Marti, Texts by Christine Hopfengart, Aljoscha Klee, Felix Klee, Osamu Okuda, Tilman Osterwold, Eva Wiederkehr Sladeczek English 2007. 152 pp., 182 ills., 86 in color 23.00 x 26.60 cm hardcover ISBN 978-3-7757-1740-3

I want to mix those element with geometric shapes and flat colors. Going after Paul Klee’s belief, I will intentionally mimic children’s artwork. When composing my lines and colors, I will connect ambiguous shapes and forms with minimal details. Applying textures to those simple, crisp shapes will result in a collage-like style, which is a lovely trick for eyes that the modern digital media can make. In this sense, I respond to the tech reality of my age, the digital media.

Here are my character designs of a male figure and a female figure:

Character Design by Yunxia 2015

How my design reflects my knowledge and their ideas:

Design comment by Yunxia


Bibliography

1. William Smock, “The Bauhaus Ideal: Then and Now”, Academy Chicago Publishers, 2004

2. Frank Whitford, The Bauhaus: Masters and Students by Themselves, October 1, 1993

3. Klee and his teaching notes(Chinese Edition) (Chinese) Paperback, Chongqing University Press Pub. Date :2011-6-1, January 1, 2000

4. http://www.artchive.com/artchive/K/klee.html

5. Daniel Kupper: Paul Klee. p. 81

6. As quoted in the film Der Bauhaus, produced by TV-Rechte in Germany (1975)

7. Andrew Kagan, Paul Klee: Art and Music , Cornell Univ Press, 1983

8. http://bauhaus-online.de/en/atlas/personen/paul-klee

9. Paul Klee, On Modern Art , Faber & Faber, 1966

10. Susanna Partsch, Klee 1879 ‐ 1940 , Taschen, 1999. p 17

11. Fred Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, Volume 2 , Clark Baxter, 2009. p 948

12. Rocky Mountain, Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels , Denver, CO, June 2012. p. 2

13. Watson, Stephen H., Heidegger, Paul Klee, and the Origin of the Work of Art , Academic journal article from The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 60, No. 2

14. Art in Theory: 1900-1990, An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, pp. 338-343

15. Paul Klee – Making the Visible, Nedaa Elias, January 22, 2014

16. http://www.bauhaus-dessau.de/bauhaus-1919-19333.html

17. http://www.bauhaus-dessau.de/dessau-period-1925-1932.html

18. Nicholas Fox Weber, The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism,ISBN:9787111409199,Jixiegongye Press Pub. Date: April 1st, 2013

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Composition VIII
1923 

Black Mountain College

Uploaded on Apr 18, 2011

Class Project on Black Mountain College for American Literature

December 30, 2007

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Autumn Landscape with Boats, 1908

MODERNISM MAGAZINE
Winter 2002-2003, pp. 48-55

Copyright © 2002. Modernism Magazine.

I found the Bauhaus movement very interesting and the article above even noted:

The leading role of the Bauhaus, such as Walter Gropius, Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Xanti Schawinsky, Paul Klee, Wasily Kandinsky experimented synthesis among human, space and machine not only in their own area, but also on the stage. They believed that their research about mechanical and abstract stage design, costume, doll, dance, humorous movement, light and sound could even make a change of the modern human body and mind.

What exactly were some of these artists attempting to do and why does this statement finish with the bold assertion “could even make a change of the modern human body and mind”?

Let me tell you what  Wasily Kandinsky (who was seen in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) and Paul Klee were attempting to do. They wanted to make a connection with art and find a word of direction from art from their lives. They were secular men so they were not looking for any spiritual direction from a personal God. However, the Bible clearly notes that God exists and we all know He is there. Romans Chapter one asserts, “For that which is KNOWN about God is EVIDENT to them and MADE PLAIN IN THEIR INNER CONSCIOUSNESS, because God  has SHOWN IT TO THEM…” (Romans 1:19).

Every person has this inner conscious that is screaming at them that God exists and that is why so many of the sensitive men involved in art have been looking for a message to break forth. Here we see something similar with the life and quest of the artist Paul Klee. I read on January 15, 2007 the blog post “Strolling Through Modern Art,” and I wanted to share a portion of that post:

This particular drawing came to mind while I was looking at the Art Institute of Chicago’s website and I came across some artwork by Joan Miro, who is exhibited at AIC. Vee Mack’s drawings generally demonstrate better draughtsmanship than this drawing displays but I thought that the concept was amusing and the implied commentary worth considering. Are you a fan of Joan Miro, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning and Wasily Kandinsky?What does this elderly gentleman think of his stroll through the paramecium of the artworld? Francis Schaeffer noted in “The God Who is There” that Paul Klee and similar artists, introduced the idea of artwork generated in a manner similar to how a Ouija Board generates words from outside the artist’s conscious intent. Schaeffer observed that Klee “hopes that somehow art will find a meaning, not because there is a spirit there to guide the hand, but because through it the universe will speak even though it is impersonal in its basic structure.” [page 90] Why would an impersonal universe have something to say? What does meaninglessness have to communicate? Schaeffer explains that “these men will not accept the only explanation which can fit the facts of their own experience, they have become metaphysical magicians. No one has presented an idea, let alone demonstrated it to be feasible, to explain how the impersonal beginning, plus time, plus chance, can give personality . . . As a result, either the thinker must say man is dead, because personality is a mirage; or else he must hang his reason on a hook outside the door and cross the threshold into the leap of faith which is the new level of despair.” [page 115]Vee Mack’s sketch demonstrates the paradox of an average man viewing images, which represent the nonsense of Dadaism and chaos. It is the overeducated who will look at something that is inherently meaningless and try to find deep meaning in it, while the average man sees it and observes with reasonable common sense that this or that is an absurd waste of time.By the way, while it may appear as though I am favoring one artist for these posts, I am not receiving the variety of artwork that I had hoped for from other artists and I happen to have ample access to much of Vee Mack’s unpublished portfolio. Therefore, until I receive other artwork, I will have to rely on what I have on hand.

Posted by at 4:35 PM
Paul Klee
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Michael Gaumnitz : Paul Klee The Silence of the Angel (2005)

Published on Aug 17, 2013

PAUL KLEE: THE SILENCE OF THE ANGEL is a visual journey into the work of a major painter of the 20th century by Michael Gaumnitz, an award-winning documentarian of artists and sculptors. Like Kandinsky and Delaunay, Klee revolutionized the traditional concepts of composition and color.

Gropius with Béla Bartók and Paul Klee in 1927

Practitioners at Black Mountain College

Willem de Kooning http://www.biography.com/people/willem-de-kooning-9270057

(1904-1997) Abstract Expressionist Painter, Sculptor

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/willem-de-kooning-1433

Elaine de Kooning http://www.theartstory.org/artist-de-kooning-elaine.htm

(1918-1989) artist, art critic, portraitist and teacher.

Robert Rauschenberg Dmitri Kasterine

(1925-2008) Painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and performance artist

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/robert-rauschenberg-1815

Cy Twombly American painter Cy Twombly at the Louvre museum in Paris. Twombly has died aged 83. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP

(1928-2011) Painter, draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/cy-twombly-2079

John Cage photo: Susan Schwartzenberg

(1912-1992) composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, printmaker.

http://www.last.fm/music/John+Cage

Buckminster Fuller Buckminster Fuller at Black Mountain College with models of geodesic domes, 1949 © Buckminster Fuller Institute

(1895-1983) Philosopher, designer, architect, artist, engineer, entrepreneur, author, mathematician, teacher and inventor

http://designmuseum.org/design/r-buckminster-fuller

Annie Albers © 1947 Nancy Newhall. © 2003 The Estate of Beaumont Newhall and Nancy Newhall, Courtesy of Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd., Santa Fe, New Mexico

(1899- 1994) textile designer, weaver, writer and printmaker

http://www.albersfoundation.org/Albers.php?inc=Introduction

Mary C Richards blackmtnbarb.blogspot.com

(1916-1999) Poet, Potter and writer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._C._Richards

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Good article:

Wassily Kandinsky Life and Art Periods

“Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.”

WASSILY KANDINSKY SYNOPSIS

One of the pioneers of abstract modern art, Wassily Kandinsky exploited the evocative interrelation between color and form to create an aesthetic experience that engaged the sight, sound, and emotions of the public. He believed that total abstraction offered the possibility for profound, transcendental expression and that copying from nature only interfered with this process. Highly inspired to create art that communicated a universal sense of spirituality, he innovated a pictorial language that only loosely related to the outside world, but expressed volumes about the artist’s inner experience. His visual vocabulary developed through three phases, shifting from his early, representative canvases and their divine symbolism to his rapturous and operatic compositions, to his late, geometric and biomorphic flat planes of color. Kandinsky’s art and ideas inspired many generations of artists, from his students at the Bauhaus to the Abstract Expressionists after World War II.

WASSILY KANDINSKY KEY IDEAS

Painting was, above all, deeply spiritual for Kandinsky. He sought to convey profound spirituality and the depth of human emotion through a universal visual language of abstract forms and colors that transcended cultural and physical boundaries.
Kandinsky viewed non-objective, abstract art as the ideal visual mode to express the “inner necessity” of the artist and to convey universal human emotions and ideas. He viewed himself as a prophet whose mission was to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.
Kandinsky viewed music as the most transcendent form of non-objective art – musicians could evoke images in listeners’ minds merely with sounds. He strove to produce similarly object-free, spiritually rich paintings that alluded to sounds and emotions through a unity of sensation.

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Francis Schaeffer pictured below

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Here are some comments from Francis Schaeffer (includes two quotes from David Douglas Duncan) from the episode “The Age of Fragmentation” which is part of the film series HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE?

Cezanne reduced nature to what he considered its basic geometric forms. In this he was searching for an universal which would tie all kinds of individual things in nature together, but this gave a broken fragmented appearance to his pictures.
File:Paul Cézanne 047.jpg
Les Grandes Baigneuses, 1898–1905: the triumph of Poussinesque stability and geometric balance.
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In his bathers there is much freshness, much vitality. An absolute wonder in the balance of the picture as a whole, but he portrayed not only nature but also man himself in fragmented form. 
I want to stress that I am not minimizing these men as men. To read van Gogh’s letters is to weep for the pain of this sensitive man. Nor do I minimize their talent as painters. Their work often has great beauty indeed. But their art did become the vehicle of modern man’s view of fractured truth and light. As philosophy had moved from unity to fragmentation so did painting. 
From this point onward one could either move to the extreme of an ultranatural naturalism, such as the photo-realists, or to the extreme of freedom, whereby reality becomes so fragmented that it disappears, an man is left to make up his own personal world. In 1912 abstract Expressionist painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) wrote an article entitled “About the Question of Form” in THE BLUE RIDER saying that , since the old harmony (a unity of knowledge) had been lost, only two possibilities remained–extreme naturalism or extreme abstraction. Both, he said, were equal.  
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), an American author living in Paris, was important at this time. It was at her home that many artists and writers met and talked of these things, hammering out in talk the new ideas–many of them long before they personally became famous. Picasso initially met Cezanne at her home.
File:Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.jpg
With this painting modern art was born. Picasso painted it in 1907 and called it Les Demoiselles d’AvignonIt unites Cezzanne’s fragmentation with Gauguin’s concept of the noble savage using the form of the African mask which was popular with Parisian art circle of that time. In great art technique is united with worldview and the technique of fragmentation works well with the worldview of modern man. A view of a fragmented world and a fragmented man and a complete break with the art of the Renaissance which was founded on man’s humanist hopes.
Here man is made to be less than man. Humanity is lost. Speaking of a part of Picasso’s private collection of his own works David Douglas Duncan says “Of course, not one of these pictures  was actually a portrait, but his prophecy of a ruined world.”
But Picasso himself could not  live  with this loss of the human. When he was in love with Olga and later Jacqueline he did not consistently paint them in a fragmented way. At crucial points  of their relationship he painted them as they really were with all his genius, with all their humanity. When he was painting his own young children he did not use fragmented techniques and presentation. Picasso had many mistresses, but these were the two women he married. It is interesting that Jacqueline kept one of these paintings in her private sitting room. Duncan says  of this lovely picture, “Hanging precariously on an old nail driven high on one of La Californie’s (Picasso and Jacqueline’s home) second floor sitting room walls, a portrait of Jacqueline Picasso reigns supreme. The room is her  domain…Painted in oil with charcoal, the picture has been at her side since shortly after she and the maestro met…She loves it and wants in nearby.”  
I want you to understand that I am not saying that gentleness and humanness is not present in modern art, but as the techniques of modern art advanced, humanity was increasingly fragmented–as we shall see, for example, with Marcel Duchamp The artists carried the ideo of a fragmented reality onto the canvas. But at the same time being sensitive men, the artists realized where this fragmented reality was taking man, that is, to the absurdity of all things. ….The opposite of fragmentation would be unity, and the old philosophic thinkers thought they could bring forth this unity from  the humanist base and then they gave this (hope) up. 
Hans Arp (1887-1966), an Alsatian sculptor, wrote a poem which appeared in the final issue of the magazine De Stijl (The Style) which was published by the De Stijl group of artists led by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. Mondrian (1872-1944) was the best-known artist of this school. He was not of the Dada school which accepted and portrayed absurdity. Rather, Mondrian was hoping to paint the absolute. Hand Arp, however, was a Dadaist artist connected with De Stijl. His power “Für Theo Van Doesburg,” translated from German reads:

the head downward
the legs upward
he tumbles into the bottomless
from whence he came

he has no more honour in his body
he bites no more bite of any short meal
he answers no greeting
and is not proud when being adored

the head downward
the legs upward
he tumbles into the bottomless
from whence he came

like a dish covered with hair
like a four-legged sucking chair
like a deaf echotrunk
half full half empty

the head downward
the legs upward
he tumbles into the bottomless
from whence he came

Dada carried to its logical conclusion the notion of all having come about by chance; the result was the final absurdity of everything, including humanity.

The man who perhaps most clearly and consciously showed this understanding of the resulting absurdity fo all things was Marcel Duchamp (1887-1969). He carried the concept of fragmentation further in Nude Descending a Staircase (1912), one version of which is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art–a painting in which the human disappeared completely. The chance and fragmented concept of what is led to the devaluation and absurdity of all things. All one was left with was a fragmented view of a life which is absurd in all its parts. Duchamp realized that the absurdity of all things includes the absurdity of art itself. His “ready-mades” were any object near at hand, which he simply signed. It could be a bicycle wheel or a urinal. Thus art itself was declared absurd.

stairs

stool wheel

The historical flow is like this: The philosophers from Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard onward, having lost their hope of a unity of knowledge and a unity of life, presented a fragmented concept of reality; then the artists painted that way. It was the artists, however, who first understood that the end of this view was the absurdity of all things. Temporally these artists followed the philosophers, as the artists of the Renaissance had followed Thomas Aquinas. In the Renaissance it was also philosophy, followed by the painters (Cimabue and Giotto), followed by the writers (Dante). This was the same order in which the concept of fragmented reality spread in the twentieth century. The philosophers first formulated intellectually what the artists later depicted artistically.” (187-190)

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Picasso and Olga Khokhlova

Their son Paulo (Paul) was born in 1921 (and died in 1975), influencing Picasso’s imagery to turn to mother and child themes.  Paul’s three children are Pablito (1949-1973), Marina (born in 1951), and Bernard (1959).  Some of the Picassos in this Saper Galleries exhibition are from Marina and Bernard’s  personal Picasso collection.

Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Paul Picasso as a Child.

Portrait of Paul Picasso as a Child. 1923. Oil on canvas.
Collection of Paul Picasso, Paris, France.

In 1917 ballerina Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) met Picasso while the artist was designing the ballet “Parade” in Rome, to be performed by the Ballet Russe.  They married in the Russian Orthodox church in Paris in 1918 and lived a life of conflict.  She was of high society and enjoyed formal events while Picasso was more bohemian in his interests and pursuits.  Their son Paulo (Paul) was born in 1921 (and died in 1975), influencing Picasso’s imagery to turn to mother and child themes.  Paul’s three children are Pablito (1949-1973), Marina (born in 1951), and Bernard (1959).  Some of the Picassos in this Saper Galleries exhibition are from Marina and Bernard’s  personal Picasso collection.

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The Longest Ride: Sweet romantic Sparks

The Longest Ride (2015) • View trailer 
3.5 stars. Rated PG-13, for sensuality, fleeting nudity, dramatic intensity and brief war violence
By Derrick Bang

You gotta hand it to Nicholas Sparks: He certainly knows what sells.

Ten films have been made from his novels, since 1999’s Message in a Bottle, and most have been well received: absolutely indisputable date-bait. No. 11, based on his novel The Choice, already is waiting in the wings for release next year.

Luke (Scott Eastwood) surprises Sophia (Britt Robertson) with a “dinner date” that’s
actually an early evening picnic at the edge of a gorgeous shoreline. Could anything be
more romantic?

Some of the more recent big-screen adaptations, though, have suffered from a surfeit of predictable Sparks clichés: the too-precious, meet-cute encounters between young protagonists; rain-drenched kisses; the contrived tragedies; the wildly vacillating happy/sad shifts in tone. Indifferent directors and inexperienced leads haven’t helped, with low points awarded to Miley Cyrus’ dreadful starring role in 2010’s The Last Song, and the on-screen awkwardness of James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan, in The Best of Me.

Which makes The Longest Ride something of a relief, actually, because its stars — Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson — share genuine chemistry. We eagerly anticipate their scenes together, in part because they occupy only a portion of their own film. In yet another Sparks cliché, this narrative’s other half belongs to an entirely different set of lovers, whose swooning courtship and marriage unfold half a century earlier, as recounted via — you guessed it — a box filled with old letters.

Sparks obviously can’t resist the impulse to cannibalize his own classic, The Notebook … which, come to think of it, also got re-worked in The Best of Me. Never argue with excess, I guess.

Anyway…

Transplanted big-city girl Sophia (Robertson), a senior majoring in modern art at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University, is inches away from graduation and an eagerly anticipated internship at a prestigious New York gallery. Romance is the last thing on the mind of this serious scholar, until she’s dragged to a bull-riding competition by best gal-pal Marcia (the adorably perky Melissa Benoist, who deserves her own starring role, and soon).

Inexplicably caught up in the suspense of these dangerous, eight-second battles between man and horned beast, Sophia can’t take her eyes off Luke (Eastwood). He’s a former champ on the comeback trail, following a disastrous accident, a year earlier, which left him with A Mysterious And Potentially Fatal Condition.

As is typical of such melodramatic touches, we never learn the exact nature of Luke’s affliction, only that he courts death — more than usual — every time he now gets on a bull. And that he pops pills, presumably pain pills, like peppermints.

Anyway…

Sophia and Luke have nothing in common, and yet they’re drawn together; a hesitant relationship blossoms, despite the certain knowledge that Sophia soon will depart for New York. These early scenes are charming: scripted simply but effectively by Craig Bolotin, and engagingly played by our two leads, who are quite good together. Sophia can’t resist Luke’s polite Southern gentility; frankly, neither can we.

Heading home late one rain-swept night, they come across a crashed car whose elderly driver, Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), is hauled from the wreck just in time … along with a box he begs Sophia to retrieve. Later, in the calm of the hospital where Ira begins his recovery, Sophia discovers that the box is filled with scores of his old love letters to Ruth, his deceased wife.

Ira’s condition is frail, his mental state approaching surrender. Perceiving that the letters bring solace to this old man, even though his eyesight isn’t up to the challenge of enjoying them himself, Sophia offers to read them aloud: a task she soon embraces on a daily basis.

(I’m not sure how Sophia finds the time for her studies, her relationship with Luke and her sessions with Ira … but there you go.)

And, thus, we’re swept back to the early 1940s, as a younger Ira (Jack Huston) meets and falls in love with Ruth (Oona Chaplin), a European Jewish refugee newly arrived in the States with her parents. Ira, besotted by this enchanting young woman, can’t believe that such a sophisticated beauty would spare a second glance at a humble shopkeeper’s son, and yet she does. Indeed, Ruth is unexpectedly forward for the era, which certainly adds to her allure.

The parallels are deliberate: Ruth is enchanted by modern art, particularly works produced by the free-thinking students/residents at nearby Black Mountain College. Ira can’t begin to comprehend her fascination with the likes of Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg, but he’s willing to learn … just as Luke can’t imagine why anybody would pay thousands of dollars for “a bunch of black squiggly lines on a white canvas.” (Nor can I, for what it’s worth.)

Scripter Craig Bolotin wisely improves upon Sparks’ novel, by more elegantly integrating these two storylines. In the book, the hospital-bound Ira’s earlier life unfolds via “conversations” with his deceased wife; his actual interactions with Luke and Sophia are minimal. Bolotin’s decision to grant Sophia a larger part of Ira’s reminiscences, and to enhance their mutual bond, is far more satisfying.

Back in time, Ira and Ruth’s whirlwind courtship is interrupted by World War II (a segment seriously condensed from Sparks’ novel) and, in its aftermath, A Disastrous Battlefield Injury that has left Ira … less of a man. Can love endure?

Okay, my snarky tone isn’t entirely fair. Although it’s more fun to spend time with Luke and Sophia, there’s no denying the similarly endearing bond between Ira and Ruth, and our genuine consternation when things go awry. Much of the credit belongs to Chaplin — daughter of Geraldine Chaplin, and granddaughter of the legendary Charlie Chaplin — whose Ruth is a force of nature.

Huston’s young Ira spends much of the film transfixed by Ruth’s very presence, his mouth slightly agape: a mildly amusing and not terribly deep reaction, and yet one we understand completely. She is captivating, and her smile is to die for.

Meanwhile, back in the present, Sophia learns of Luke’s, ah, vulnerability: not from him, but from his worried mother (Lolita Davidovich, calm and understated, which is just right). Cue the usual stubborn response from the Man Who’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do; cue the tears, hearts and flowers.

All of which sounds hopelessly maudlin, but … funny thing: By this point, we’re well and truly hooked by both storylines, and hopelessly invested in their outcomes.

Unless, of course, you haven’t a romantic bone in your body … which obviously was the case with the two insufferably rude women sitting nearby during Tuesday evening’s preview screening, who giggled derisively during the film’s entire second half. I get it: This is syrupy soap opera stuff, so if that ain’t your bag, don’t buy a ticket. Let the rest of us dreamy suckers enjoy it in peace.

At unexpected moments, and granted just the right camera angle by cinematographer David Tattersall, Eastwood looks and sounds spookily like his old man, during his younger days. It’s uncanny, at times, and this younger Eastwood takes full advantage of the heart-melting smile and luminescent gaze that seem his birthright. The bonus is that he’s a more expressive actor than Clint, if only by a slight margin … but I’ve no doubt Scott could become a star, given careful judgment of future roles.

The extraordinarily busy Robertson has parlayed considerable television work (most recently the adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome) and big-screen supporting roles into some recent starring vehicles; between this and her high-profile turn in Tomorrowland, due in late May, she’s certain to make this year’s “promising young starlet” lists.

She’s just right here, giving Sophia an initially reserved, bookish wariness that melts persuasively as she throws herself, wholeheartedly and with the ill-advised impetuousness of young love, into this relationship with Luke.

The bull-riding footage is impressive, its authenticity overseen by the film’s association with Professional Bull Riders, with additional heft supplied by cameo appearances from a few PBR world champions. Tattersall and editor Jason Ballantine do impressive work with the riding sequences, which look realistically dangerous … particularly when it comes to a dread alpha-alpha bull dubbed Rango.

The film’s melodramatic virtues notwithstanding, it’s too damn long; 139 minutes is butt-numbingly excessive for this sort of romantic trifle. At the risk of succumbing to the obvious one-liner, this “ride” would have been more satisfying, had it been shorter.

Posted by Derrick Bang at 1:00 AM

Black Mountain College: Art Innovation and Education

Black Mountain College: Art Innovation and Education

By Max Eternity

“BMC was a crazy and magical place”

Lyle Bonge, Student 1947-48

How one responds to crisis often determines and confirms tragedy or triumph. Surely, John Rice knew of this when he led the charge to open an innovative new college in Asheville, North Carolina, some 80 years ago, calledBlack Mountain College.

“Black Mountain College was interested in educating human beings to become citizens of the world” says Alice Sebrell, “so that’s why things like grades, and in many cases degrees, were not as important as this deeper level of engaging the world—contributing to it, and being an active citizen.”

The college is now a museum, and Sebrell is its Executive Director.

Founded in 1933 by John A. Rice, the concept of the Black Mountain College drew from the philosophical principles of education reform as realized by American intellectual and psychologist, John Dewey.

As the school was being born, simultaneously Nazism was swelling in Europe and the United States was adrift in the Great Depression. Responding to the US crisis, and in his visionary commitment to uplift the economy and the morale of the American people, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Public Works Arts Project—a government program for artists that was later folded into and expanded on in the creation of the Works Projects Administration (WPA).

In the US, Roosevelt was championing the arts, while in Germany Adolph Hitler shuttered the Bauhaus in Berlin, Germany—a small art and design school founded by Walter Gropius that ultimately produced many of the world’s greatest creative, including Marcel Breuer, Joseph and Annie Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Lily Reich and Mies Van Der Rohe. Among other things, shuttering the Bauhaus signaled the end of Germany’s Weimar Republic renaissance.

Along with Jews and those with alternative gender and sexual identities, Nazi Germany launched a brutal oppression against European artists and intellectuals who did not conform to the ideals of the state, and thus were deemed degenerate.

Of those who escaped, many of Europe’s best and brightest became students and teachers at choice schools in the United States, including Walter Gropius, who became department head of the architecture graduate program at Harvard University.

Joseph and Annie Albers, who both taught at the Bauhaus, were subsequently on the faculty at Black Mountain College.

In the 1940’s, Albert Einstein was on the Board of Directors at Black Mountain College.And while Jim Crow apartheid laws were being fully enforced throughout North Carolina and much of the nation, Black Mountain College included African-American artist, Jacob Lawrence—who is best known for “The [Great] Migration series,” which tells an epic visual story of the Black exodus from the South to the North—in its faculty.

Though lesser known and smaller in size, many art historians consider Black Mountain College a parallel and peer to the Bauhaus, as it was equally as progressive and innovative as the Bauhaus. And during its 24 year lifespan, the school attracted and produced some of the greatest intellectual and creative talents of the 20th century. A partial listing of these figures include Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Franz Kline, Arthur Penn, Ruth Asawa, M.C. Richards, Francine du Plessix Gray, Robert Motherwell, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley and many others.

Black Mountain College closed in 1957, yet decades later, and in this new century, the creative spirit and genius of Black Mountain College continues to inform of humanity’s greatest potential in art and education.

Black Mountain College (Asheville North, Carolina)

“I think that the direction that education has gone in recently where it’s all about testing and memorization is just diametrically opposed to what was going on at Black Mountain College“ says Sebrell, and in the following interview, Sebrell speaks further about the inspiration and lessons learned from Black Mountain College:

Max Eternity: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Black Mountain College?

Alice Sebrell (AS): I think is probably a visual…because I’ve worked on so many projects that have to do with the visual aspect of the college—the artist and their work, or photographs of the college, or just walking the properties.

ME: And is there a common thread in this visual imagery?

AS: What comes up is the longing to have been able to experience it in person, rather than second hand. For me it’s more of a yearning for what appears to have been an incredibly intense, creative and charged experience for everyone who lived through, and those sorts of experiences don’t come along every day.

ME: And of the school’s founder, John Rice, I’ve read he was unflinching in his passion for education, that he was a genius, and his love for teaching and learning far outweighed his interest in institutional bureaucracy. To this point, Rice was no stranger to controversy. Who was this man?

AS: I think your description is accurate. He was a brilliant man.

I think he could be caustic or impatient with people sometimes; people who weren’t as quick or intellectual as he was. So I think he stepped on some toes, and you could say that about many figures at the college. They moved along at a quick pace. It was your job as a student or college to keep up. They weren’t going to coddle you.

ME: Others have their viewpoints, but from what you know about him what might John Rice say about himself?

AS: I’m guessing here, but I think he might say that he was misunderstood. And, I think he would say that even though the college didn’t last beyond 24 years, it was very successful, and that not all radical visions in education succeed in terms of time. That that’s not the true measure of success and that he started something great that’s had a lasting impact.

ME: It’s clear that the Bauhaus was influential to BMC, and in many ways the schools mirrored one another. Could you talk about some of the similarities and differences with each school?

AS: The first similarity that comes to mind is this idea of workshops in the arts, that that was the model that they had at the Bauhaus, and was brought here through Joseph and Annie Albers. Also, the idea of experimental performance, theatre and interdisciplinary activities in the arts—that would be a similarity. Another would be the fact that the Bauhaus moved—three different locations in its short life—and Black Mountain had 2 different homes. And that kind of thing would not allow for any sort of entrenched or ridged way of getting into a rut.

At the first place at Blue Mountain Ridge, they had to go away every summer. So each fall they set up a new, and that’s certainly uncommon.

ME: Yes, a radical approach to living and learning.

AS: They were living on the edge. At Black Mountain College they were always financially living on the edge. And at the Bauhaus, in the final years they too were living on the edge; in terms of the politics going on around them.

The main difference—from afar, my impression is that the Bauhaus was better funded, and larger.

ME: The Bauhaus was a government funded project. So, they had those coffers to draw from.

AS: Yes, so they had a little more stability in that way.

ME: Next, there is a section on your website that speaks to an educational exhibition, called A Radical Vision. I want to read to you a few of the statements taken from that online catalog, and ask if you can respond to each respectively, starting with:

“A group of creative people living, learning, and working together with common purpose – community by design – that was Black Mountain College, a radical vision of college as community.”

AS: I would say that it was community by design, and they certainly made sure that it continued that way through the life of the college. It was also by necessity, to some degree.

Community was part of the vision of the founder of the college, and that contributed to the intensity of that community because not only was it a group of people who saw each other all the time, but many of them were creative geniuses. That aspect also factored into how it has a lasting impression on every one.

And I think it’s certainly different from almost every college or university today. That’s [community] not a part of anybody’s vision today.

ME: More specifically, how so?

First of all it has to be very small, and there are very few colleges as small as Black Mountain was. There are some that are small, but they are quite different.

ME: And of this:

”People must be as free as possible to make their own choices and create their own lives”

AS: How refreshing, is what I would say—that the responsibility for one’s choices, one’s education, one’s life, is left is in their own hand.

Black Mountain College was interested in educating human beings to become citizens of the world. So that’s why things like grades, and in many cases degrees, were not as important as this deeper level of engaging the world—contributing to it, and being an active citizen

ME: And finally, of this:

“Cooperation – and sometimes conflict – was generated by the intensity of the community experience.”

AS: Well, I think that’s true. The history of the college confirms that.

There were periodic skirmishes, and epic battles. And if you read about some of those battles there is an admission that people’s egos got the best of them, where they were engaged in a particular struggle not so much because they felt they were arguing for the right point of view, but for the struggle itself. And it became important [just] to win.

These are all very human experiences that we obviously still face today. But that experience of an intense community can be uplifting, and can lead to incredible accomplishments that perhaps wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

It can bring out that absolute best, and sometimes worst, in a human.

ME: With this year being the 80th anniversary of the school, what lessons might educational administrators and educational advocates learn and employ toward enriching and improving their own learning institutions?

AS: This is just my personal opinion: I think that the direction that education has gone in recently where it’s all about testing and memorization is just diametrically opposed to what was going on at Black Mountain College. So I personally feel that maybe getting away from this current direction, and maybe heading back a little bit more towards education of the whole person—experimental education, and some of these ideas that Black Mountain College borrowed from John Dewey—might be an approach that leads to a more informed and engaged citizenry.

ME: Any last thoughts about the enduring legacy of the school?

AS: I guess for us, not only is it an anniversary of Black Mountain College, it’s also the 20th anniversary of our Museum and Art Center.

We’re pretty proud of that, and we hope that in what we’re doing the alumni would see our effort as worthy.

The work we do in some sense is an echo; honoring some of those important ideas and approaches to living that they carried out at the college.

ME: And to students today, regardless of where they may be, what would you say to them in the spirit of learning and growing that they could draw on from the legacy of Black Mountain College?

AS: To students, I would say the most fruitful path is often just to follow their interest…and keep following it. Because, that’s going to be the fuel for that path, which comes from inside, rather than from outside—not somebody telling them who to be, or where to go.

I would say that to follow that compass driven by interest and passion. It doesn’t usually lead us astray.

Related posts:

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FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 54 THE BEATLES (Part F, Sgt Pepper’s & Eastern Religion) (Feature on artist Richard Lindner )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 53 THE BEATLES (Part E, Stg. Pepper’s and John Lennon’s search in 1967 for truth was through drugs, money, laughter, etc & similar to King Solomon’s, LOTS OF PICTURES OF JOHN AND CYNTHIA) (Feature on artist Yoko Ono)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 52 THE BEATLES (Part D, There is evidence that the Beatles may have been exposed to Francis Schaeffer!!!) (Feature on artist Anna Margaret Rose Freeman )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 51 THE BEATLES (Part C, List of those on cover of Stg.Pepper’s ) (Feature on artist Raqib Shaw )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 50 THE BEATLES (Part B, The Psychedelic Music of the Beatles) (Feature on artist Peter Blake )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 49 THE BEATLES (Part A, The Meaning of Stg. Pepper’s Cover) (Feature on artist Mika Tajima)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 48 “BLOW UP” by Michelangelo Antonioni makes Philosophic Statement (Feature on artist Nancy Holt)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 47 Woody Allen and Professor Levy and the death of “Optimistic Humanism” from the movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Plus Charles Darwin’s comments too!!! (Feature on artist Rodney Graham)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 46 Friedrich Nietzsche (Featured artist is Thomas Schütte)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! Part 21 (Dr. Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State, “…most scientists don’t think enough about God…There’s no evidence that we need any supernatural hand of God”)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! PART 20 (Carolyn Porco, director of CICLOPS, Like Darwin she gave up her Christianity because of Evolution & is obsessed both with the Beatles & the thought that the human race may end!!)

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March 24, 2015 – 12:57 am

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THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 11 artist Josef Albers

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Bauhaus: Art as Life – Talk: An Insider’s Glimpse of Bauhaus Lfe

Published on May 16, 2012

Nicolas Fox Weber, Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, explores day-to-day life at the Bauhaus: the personal relationships, the struggles and even the scandals. Showing little-known images of Bauhauslers frolicking on the beach, sitting around a samovar, parading at costume parties, and even feigning lovers’ duels, Weber sets the enjoyment and challenges of Bauhaus life in context.

Part of Bauhaus: Art as Life (3 May – 12 Aug) at Barbican Art Gallery. Find out more – http://bit.ly/mBAT3e

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At Black Mountain College

Lecture: Christopher Benfey, “Starting from Zero at Black Mountain and Harvard

Teaching at Brauhaus

Color in Context: Revisiting Albers, with Anoka Faruqee

Josef and Anni Albers at Black Mountain College, 1938 photograph by Theodore Dreier

An iconic book reimagined: Josef Albers’ “Interaction of Color”

Published on Jul 29, 2013

“Interaction of Color” — Josef Albers’ iconic book that taught legions of students and professionals alike how to think creatively about color — has been given a modern makeover as an iPad app, just in time for the 50th anniversary of its publication by Yale University Press.

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Later in life:

Drawing class of Josef Albers at Black Mountain College: Left to right: Harriett Engelhardt, Bela Martin, Lisa Jalowetz Aronson (stooping), Josef Albers, Robert de Niro, Martha McMillan, Eunice Schifris, Claude Stoller. Photo courtesy North Carolina State

Josef Albers drawing class:

Hazel Larsen Archer, "Josef Albers Teaching at BMC, with Ray Johnson in the Foreground," ca.  late 1940s Courtesy of the Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center

Black Mountain College

Uploaded on Apr 18, 2011

Class Project on Black Mountain College for American Literature

Again today we take a look at the movie “The Longest Ride” which visits the Black Mountain College in North Carolina which existed from 1933 to 1957 and it birthed many of the top artists of the 20th Century. In this series we will be looking at the history of the College and the artists, poets and professors that taught there. This includes a distinguished list of  individuals who visited the college and at times gave public lectures.

My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards. In the 11th post I discuss the fact that Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain,

 

 

Postcards from Black Mountain

 

THE 5 BEST ARTISTS OF THE ‘20S

From a his­tor­i­cal point of view the twen­ties were quite tumul­tuous, the polit­i­cal con­di­tions that would bring to the out­break of World War II just a decade later were start­ing to build up. The world was destroyed by the war, a period of re-construction and renewal started and Amer­ica was seen as an exam­ple of growth that then col­lapsed after the cri­sis of 1929. On the artis­tic front the new con­ti­nent was gear­ing towards a return to real­ist ten­den­cies, many artists had been let down by the new avant-garde move­ments. In Europe abstrac­tion­ism took hold, the idea was to declare a new method of aes­thetic con­cep­tion that wasn’t based on a loyal rep­e­ti­tion of objects to por­tray. This con­cept would be car­ried on espe­cially by Bauhaus dur­ing these years for what con­cerns fig­u­ra­tive art, and applied arts and archi­tec­ture as well. The Twen­ties are also the years of Sur­re­al­ism, a direct con­se­quence of Dadaism, born thanks to the impor­tance that Bre­ton gave to dreams and the sub­con­scious in mod­ern cul­ture. Let’s go through these steps that are full of events and charged with artis­tic pro­duc­tions through the 5 best artists from the ‘20s.

I 5 migliori artisti anni 20 - Piet Mondrian Piet Mon­drian ( 1872–1944 )
In 1917 he founded the group “De Stijl” along with Theo van Does­burg and Bart van der Leck. Even if his style was fairly tra­di­tional, fig­u­ra­tive and nat­u­ral­is­tic at first, at a cer­tain point of his career the artist turned his style towards a sort of geo­met­ric min­i­mal­ism fol­low­ing sev­eral inspir­ing exter­nal influ­ences. His per­sonal philo­soph­i­cal and spir­i­tual stud­ies were impor­tant for his work, observ­ing Picasso and Braque he reached a per­sonal geo­met­ric style enriched by a more and more impor­tant min­i­mal­ist vein. His paint­ings, often imi­tated and triv­i­al­ized, are com­posed of areas that are almost always painted with homoge­nous blues, reds, yel­lows and framed with a black line that became thicker as the artist took aware­ness of his style. It’s a mis­take to call Mondrian’s works “non –rep­re­sen­ta­tive”, instead they are the result of a care­ful study and per­sonal research.
I 5 migliori artisti anni 20 - Josef Albers Josef Albers ( 1888–1976 )
He was a Ger­man painter and the­o­reti­cian of abstract art.
The art­works that set him apart from oth­ers are char­ac­ter­ized by geo­met­ric forms that are evenly filled with pri­mary col­ors and that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily cre­ated on tra­di­tional sup­ports, in fact the artist often uses glass sup­ports through which he can con­tin­u­ously change the artwork’s visual per­cep­tion. He was also a pas­sion­ate and cre­ative paint­ing teacher, for Bauhaus, which he joined in 1920. A care­ful the­o­reti­cian of abstract art, he was engaged in stud­ies on per­cep­tion through the cre­ation and obser­va­tion of ambigu­ous geome­tries and on their poten­tial evoca­tive qualities.
I 5 migliori artisti anni 20 - Paul Klee Paul Klee ( 1879–1940 )
An all-around artist, Klee loves music and poetry but espe­cially paint­ing, which he con­sid­ers the high­est form of art. A son of two musi­cians, for him music rep­re­sents an impor­tant and fun­da­men­tal means of artis­tic inspi­ra­tion. As much as he is con­sid­ered an abstract artist, abstrac­tion­ism is not his only approach to art, he thought that art shouldn’t rep­re­sent real­ity, but that it should be a con­ver­sa­tion around and on real­ity. In fact his vision of the real world pro­duced art­works in which real­ity is altered, evanes­cent, dis­solved, a per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tion that cre­ates a wide range of sup­ports. His paint­ings are free, care­free, play­ful, almost as if they were the result of a child’s inno­cent hand. He was an enthu­si­as­tic paint­ing teacher, a pas­sion­ate the­o­reti­cian of abstrac­tion­ism and in 1911 he founded «Der Blaue Reiter» along with Alfred Kubin, August Macke, Wass­ily Kandin­skij and Franz Marc.
I 5 migliori artisti anni 20 - Salvador Dalì Sal­vador Dalì ( 1904–1989 )
Dalì is one of the main rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the sur­re­al­ist move­ment, a per­sona with a ver­sa­tile and eccen­tric char­ac­ter, with a lack of a sense of mea­sure, besides paint­ing, dur­ing his artis­tic career, he worked in sev­eral fields such as cin­ema, sculp­ture and writ­ing, the­atre and design. He was a skill­ful drawer, an extrav­a­gant man with a lively imag­i­na­tion. He declared that his art­works were inspired by Renais­sance tech­niques and they are full of sym­bol­ism, for him paint­ing is a way of show­ing his most sub­con­scious impulses and desires. His is a hal­lu­ci­na­tory art rich with evoca­tive images and arti­fi­cial scenes in which he often faces the theme of para­noia. Very often his behav­iors at the lim­its of decency had peo­ple pay­ing atten­tion to him rather than his art.
I 5 migliori artisti anni 20 - Man Ray Man Ray ( 1890–1976 )
Emmanuel Rad­nit­sky is Man Ray’s real name. Since he was a child he loved paint­ing and graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but he’s known espe­cially for his great abil­ity in pho­tograph­ing, in fact he became the offi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher of the sur­re­al­ist move­ment. An artist with a multi-faceted per­son­al­ity, he was a pas­sion­ate inven­tor of the most var­ied objects, so strange and absurd that they could be defined as sculp­tures. Thanks to his friend­ship with Duchamp he came into con­tact with the Amer­i­can Dadaist move­ment, he rev­o­lu­tion­ized the art of pho­tograph­ing invent­ing a new tech­nique called “Rayo­g­ra­phy”, which con­sists in putting objects between the light source and th

An Experiment in American Education

By Carol Cruickshanks

At a pastoral campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Bauhaus emigres and American educators co-created a progressive experiment in arts and learning. The faculty and students who homed in on Black Mountain during its 23-year-existence were innovators in all fields of artistic endeavor, comprising a noteworthy Who’s Who of modernists.

From its tentative beginnings in 1933 until its doors closed in 1956, Black Mountain’s reputation grew. By the early 1940s, it was a destination of choice for the American avant-garde. The attraction was linked from the start with the presence of the egalitarian, communal Bauhaus spirit. Founded in 1919 and shut down in 1933, the revolutionary German art school integrated art with technology for the enhancement of both, elevating design and craft to the status of art, and applying a new aesthetic to industry.

Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain, eventually even including Walter Gropius, the German school’s founding director. Other American institutions were recipients of Bauhaus influence, notably Harvard, where Gropius headed the School of Architecture, and Chicago’s Institute of Design where Laszlo Moholy-Nagy created a ‘New Bauhaus.’ But Black Mountain was unique–a Southern institution with rural roots, where farming was part of the educational concept, and students wore jeans and sandals decades before they became collegiate fashion.

The unique confluence of European Modernism with American progressive education happened both by intention and by chance. Black Mountain College opened in September 1933 with eleven faculty members and about twice as many students, on a site used by the Blue Ridge Assembly, a Christian conference, during the summer months. In the midst of the Depression, its founder, John Andrew Rice, a Classics professor, embarked on the risky endeavor of attracting students to a college with no scholastic reputation. His goal: to provide an alternative to traditional higher education, with ideals of democracy and the opportunity for students to realize their fullest potential.

Instead of the medieval hierarchy, rigid requirements, codes and rights of passage that delineated practices at other American colleges the structure of Black Mountain evolved from consensus. There were no remote trustees to satisfy, since the faculty owned the college. Students were represented in administrative meetings, and students and faculty shared the daily work and function of the college community. All students were essentially working students, avoiding class distinctions based on family wealth. Eventually, the college farm raised food, and workshops produced articles made in Black Mountain studios.

At Black Mountain, students created their own courses of study with the help of an advisor. There were no required classes and no grades, and the role of the arts in the curriculum evolved to a position of equality with traditional subjects.

Albers Arrives

Rice assembled his faculty, many from the ranks of disaffected professors at Rollins College in Florida, where he had taught before his dismissal earlier that year. He envisioned a resident artist who would be a key figure in the interdisciplinary curriculum, but the available candidates seemed to hold conventional attitudes about teaching art–not what Rice had in mind. Philip Johnson, then Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, proposed Josef Albers, whom he had met during a visit to Dessau, Germany, site of the Bauhaus. Johnson had sat in on Albers’s classes and was impressed by his experiential approach to teaching.

Events in Germany during the summer of 1933 cemented Albers’s decision to come to America. In June, the National Socialist Party required that the Bauhaus install party members on the faculty. In resistance to this edict, Gropius decided to “temporarily” close. Ultimately, the school never reopened, but in this uncertain period, the telegram came from Rice offering Albers a teaching position in America.

Albers and his wife Anni arrived in Asheville, North Carolina, in early December 1933, following a reception in New York organized by the Museum of Modern Art. Albers became the first Bauhaus instructor hired to teach in America, heading up a wave of emigration of talented artists and scientists fleeing Nazi oppression. Though Albers did not speak English, Rice considered a German-speaking faculty member a learning opportunity for the college community.

Anni Albers was to develop her own important contribution to Black Mountain, with the establishment of the weaving workshop. She became a faculty member of tremendous influence, as she matured in stature as an artist.

As his English improved, Albers’s influence on the educational track of the college grew. Albers shaped his art classes in the model of the vorkurs, or preliminary study, as he had taught it at the Bauhaus. Emphasis was on experiencing the properties of materials firsthand. An example of this investigative process might include an exercise involving the tensile and structural properties of paper. Beginning with a flat sheet of the material, the student would create a form by folding, cutting or manipulating. Given a problem to solve, students would develop a solution on their own, and bring the completed effort to the next meeting of the class. All projects were then displayed and critiqued. A student without a project was not admitted to the class. While the discussion was part of the educational process, doing was the essential element of understanding.

Albers’s goal, he wrote, was the “…disciplined education of eye and hand.” Through the direct experience of material, without preconceived or imitative notions, students had the opportunity for inventiveness and discovery. Copying solutions from art history or making a “work of art” was not the point. This innovative approach to learning basic similarity, gaining what Albers called “a finger tip feeling” for material, was revolutionary in American art education.

In the 1930s, American art favored figurative work, even though Modernist elements had been gradually embraced by native artists who studied in Europe or were influenced by it. Pure abstraction was rooted in European Modernism as early as 1912, when Wassily Kandinsky created non-objective abstract art–art without reference the pictorial tradition. Albers’s dedication to geometric abstraction was an aesthetic then shared only by the most sophisticated American audience. He saw abstract art as pure art, a step away from imitation, and the most viable expression of pure form. “Abstract Art is Art in its beginning and is the Art of the Future,” he wrote.

Albers understood both the virtues and the limitations of his curriculum. He invited artists of other disciplines to expand the offerings at Black Mountain, including such other former Bauhaus participants as Kandinsky and sculptor Jean Arp, who were still in Europe, and graphic artist Herbert Bayer, who had already arrived in America.

In 1936, Albers was instrumental in arranging passage from Europe for Alexander Schawinsky, a former Bauhaus student. Schawinsky, hired to teach painting and drawing, began staging performances aimed at modernizing theatrical methods and concepts, as he had done at the Bauhaus under his mentor, Oskar Schlemmer. Within a year of his arrival, Schawinsky staged Spectodrama: Life Play Illusion, with actors clothed in abstract costumes of paper art fabric strips, on a dramatically lighted stage against a black backdrop. Schawinsky’s productions at Black Mountain were among the first American presentations of what was later to become known as performance theater.

The Designer-Craftsperson

Anni Albers’s role at Black Mountain exemplified the Bauhaus model of the designer-craftsperson. In Germany, she had worked as a textile designer and part-time instructor in the Bauhaus weaving workshop. After her first year at Black Mountain, she was appointed to the faculty, soon establishing a similar weaving workshop for practical application of the skills learned in the classroom. In this studio, students produced mats and cloths to be sold to the public, contributing to the economy of the college.

The aesthetics of weaving, as she taught it, reiterated the Bauhaus ideal of sensitive design in the service of industry. Kore Kadden Lindenfeld, a textile designer who was enrolled at Black Mountain from 1945-48, recalled the two-fold emphasis of her studies with Anni Albers. One aspect was technical achievement, a facility with the hand loom in preparation for machine production. The other was inventive, playful exploration of materials.

The model of designer-craftsperson was established in other workshops at Black Mountain during the late 1930s. Bookbinding, printing, and woodworking provided applied experience and skill development for the student as well as service to the college community. Furniture for dormitory rooms was made on site. A modular concept for a desk, bookcase and chest that could be moved and rearranged as necessary was designed for production in the workshop. The college press printed programs for concerts and dramas, featuring original art and imaginative graphic design.

After 1940, when the college purchased property at Lake Eden, students participated in architectural projects. The most significant project, which still exists–the Studies Building–was a two-level cantilevered structure rising out of the hillside on stilts. The original design was a collaboration between Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. Financial concerns and the need to move to the new campus within a year required a less elaborate plan that could be constructed by students under the supervision of architecture professor A. Lawrence Kosher. The result was fashioned from native stone, concrete and steel columns, sheathed in corrugated fireproof material.

Collaborations

The interdisciplinary nature of Black Mountain provided the perfect stage for collaborative effort in the arts. Participation in events at the college drew on the painting, theatrical, music and writing talents of students, faculty, and the frequent distinguished visitors. The isolated campus, far from any major city or cultural center, required entertainment to be produced on site.

At the new Lake Eden campus, special projects were developed each summer, beginning in 1941 with a work camp to help complete the buildings. The Summer Institutes were unique events that evolved from the particular roster of participants. Black Mountain’s summer programs became legend in 1944 with the Music Institute, organized to celebrate composer Arnold Schoenberg’s seventieth birthday. That same summer, the Art Institute included four guest artists in addition to Albers, a lecture series by Walter Gropius, and a “clothing course” taught by Bernard Rudofsky, the Austrian designer who was then organizing his seminal exhibition “Are Clothes Modern?” for the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1946, Jean Varda, artist in residence, and students constructed a Trojan horse for the summer party with a Greek theme. Classes were suspended for the preparation of costumes. In 1948, Buckminster Fuller constructed the first large-scale model of his Geodesic Dome with Venetian blind strips and the labors of students and other participants, including painter Elaine de Kooning. The same summer, Fuller appeared in a production of The Ruse of Medusa, by Erik Satie along with dancer Merce Cunningham, on a set designed by abstract painter Willem de Kooning.

Another extraordinary year, 1952, included the meeting of studio ceramic artists Bernard Leach, who brought the aesthetic of handmade pottery to the West; Shoji Hamada, the “national treasure” of Japan; and Marguerite Wildenhain from the Bauhaus. They converged with celebrated postwar studio potters Peter Voulkous, Karnes Karnes, David Weintraub and Robert Turner, inspiring writer Mary Caroline Richards to write Centering, her prose poem on the metaphor of pottery and life.

The same summer saw composer John Cage, musician David Tudor, and dancer Merce Cunningham arrange a performance work based on Cage’s theories of chance, the I Ching. Improvisation and electronic music, viewed today as the first ever “happening.”

The avant-garde of the New York art world was at home at Black Mountain in the 1950s. First Generation Abstract Expressionists Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell all appeared there, as did art critic Clement Greenberg who first brought attention to the Abstract Expressionist movement. The next generation of artists--Robert Rauschenberg, Kenneth Nolan and Kenneth Snelson--was there as students.

In the literary realm, Robert Creeley and Charles Olson developed and published the Black Mountain Review. Poetry, prose, photographs and drawings by artists residing on campus, and emerging artists residing elsewhere, contributed to the literary journal. In 1954, a two-page article titled Essentials of Spontaneous Prose by Jack Kerouac appeared along with a review of Allen Ginsberg’s recently published Howl.

Josef and Anni Albers, who had lived and worked at the rural campus for sixteen years, left in 1949 when Josef became the founding director of Yale’s Institute of Design. The Bauhaus spirit, which had been so important in the formative years of the college, had evolved into a home-grown American avant-garde spirit.

Despite heroic efforts to remain financially solvent, Black Mountain College ceased to function in 1956. The faculty and students disseminated–some gravitating to San Francisco, others to New York–carrying with them the influence and ideas of a true learning community.

Carol Cruickshanks teaches History of Modern Art at the College of New Jersey

______

Clemens Kalischer, Cast portrait of The Ruse of Medusa, including John Cage

BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE was founded in 1933 on the grounds of a YMCA summer camp on the outskirts of the small Western North Carolinian mountain town of the same name, about twenty miles from Asheville. With minimal structure born of both ideological inclination and economic necessity, Black Mountain’s experiment in education was ground-breaking and brief. In 1957, when the College closed its doors, it had dwindled to less than a half-a-dozen paying students, with a little over a thousand having attended since its inception. Notwithstanding its short life and modest size, Black Mountain has assumed a prominent place in widely disparate fields of thought. It has been heralded as one of the influential points of contact for European exiles emigrating from Nazi Germany; as a standard-bearer of the legacy of intentional, planned, or alternative communities such as Brook Farm in Massachusetts; as the bellwether campus of Southern racial integration; as an important testing ground for proponents of progressive education; and as a seminal site of American postwar art practices. Adding to the College’s legend, the number of famous participants—faculty included Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, R. Buckminster Fuller, Clement Greenberg, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Charles Olson, and Ben Shahn; among the students were Johnson, Kenneth Noland, Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothea Rockburne, Kenneth Snelson, and Cy Twombly—and the breadth of their artistic diversity, have garnered the College an impressive reputation.

If the College was a “galaxy of talent,” to use a semi-ironic phrase by former student Ray Johnson, as an institution it was also characterized both by periods of bitter dispute and evanescent harmony. Experimentation, and its close relative interdisciplinarity, were key themes of this conversation. Seemingly everyone who attended Black Mountain College shared a desire to experiment, but they did not necessarily agree on what this meant. In particular, competing approaches to experimentation were advanced by the College’s most notable faculty members during its heyday in the mid 1940s to early 1950s: the visual artists Josef and Anni Albers, composer Cage, and architect-designer Buckminster Fuller. Simultaneously, visual artists such as de Kooning, Kline, and Motherwell, and poets such as Olson and Creeley, were developing visual and literary rhetorics of expressionism that subsequently came to dominate the post-WWII cultural landscape. In contrast, the vocabulary of the test developed at Black Mountain experienced a somewhat deferred reception, coming to prominence only later in the 1960s in part through responses to the work and pedagogy of figures like the Alberses, Cage and Fuller.

In spite of its precarious existence, the legacy of Black Mountain College is enormous: the rigorous artistic practices and influential teaching methods that emerged in its brief twenty-three year existence made it the site of a crucial trans-Atlantic dialogue between European modernist aesthetics and pedagogy and its post-war American counterparts. The fact that Black Mountain College is frequently cited as a source in contemporary music, visual arts, and architecture practices that explore what experimentation can mean today, suggests that working “experimentally” in a cultural practice can foster a shadow venture: using the academic microcosm to pose models of testing and organizing new forms of political agency and social life.

– See more at: http://www.theartstory.org/school-black-mountain-college.htm#sthash.IrnxTUFZ.dpuf

Great article 

Bauhaus Movement and Chronology

“If today’s arts love the machine, technology and organization, if they aspire to precision and reject anything vague and dreamy, this implies an instinctive repudiation of chaos and a longing to find the form appropriate to our times.”

Oskar Schlemmer

BAUHAUS SYNOPSIS

The Bauhaus was the most influential modernist art school of the 20th century, one whose approach to teaching, and understanding art’s relationship to society and technology, had a major impact both in Europe and the United States long after it closed. It was shaped by the 19th and early 20th centuries trends such as Arts and Crafts movement, which had sought to level the distinction between fine and applied arts, and to reunite creativity and manufacturing. This is reflected in the romantic medievalism of the school’s early years, in which it pictured itself as a kind of medieval crafts guild. But in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design, and it was this which ultimately proved to be its most original and important achievement. The school is also renowned for its faculty, which included artists Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee andJohannes Itten, architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and designerMarcel Breuer.

BAUHAUS KEY IDEAS

The motivations behind the creation of the Bauhaus lay in the 19th century, in anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing and its products, and in fears about art’s loss of purpose in society. Creativity and manufacturing were drifting apart, and the Bauhaus aimed to unite them once again, rejuvenating design for everyday life.
Although the Bauhaus abandoned much of the ethos of the old academic tradition of fine art education, it maintained a stress on intellectual and theoretical pursuits, and linked these to an emphasis on practical skills, crafts and techniques that was more reminiscent of the medieval guild system. Fine art and craft were brought together with the goal of problem solving for a modern industrial society. In so doing, the Bauhaus effectively leveled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as sculpture and painting, and paving the way for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late 20th century.
The stress on experiment and problem solving at the Bauhaus has proved enormously influential for the approaches to education in the arts. It has led to the ‘fine arts’ being rethought as the ‘visual arts’, and art considered less as an adjunct of the humanities, like literature or history, and more as a kind of research science.

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MOST IMPORTANT ART

Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany (1919-1925)
Artist: Walter Gropius
Gropius’s complex for the Bauhaus at Dessau has come to be seen as a landmark in modern, functionalist design. Although the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is clearly divided from the next, and on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives. The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework, and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and protect against the weather. In addition, a glass curtain wall – a feature that would come to be typical of modernist architecture – allows in ample quantities of light. Gropius created three wings that were arranged asymmetrically to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school. The asymmetry expressed the school’s functionalist approach and yet retained an elegance that showed how beauty and practicality could be combined.

Bauhaus Beginnings

The Bauhaus, a German word meaning “house of building”, was a school founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany by architect Walter Gropius. The school emerged out of late-19th-century desires to reunite the applied arts and manufacturing, and to reform education. These had given birth to several new schools of art and applied art throughout Germany, and it was out of two such schools that the new Bauhaus was born.

Gropius called for the school to show a new respect for craft and technique in all artistic media, and suggested a return to attitudes to art and craft once characteristic of the medieval age, before art and manufacturing had drifted far apart. Gropius envisioned the Bauhaus encompassing the totality of all artistic media, including fine art, industrial design, graphic design, typography, interior design, and architecture.

Concepts and Styles

Central to the school’s operation was its original and influential curriculum. It was described by Gropius in the manner of a wheel diagram, with the outer ring representing the vorkurs, a six-month preliminary course, initiated by Johannes Itten, which concentrated on practical formal analysis, in particular on the contrasting properties of forms, colors and materials. The two middle rings represented two three-year courses, the formlehre, focused on problems related to form, and werklehre, a practical workshop instruction that emphasized technical craft skills. These classes emphasized functionalism through simplified, geometric forms that allowed new designs to be reproduced with ease. At the center of the curriculum were courses specialized in building construction that led students to seek practicality and necessity through technological reproduction, with an emphasis on craft and workmanship that was lost in technological manufacturing. And the basic pedagogical approach was to eliminate competitive tendencies and to foster individual creative potential and a sense of community and shared purpose.

The creators of this program were a fabulously talented faculty that Gropius attracted. Avant-garde painters Johannes Itten and Lyonel Feininger, and sculptor Gerhard Marcks were among his first appointments. Itten would be particularly important: he was central to the creation of the Vorkurs, and his background in Expressionism lent much of the tone to the early years of the school, including its emphasis on craft and its medievalism. Indeed, Itten’s avant-gardism and Gropius’s social concerns soon put them at odds. By the early 1920s, however, Gropius had won out; Itten left and was replaced by Lázlsó Moholy-Nagy, who reformed vorkurs into a program that embraced technology and stressed its use for society. Other important appointments included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Georg Muche, and Oskar Schlemmer.

In 1925, the Bauhaus moved to the German industrial town of Dessau, initiating its most fruitful period. Gropius designed a new building for the school, which has since come to be seen as a landmark of modern, functionalist architecture. It was also here that the school finally created a department of architecture, something that had been conspicuously lacking in an institution that had been premised on the union of the arts. But by 1928 Gropius was worn down by his work, and by the increasing battles with the school’s critics, and he stood down, turning over the helm to Swiss architectHannes Meyer. Meyer headed the architecture department, and, as an active communist, he incorporated his Marxist ideals through student organizations and classroom programs. The school continued to build in strength but criticism of Meyer’sMarxism grew, and he was dismissed as director in 1930, and after local elections brought the Nazis to power in 1932, the school in Dessau was closed.

In the same year, 1932, it moved to Berlin, under the new direction of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an advocate of functionalism. He struggled with far poorer resources, and a faculty that had lost some of its brightest stars; he also tried to remove politics from the school’s ethos, but when the Nazis came to power in 1933, the school was closed indefinitely.

BAUHAUS LEGACY

The Bauhaus influence travelled along with its faculty. Gropius went on to teach at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, Mies van der Rohe became Director of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Josef Albers began to teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina,Laszlo Moholy-Nagy formed what became the Institute of Design in Chicago, and Max Bill, a former Bauhaus student, opened the Institute of Design in Ulm, Germany. The latter three were all important in spreading the Bauhaus philosophy: Moholy-Nagy and Albers were particularly important in refashioning that philosophy into one suited to the climate of a modern research university in a market-oriented culture; Bill, meanwhile, played a significant role in spreading geometric abstraction throughout the world.

Original content written by Larissa Borteh
Bauhaus. [Internet]. 2015. TheArtStory.org website. Available from:
http://www.theartstory.org/movement-bauhaus.htm [Accesed 04 May 2015]

QUOTES

“The ultimate aim of all artistic activity is building! … Architects, sculptors, painters, we must all get back to craft! … The artist is a heightened manifestation of the craftsman. … Let us form … a new guild of craftsmen without the class divisions that set out to raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! … Let us together create the new building of the future which will be all in one: architecture and sculpture and painting.”
Walter Gropius

“Designing is not a profession but an attitude. Design has many connotations. It is the organization of materials and processes in the most productive way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain function. It is the integration of technological, social, and economical requirements, biological necessities, and the psychological effects of materials, shape, color, volume and space. Thinking in relationships.”
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

“I consider morals and aesthetics one and the same, for they cover only one impulse, one drive inherent in our consciousness – to bring our life and all our actions into a satisfactory relationship with the events of the world as our consciousness wants it to be, in harmony with our life and according to the laws of consciousness itself.”
Naum Gabo

“Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space.”
Mies van der Rohe

Nicholas Sparks Talks Adapting ‘The Longest Ride’ to the Screen

The Longest Ride Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Britt Robertson Movie HD

THE LONGEST RIDE

Bull Riding Meets Modern Art
Sparks did more research for The Longest Ride than he had for any of his other novels. ” My explorations covered many areas I didn’t know anything about,” he explains. ” I needed to find out what the art world was like in the ‘ 30s and ‘ 40s; what life was like for Jewish people in North Carolina in the 1930s; and the many facets of the Professional Bull Rider’ s tour and its riders.”

A key source for this research was Professional Bull Riders (PBR), the world’ s premiere bull- riding organization, which the filmmakers brought on board as technical advisors. PBR produced the movie’ s bull riding events. The PBR segments were filmed in Jacksonville, North Carolina and Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Current and active PBR Built Ford Tough Series riders served as stunt doubles for Scott Eastwood, with a few of them, such as 2009 PBR World Champion Kody Lostroh, and Billy Robinson appearing as themselves.

” Nicholas Sparks captured the essence of a PBR bull rider with his character Luke Collins,” says PBR chief operating officer Sean Gleason. ” We enjoyed working with Scott Eastwood to bring the character of Luke to life on the big screen as a PBR cowboy in and amongst the real- world stars of the sport.”

Bowen actually had some experience with bull riding. He was born in a small Central Texas town called Wortham (population: 1000), which, he says, didn’t even have a stoplight. ” But once a week, for six weeks every summer, there was a rodeo with bull riders. I learned then that there’ s a section of the United States that thinks of bull riding like others think of basketball. It’ s part of our cultural institution.

” There is something primal about watching a man on the back of a two thousand pound beast,” Bowen continues. ” I think conquering that fear must be an incredibly liberating thing to do. With the character of Luke, bull riding is about conquering that fear. But it’ s hard to confront it when you know that it could kill you.

” You know,” Bowen adds, ” bull riding is like running into the fire, instead of away from it, and it takes a special breed of person to think in those terms. It’ s mesmerizing to watch, and it’ s an incredible culture.”

Director George Tillman, Jr. says his first encounter with PBR was an eye- opening one. ” During pre- production we traveled to Las Vegas, where we saw the PBR finals,” he recounts. ” Being in a real bull riding environment, seeing the power of the bull, how much life and death this can really be – and at the same time, seeing the energy, the love of bull riding.”

Going into production, Tillman discovered he had a few misconceptions about bull riding. ” The riders have to hang on for eight seconds to win,” he explains. ” On television, that seems very slow and normal, but when you are actually at the ring, those eight seconds go by very quickly.

” It’ s the toughest sport on dirt.”

While the actors and stunt crew/bull riders were always professional, Tillman found his four- legged performer to be a handful. ” We had a top bull named Rango,” says Tillman. ” The first day of shooting, we had five cameras set up. Rango goes into the chute and is very quiet. He was renowned for his toughness.”

Rango was more than ready for his close- up. That first ride was unbelievable: Rango came out of that gate, jumped about five feet in the air, and our rider held on for the eight seconds,” Tillman continues. ” In fact, he may have gone on nine or ten seconds and then he flipped up in the air. It was all that we needed and on top of that, the rider landed on his feet.”

Sadly, on September 15, 2014 Rango died of heart complications while receiving treatment for an intestinal ailment.

Rango’ s rider was Brant Atwood, a PBR cowboy who doubled for Eastwood. ” Brant really has the swagger we needed for Luke,” explains Tillman, ” and he’ s one of the top bull riders in the country. When you work with the real bulls and the bull riding PBR, you’ re working with some of the best riders around.”

” The great thing about the PBR,” says Bob Teitel, ” is that its members are probably the last American cowboys. We captured PBR like no other film has. They get bucked off a bull and they’ re lying there. The doctor comes out to check them out and they refuse help. It’ s just wild!

” I don’ t think people realize how dangerous the sport is,” adds Eastwood. ” Bull riders are probably the toughest guys in the world. Even our stunt guys were in awe of them. I’ m fascinated by the sport and have tremendous respect for the riders.”

Eastwood traveled to a ranch to train. The facility’ s owner, Troy Brown, raises bucking bulls and is a stunt coordinator. ” Scott was a joy to work with,” says Brown. ” He put in the time and effort and he really cared that his bull riding looked right. He was always asking the bull riders for advice. We had the best bull riders in the world – the who’ s who of the PBR – in this movie and Scott worked with them to make it look as real as possible.

” Scott had no bull riding experience coming into this,” Brown continues. ” He rides horses but that’ s a whole different ball game than bulls. But he’ s a great athlete – he surfs – so he picked it up quickly. And Scott looks like a bull rider. He’ s muscular but not too big. He’ s very fit.”

From the art of bull riding to the art of…art, Nicholas Sparks’ research took him to unexpected places. ” One of the story’ s principal locales ended up being one of the greatest moments of kismet in my entire career,” he continues. ” I remember sitting at the desk thinking, how on earth is this couple [young Ira and Ruth] from North Carolina going to become big art collectors?

” My research led me to Black Mountain College, which was the center of the modern art movement in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.”

Black Mountain College was founded in the 1930s as an experimental college. It came to define the modern art movement. ” Everyone from de Kooning to Rauschenberg was there,” says Sparks. ” Robert De Niro’ s father, another noted artist, attended Black Mountain College. There were very famous artists there and if you look at the American modern art movement in the 1940s and 1950s, there were important intersections there with the great works of this century.”

Related posts:

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 55 THE BEATLES (Part G, The Beatles and Rebellion) (Feature on artist Wallace Berman )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 54 THE BEATLES (Part F, Sgt Pepper’s & Eastern Religion) (Feature on artist Richard Lindner )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 53 THE BEATLES (Part E, Stg. Pepper’s and John Lennon’s search in 1967 for truth was through drugs, money, laughter, etc & similar to King Solomon’s, LOTS OF PICTURES OF JOHN AND CYNTHIA) (Feature on artist Yoko Ono)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 52 THE BEATLES (Part D, There is evidence that the Beatles may have been exposed to Francis Schaeffer!!!) (Feature on artist Anna Margaret Rose Freeman )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 51 THE BEATLES (Part C, List of those on cover of Stg.Pepper’s ) (Feature on artist Raqib Shaw )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 50 THE BEATLES (Part B, The Psychedelic Music of the Beatles) (Feature on artist Peter Blake )

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 49 THE BEATLES (Part A, The Meaning of Stg. Pepper’s Cover) (Feature on artist Mika Tajima)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 48 “BLOW UP” by Michelangelo Antonioni makes Philosophic Statement (Feature on artist Nancy Holt)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 47 Woody Allen and Professor Levy and the death of “Optimistic Humanism” from the movie CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Plus Charles Darwin’s comments too!!! (Feature on artist Rodney Graham)

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE PART 46 Friedrich Nietzsche (Featured artist is Thomas Schütte)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! Part 21 (Dr. Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State, “…most scientists don’t think enough about God…There’s no evidence that we need any supernatural hand of God”)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! PART 20 (Carolyn Porco, director of CICLOPS, Like Darwin she gave up her Christianity because of Evolution & is obsessed both with the Beatles & the thought that the human race may end!!)

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! PART 19 ( Sir John Walker, Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, Like Darwin he gave up his Christianity with great difficulty )

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! PART 18 (Brian Harrison, Historian, Oxford University, Charles Darwin also wrestled with the issue of Biblical Archaeology and the accuracy of the Bible)

March 24, 2015 – 12:57 am

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THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 10 Irwin Kremen (ARTIST)

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Nicholas Sparks Talks Adapting ‘The Longest Ride’ to the Screen

The Longest Ride Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Britt Robertson Movie HD

Again today we take a look at the movie “The Longest Ride” which visits the Black Mountain College in North Carolina which existed from 1933 to 1957 and it birthed many of the top artists of the 20th Century. In this series we will be looking at the history of the College and the artists, poets and professors that taught there. This includes a distinguished list of  individuals who visited the college and at times gave public lectures.

My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards.

Irwin Kremen: Beyond Black Mountain (1966 to 2006)
Through June 17
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

click to enlarge

There is a Kabalistic notion that at the moment of one’s death, all one’s days come together at the locus of the soul. “Gather Your Days” is the term for this phenomenon; it is also the title of a work by Irwin Kremen in his current exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke. Kremen, who holds no mystical or religious beliefs, sees this exhibition as perhaps as close as one might come to such an experience.

Irwin Kremen: Beyond Black Mountain (1966 to 2006) is an opportunity to enter a unique world of making and seeing. In 1966, at the age of 41, Irwin Kremen began to make art. Kremen was a psychology professor at Duke with a full academic calendar and family life, but he found a way to begin a 40-plus year journey that has produced an astonishing body of work. Kremen was clearly inspired and energized by his friendship with modern luminaries such as Merce Cunningham and John Cage (Cage’s notorious “silent piece,” 433, is dedicated to Kremen). And he was also profoundly encouraged by Italian artist Italo Valenti. But ultimately Kremen cultivated a highly personal and innovative approach to artmaking that is all his own. He calls it “work-of-my-kind.”

Upon entering the Nasher’s lobby you will first see the large sculptures of steel, aluminum and wood that represent Kremen’s most recent collaborative venture with sculptor William Noland. The epic scale of these forceful and spatially mutable works is in notable contrast to what one encounters in the exhibition space. It is in some ways difficult to reconcile the small scale of Kremen’s collages with their impact. They require a degree of patience, a kind of reorienting of one’s own rhythms. This is not a show you can jet through and get. But if you give yourself some time, the pieces begin to convey a feeling of the infinite.

“The Unsung No. 2” (1989) is a small collage of paper and another undetermined material, referred to as “paper vinyl (?).” A stain of ochre grounds the base of the composition, which opens upward into grays with some blue passages. A deeper gray along the topmost edge frames the upper section. Continue to look and paper seams begin to show themselves cutting across the surface of the piece. There is play between straight cuts and torn edges. Further investigation brings into view the scars, specks and grime of the surface itself, the suggestion of screen-printed letters. The work seems never to stop offering information or essence. This experience of being able to go deeper and deeper into a piece is overwhelmingly true of almost all of the collage works.

click to enlarge

Kremen’s materials are a key element of his work. They come from multiple locations and sources, harvested with precision and zeal. The archival care and technique wielded by Kremen in relation to these materials suggests that they have not so much been found as rescued. In some cases they even feel like they’ve been mined; Kremen’s sensitivity to color and his capacity to build painterly surfaces can produce an almost gem-like glow, as seen in some of the more brightly colored pieces such as “Retinal Splash” (1977) or “Luxe No. 2” (1989/2004). Another key element of Kremen’s work is his collage technique, which seems to have stemmed from an impulse to preserve and value his materials. Rather than gluing or pasting, Kremen painstakingly builds his compositions and traces what he calls a “schematic.” He then adheres thin Japanese paper against the back of each fragment and assembles them with paper “hinges.” The result is an almost sculptural experience of the materials—edges are allowed their autonomy. This method incorporates the use of magnifying lenses and fine tools, some of which Kremen has forged himself.

Kremen’s singular approach to constructing these works contributes to the powerful intentionality and sense of the monumental in small, ostensibly simple compositions such as “Junctures” (1979). “Junctures” measures 5 3/8 x 4 5/8 inches and consists of a black central rectangular shape built out of paper fragments, surrounded by a torn frame of blue. The materials are paper and paint, although as in much of Kremen’s work, it’s hard to discern where one medium ends and another begins. Kremen allows the white underside of the paper to reveal tears and delineate shapes, which offers dimension as well as a sense of age. In this way many of Kremen’s collages begin to resonate as artifacts, bearing the traits of ancient archeological finds.

While Kremen refuses metaphor or attendant meaning in connection with the rest of his oeuvre (but for the Re’eh series—see below), it is difficult not to see or feel themes emerge as one makes one’s way through this exhibition. And if there were a dominant single theme, it might be about the desire to hold and frame the joy of visual essences as they flash by us, to preserve and also to transform them, to create works that simultaneously celebrate and mourn the press of days and the experience of sentient life.

The Re’eh series

Irwin Kremen maintains that his work has no metaphoric or symbolic content. The one exception is the Re’eh series, which is displayed in its own separate room in the exhibition space. The Re’eh series stands as a rupture, self-described by Kremen as a shock when the first of the series “appeared” to him. In the winter of 1980 Kremen created a piece that undercut his preconceptions about what “work-of-his-kind” was supposed to be. In this piece, “Im Lager,” Kremen recognized imagery that echoed the horrors of Nazi Germany. In Kremen’s own words:

I knew that it had to do with the Holocaust, knew it with immediacy. Those stripes! And that shape with its broken Hebrew word! Torah scroll, tombstone? At once, the stripes that were worn in the camps and a scroll whose script is entombed in the same stripes! What else, if not both the camps and the world that the camps destroyed!

And while he had invested himself in the idea that his work was never to be “about” anything, he recognized the need to create a series that would follow the trajectory begun in that seminal work, a monument to victims of the Holocaust. Thus the Re’eh series, which includes works with such titles as “Broken Words,” “The Inconsolable” and the starkly grim “Transport,” constitutes an anomaly in Kremen’s output. But the series also serves as a cornerstone, even the soul of the exhibition. Each piece in the Re’eh series speaks in multiple layers, grappling with the unspeakable. The series also speaks to a kind of artistic courage—to relinquish preconceptions in the act of making. —Amy White

Irwin Kremen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Irwin Kremen (born 1925) is an American artist who at 41 began making art while Director of the Duke University Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology, after earning a Ph.D. six years earlier in clinical psychology at Harvard University.

Kremen’s artwork mainly consists of non-representational collage, sculpture, and painting. In his later years he has defined a fourth grouping which he calls “multimodes.”[1] These are syntheses of the other three or sometimes of just two. Early on, he worked in the first three modes but in 1969, while on sabbatical in Florence, Italy as a Fellow at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies, he began to compose collages of weathered paper and continued this for a decade.[2][3] Becoming unhappy with conventional methods of gluing collage elements, he developed a conservational method of affixing the disparate pieces together via tiny hinges of Japanese paper.[4][5]

In the late 1970s, while continuing collage making, Kremen returned to three-dimensional work, now in iron and scrap steel, and by the later 90s entered a collaboration with the sculptor William Noland. Over the next decade they made monumentally sized works, three of which were exhibited in Kremen’s 2007 retrospective at Duke University‘s Nasher Museum of Art. He also sporadically resumed work with acrylic paints and toward the late 90s began making painted panels below which were rows of collages arranged rhythmically.

Among Kremen’s major works is the Re’eh Series, a single work relative to the Holocaust, consisting of 11 narrative collages.[6]

Life[edit]

Born and raised in Chicago, Kremen attended Northwestern University for two-and-a-half years leaving in 1945 to become a reporter on ‘’The Chicago Journal of Commerce’’.[7] By that time he had independently encountered avant-garde art and modern literature and had begun writing poetry. Whereupon, in 1946, he left Chicago for the renowned Black Mountain College, an experimental educational community founded in 1933 near Asheville, N.C.[8] There Kremen spent his time focussed on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards.

Beginning in 1947 and for the next eight years he lived in Greenwhich Village, writing, reading widely, working variously in bookstores and in publishing, and broadening his knowledge of art and its history. And he became involved with the avant-garde circle around John Cage to whom he had been introduced by M.C. Richards in 1951 in New York, as also to David Tudor and Merce Cunningham. [9] In 1953 Cage dedicated to Kremen the score of 4’33” in proportional notation, as later he also did theTacet versions of 4’33”, the published editions of the so-called silent piece . [10] During that time he married Barbara Herman whom he had met at a Cage concert; completed a B.A. at The New School for Social Research; and went on to obtain a Ph.D. inclinical psychology at Harvard University. With his wife Barbara Kremen and their two children he left Cambridge for a professorial position on the faculty of the Psychology Department at Michigan State University. Two years later he joined that faculty at Duke University, and in another three years, in 1966, made his first work of art. He retired from Duke in 1992, and continues to make art.

Art[edit]

In 1977, after having kept his art private for twelve years, Kremen, then 54, agreed to an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collection of Fine Arts (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum) with two solo venues, the first in 1978 at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston Salem, NC, and the second in 1979, at its Museum in Washington.+ Twenty-nine solo venues followed, all but two in museums or contemporary art centers, and his work has been included in 27 group shows. The first exhibit of the Re’eh Series was held in 1985 at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA; nine other exhibits of it have followed. In the spring of 2007, the Nasher Museum of Art presented Kremen’s first retrospective. It included more than 172 works – collage, painting and sculpture – spanning each of the 40 years of Kremen’s art-making since he began at age 41.[11] In 2011, the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, NC held an exhibit of Kremen’s late work.

The Longest Ride Movie CLIP – Bull Riding Lesson (2015) – Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood Movie HD

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8:30 PM PDT 4/6/2015 by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line

A chance to check out up-and-coming actors in cloyingly calculated performances

Opens

April 10 (20th Century Fox)

Cast

Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston

Director

George Tillman Jr.

The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation stars Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) and Britt Robertson as oddly matched lovers

When it comes to Nicholas Sparks, you’re either up for the ride or you’re not. If you are, you’re part of a Middle American fan club that has supported nine schmaltzy, formulaic, achingly sincere film adaptations of the novelist’s books to the cumulative box office tune of about $750,000,000. If you’re not, well, The Longest Ride will feel like one of the longest 128 minutes of your life. Old-fashioned in all the most tedious ways, this by-the-numbers romance between oddly mismatched lovers plods along in a way that will nonetheless provide the cinematic equivalent of an agreeable airplane novel read for the already converted.

What’s most strange here is how Sparks, in a calculated attempt to link people from very different worlds, offers up social backgrounds for them that simply don’t mix at all — modern Southern college sorority life, the circumstances for World War II Jewish refugees, enclaves of modern art a half-century ago and today and, per the title, the good-ol’-boy milieu of professional bull riding. On top of that, no matter what crises may arise (and they are numerous), everyone is always perfectly attired and surrounded by pristine North Carolina settings in which no blade of grass is ever out of place.

The pretty couple at the center of things has modern cowboy Luke (Scott Eastwood), comeback-minded after having been violently thrown by a mighty mean bull named Rango, pursuing a very gentlemanly courtship of Wake Forest college senior Sophia (Britt Robertson) shortly before she’s due to move to New York for a high-end art gallery internship. Luke’s the sort to tote flowers when he shows up for their first date (“Call me old-school,” he bashfully intones), while Sophia is mentally already half-way out the school door on the way to her big-city future.

But fate intervenes, as it has a habit of doing, when the couple rescue an old man from a car accident on a dark rainy night and take him to a hospital. While he recovers, genial old gent Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) allows Sophia to read aloud to him from old letters that recount his poignant relationship with his beloved late wife, Ruth. So even as it’s not explained why so many letters were written when, in fact, Ira and Ruth were in the same place most of the time back in the early 1940s, we see extended flashbacks of the newly arrived Austrian Ruth (Oona Chaplin), a vivacious, forthright, immaculately attired young woman, capturing the heart of the pleasant looking but exceedingly placid Ira (Jack Huston, bearing absolutely no resemblance to Alda, young or old).

The couple’s many trials and tribulations, notably including Ira’s Jake Barnes-like war injury that prevents him from giving Ruth the children she craves and their failure to adopt a parentless hillbilly boy who shows intellectual promise, simply serve to demonstrate how few obstacles Luke and Sophia face compared to theirs. But more directly, Ruth’s passion for modern art fostered at the (real) progressive Black Mountain College in North Carolina feeds oh-so conveniently into Sophia’s career interests, while also providing the springboard for one of the most outrageously preposterous surprise endings in recent movies.

Leaving his career origins in Soul Food and the Barbershop series (which he produced) very far behind indeed, director George Tillman Jr. indulges, nay, embraces the sanitized banality of Sparks’ world with a straight face. Just as the basic plot points are hard to swallow, even the most rudimentary aspects of the characters’ interactions feel forced, artificial and unspontaneous. A significant part of the interest here surely lies in the film’s role as a showcase for four just moderately known young actors. Robertson, who co-stars in the highly anticipated, about-to-arrive Tomorrowland, often seems to have a bridle on here, keen to impart some spontaneity that’s being kept in check. Eastwood, in his first significant starring role after several supporting gigs, most recently in Fury, certainly resembles his dad both physically and in his inclination for minimal dialogue; he’s easy on the eyes and comfortably inhabits a Western-style character, but his potential remains to be determined.

Curiously, the couple from 70-odd years ago has been cast with grandchildren of Hollywood luminaries from that period. Huston displays none of the gumption associated with his director grandfather John or the latter’s thespian offspring. By contrast, Chaplin, granddaughter of Charles, daughter of actress Geraldine and namesake of her grandmother, is the sole younger actor to pop here; playing the only one of the youthful characters with any boldness or inclination to speak her own mind, the unconventional-looking performer comes off as assertive, driven and appealing in an idiosyncratic manner.

But providing the film with whatever emotional grounding it can claim is Alda. Restricted almost exclusively to a hospital bed, the 79-year-old actor makes the canned sentimentality of his 91-year-old character go down quite easily as he comments to Sophia about the vicissitudes of his life.

The settings and compositions are picture-postcard, the score syrupy, the bull-riding coverage not entirely convincing, the sentiments cliched and reassuring. But, boy oh boy, the ending! In Sparks’ world, when happiness rains, it pours.

Production: Fox 2000 Pictures, Temple Hill, Nicholas Sparks Productions

Cast: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda, Lolita Davidovich, Melissa Benoist, Gloria Reuben

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Screenwriter: Craig Bolotin, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Nicholas Sparks, Theresa Park

Executive producers: Michele Imperato Stabile, Robert Teitel, Tracey Nyberg

Director of photography: David Tattersall

Production designer: Mark Garner

Costume designer: Mary Claire Hannan

Editor: Jason Ballantine

Music: Mark Isham

Casting: Mary Vernieu, Lindsay Graham

PG-13 rating, 128 minutes

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Psychology Department’s “Artist in Residence”

Right NowI a Villema II
Irwin Kremen collages: Right Now, top; I a Villema II, bottom
Les Todd

Irwin Kremen, an assistant professor emeritus of psychology, is known almost as well for his art as for the academic career that has been his primary occupation.

This spring, “Irwin Kremen: Beyond Black Mountain (1996-2006),” a retrospective featuring more than 160 of the artist’s works, opened at the Nasher Museum of Art. The exhibition, which will run through June 19, comprises collages, paintings, and sculpture that span the forty years that Kremen has been making art—since he began in earnest at age forty-one, three years into his teaching career at Duke. On April 29, Kremen will lecture on a series of eleven collages included in the exhibition that relate to images of the Holocaust.

Many of Kremen’s collages consist of scraps of weathered paper he gathered during overseas travels. His sculptures, often large in scale, are composed of iron, saw blades, and steel, among other materials.

Kremen’s career as part-scholar, part-artist actually began years before he joined the Duke faculty, years before he considered psychology an interest, much less a career choice. He dropped out of Northwestern University after three years and worked as a reporter and a columnist for a local newspaper before moving to New York. There, he read an article about Black Mountain College, an art school near Asheville, North Carolina. “I immediately got on the train and went down there,” he said in a 2000 Duke Magazine profile, “and I decided that was the place for me to go.”

At Black Mountain, he concentrated on his writing, forming a close relationship with teacher M.C. Richards, a writer and potter. In 1951 in New York, Richards introduced him to celebrated artists associated with Black Mountain—John Cage, David Tutor, and Merce Cunningham—all of whom became close friends and eventually ardent supporters.

Later, after Kremen had discovered his love for psychology and made his start along an academic career path, Richards pushed him to turn his attention to collage making. What began in the late 1960s as a personal experiment would morph into a lifelong pursuit.

Kremen’s debut exhibit was organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collection in 1978; since then, his work has been shown in more than thirty venues at museums and art centers nationally and abroad. “The Art of Irwin Kremen,” an exhibition consisting of seventy-three collages and seventeen metal sculptures, was displayed at the Nasher’s predecessor, the Duke University Museum of Art, in 1990.

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asheville.com community news
The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Launches New Exhibit “Late Works by Irwin Kremen” on February 18 

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC) presents the new exhibition In Site: Late Works by Irwin Kremen opening Feb. 18, 2011 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and extending through June 4, 2011. There will be a gallery talk by the artist at 11:00am on Sat., Feb. 19th. The exhibition will primarily focus on recent collages by this master collagist and Durham, NC resident, but it will also include a selection of his sculptures. A 48-page color catalogue will accompany the exhibition with an essay by the artist. This exhibition is organized by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center located at 56 Broadway in downtown Asheville, NC. After it closes here, the show will travel to The Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.Working as a reporter and columnist for a local daily newspaper in New York City, five months after he had quit studying journalism at Northwestern University, Irwin Kremen came across an article featuring Black Mountain College. Without hesitation, he hopped on a train and joined this small, avant-garde community flourishing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Kremen recalls that he “sought fresh experience, different ideas, expanded feeling, in short, another way to be in the world.”

Although Kremen enrolled in Black Mountain College in 1946 to pursue his aspirations as a young writer, the progressive and collective environment he encountered there permanently re-defined his ideas about education. Black Mountain College exposed Kremen to such various and influential artists as poet and potter M.C. Richards and abstract painters Josef Albers and Kenneth Noland. Richards, who became a life-long friend of Kremen’s, prompted his first collage experiment nearly twenty years after Kremen had left Black Mountain College. What, at the time, had seemed to be only a playful assignment instigated what some consider Kremen’s ultimate metamorphosis, a transformation that continues to this day.

After Black Mountain College, Kremen lived in New York’s Greenwich Village where he befriended John Cage, Merce Cunningham and David Tudor, all of whom spent time at BMC after Kremen left. Cage dedicated his famous piece 4’33” to Kremen. Eventually Kremen went back to school and earned his Ph.D in clinical psychology from Harvard and moved to Durham to teach at Duke in 1963. It was a few years later that M.C. Richards introduced him to collage making. Kremen is known for his elegant found-paper collages that employ a unique “hinge” construction technique. He says about his work, “I hunt out papers that have been in sun, in rain, covered with the dirt of the city. Yet as I look at them, I realize their exquisite potential.”

Irwin Kremen has had solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, as well as at a long list of galleries and museums. He won the Sam Ragan Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Fine Arts of NC in 1998.

Programming during the exhibition will include an Artist’s Talk and an Advanced Collage Workshop with the artist as well as a panel about Writing on Art and a reading by three NC-based writers.

(Image provided by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center.)

Looking for more happenings in the area? Check out Asheville.com’s comprehensive visitor center.

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BLACK MOUNTAIN: WAS IT A REAL COLLEGE OR DID WE JUST MAKE IT UP OURSELVES? BY MARY EMMA HARRIS

Black Mountain:
Was It a Real College Or Did We Just Make It Up Ourselves?
by Mary Emma Harris, Featured Speaker

REVIEWING BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE 6
26-28 September 2014—UNC Asheville, Asheville, NC

 Editor’s Note:
Mary Emma Harris is Chair and Director of The Black Mountain College Project. Hailed by Charles Alan Watkins as a “well-researched and handsomely illustrated history” of BMC, Ms. Harris’ groundbreaking study, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Massachusetts Institute for Technology Press, 1987), is an indispensable guide to the school’s history and curriculum that weds its praxis to its ideals and founding mission. This work continues to inform and inspire, serving as foundational text not only for scholars in the field but also for all interested in experimental education in America. Ms. Harris welcomed conferees at the sixth annual gathering at UNC Asheville with a formal talk, which formed the basis for this article. Lauding the school’s democratic ideas and progressive curriculum in the visual, literary, and performing arts, she celebrates the state of BMC studies, rethinks Black Mountain College’s history, and challenges us to see our creativity and innovation as part of the school’s legacy.

“Beginnings,” Anni Albers wrote, “are usually more interesting than endings” (52). Those of us writing about Black Mountain College and leading new institutions are pioneers. There will be those who come after us who will continue our work, but just as the experience of the founders of Black Mountain College or those who built the Studies Building was different than that of those who came after, our experience is unique and the responsibility great. When I first heard about Black Mountain College in 1968, I was starting with a blank page. I did not know who was at the college, when or why they were there, or what they did. The educational ideals were a mystery. There were no books to which I could turn. Pioneers had preceded me. Robert Moore at East Tennessee University had curated the first Black Mountain College exhibition. His papers are now at The Western Regional Archives of the State of North Carolina as a part ofThe Black Mountain College Project Papers. Martin Duberman had started his research, but his pioneering study of the college, Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (E.P. Dutton) did not appear until 1972.

I did not grow up in an academic or artistic family. I was one of six children raised by a single parent on a small tobacco farm in Eastern North Carolina. We received Life Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. I handed tobacco and worked a number of jobs. I attended Greensboro College, a small Methodist college, before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In many ways BMC has been my education—my “higher learning.” Several years ago a BMC student confronted me with a daunting question, “What, Mary, if you have done all this work and nobody cares?” “That being the case,” I responded, “it has been well worth the journey.” As I write, there are exhibitions being organized in Europe and the United States, concerts in rehearsal, books in press, a movie being made, dissertations and theses in progress. Humbly, I am reminded of Josef Albers’ advice to youth:

 Calm down
what happens
happens mostly
without you. (n.p.)

Personally, I yearn to unbox my own research and to return to my work as an independent scholar. There are books there to be written. There is information that should be digitalized as a resource for those interested in the college. There is an extensive chronology with thousands of entries: a year-by-year roster of faculty, students, staff and family; the Advisory Council and the Board of Fellows; the officers of the corporation; plays, concerts and exhibitions; visitors; publications; and other material. Already I begin to mull over in the back of my mind the best way to put this together and how it might be a living resource with contributions and additions from scholars over time. I am beginning to explore possible institutional connections, which will insure its survival long after me. I only hope that I have enough years left to complete this work and for a few adventures.

Thankfully, many hard-working individuals and institutions with devoted staffs and volunteers are working diligently to preserve the history of BMC. By increasing our understanding of its complexity, its historicity, its richness, and its legacy, they make the past speak to us today. While there is much more work to be done, there is much to celebrate:

  • The Western Regional Archives of the State of North Carolina, which has the largest collection of Black Mountain College documents in the world. Its holdings are the foundation for any study of the college. I am so very pleased that the collections, previously housed in Raleigh, have found their way home to Western North Carolina. I would specifically like to thank Heather South for her untiring efforts to help researchers from everywhere. I would also like to thank Theodore Dreier, Jr., who is here today, and his sister Barbara B. Dreier, for the donation of their parents’ papers to the Western Regional Archives;
  • The Black Mountain College Museum+Arts Center located at 56 Broadway in Asheville, which is dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of the world’s most acclaimed experimental educational community and offers a wide range of exhibitions, a video archive, research materials, and a selection of books and other materials for sale. Its collections, exhibitions and programming are expanding our knowledge and understanding of the college and providing Asheville with a new and different voice in the arts. A recent grant from the Windgate Foundation is both witness to and guarantee of the longevity of BMCM+AC that has enabled it to expand its programs and facilities. This institution that helps sustain the arts in Asheville was the brainchild of Mary Holden Thompson, founder of the museum. Connie Bostic, Alice Sebrell, Brian Butler, and many others continue to make her vision a reality;
  • BMCS, The Journal of Black Mountain College Studies, an online peer-reviewed publication of BMCM+AC, which provides scholars with a coherent voice for the publication of their work. We thank its co-founders, Brian Butler and editor Blake Hobby, Alessandro Porco, who serves as its associate editor, and all who have dedicated their time and talent;
  • The Asheville Art Museum for its commitment to a comprehensive Black Mountain College Collection, which includes art of Black Mountain College students and faculty. The collection, an ongoing project, complements the BMCM+AC collection. I’m grateful to Pamela Myers and the museum staff for making it possible for me to bring into a museum collection a large body of material that needed a permanent home. The AAM, located at 2 South Pack Square, is a community-based, nonprofit organization established by artists and incorporated in 1948. Its focus is on Twentieth and Twenty-first Century art of the Western North Carolina and the Appalachian area.
  • The Black Mountain College Project (BMC Project), of which I am Chair, as it moves forward in the realization of its goals. Two years ago the BMC Project donated its collection of primary documents—photos and negatives, journals, student notes—to the Western Regional Archives, expanding significantly its holdings. The art works in the BMC Project collection were donated to the Asheville Art Museum. Presently, I am preparing 400 interviews and transcripts for an archive. Once the work of the BMC Project is completed, its assets will be donated to another institution, and the Project will happily dissolve, declaring, “Mission accomplished.”
  • The many private and public archives housing documents of those who taught and studied at the college: The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, The University of Connecticut in Storrs, The State University of New York at Buffalo, The Getty Research Institute, and Stanford University, among others. John Andrew Rice’s papers are at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina;
  • Scholars and artists worldwide who are doing careful, enlightening work on specific aspects of Black Mountain College and on the individuals who taught and studied there;
  • Those brave souls who taught and studied at Black Mountain for their courage, their wisdom, and their imagination. They have been my friends, my mentors, my critics and my teachers over many years.

Through the efforts of local institutions and others like them, Western North Carolina is now the epicenter for Black Mountain College studies.

It is important for those institutions and individuals in Asheville to remember that Black Mountain College settled near the Village of Black Mountain as a matter of chance. It was here that it put down its roots though it remained throughout its history an outsider. Almost a century after BMC’s founding, Asheville has embraced the college as its own. The Asheville institutions and all of us who seek to preserve and document the college’s history and influence should remember that these collections and the college’s legacy are held in trust. No individual or institution can claim ownership. The college was Black Mountain and Asheville. It was also New York, Boston, Berlin, San Francisco, Cambridge, Dessau and Frankfurt. It was John Cage and Lou Harrison. It was J.S. Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Virgil Thompson, Sir Edward Elgar and the Early Music. The college opened its doors to people of many nationalities, ethnicities, political beliefs and races. Its legacy should not be encompassed by a narrow provincialism that limits its history and our understanding of its significance.

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“Was That A Real Poem
Or Did You Just Make
It Up Yourself?” (n.p.)

In his essay “Was That A Real Poem Or Did You Just Make It Up Yourself?,” Robert Creeley muses on a number of issues regarding poetry and the poet: What is a poem? Why does one write? The title is a question posed to another poet at a college reading: “Tell me,” the student queried, “that next to the last poem you read—was that a real poem or did you just make it up yourself?”

In his own search for an answer, Creeley turned first to his trusted 1935 edition of the The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current Englishand was horrified to find “’elevated expression of elevated thought or feeling, esp. in metrical form….’” He then turned to the more recent American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969) and found “the art or work of a poet” which he defined as a real “cop-out.” The definition Creeley articulates avoids both the formula and the cop-out. It is descriptive. It is complex. It requires the reader or listener to think and to respond: “It is equal wonder,” Creeley writes, “when the rhythms which words can embody move to like echo and congruence. It is a place, in short, one has come to, where words dance truly in an information of one another, drawing in the attention, provoking feelings to participate.” This definition requires that the individual listen, respond, and participate. It is nuanced and comprehensive. A poem is a “place.”

Was Black Mountain College a “real” college, or was it simply made up by a group of incompetent, unaccredited, idealistic, unemployed, disaffected, disillusioned, and disenfranchised professors? What is a “real” college? Following Creeley’s example, I turned to an early edition of Webster’s Dictionary in which Black Mountain was listed as a college in the end-materials along with other colleges. Here was one credential. I then turned to my well-worn Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1965). There “college” is “An institution ofhigher learning [emphasis added] that gives the bachelor’s degree in liberal arts or science or both.” The definition goes on to describe it as an institution that offers certain instruction, the faculty and students, and the buildings where the instruction takes place. Until the 1950s BMC did not grant degrees, and when it did, they were not accredited.

In an essay “Fundamentalism and the Higher Learning” in the May 1937 issue of Harper’s Magazine, John Andrew Rice, BMC founder, addressed that very issue of “higher learning.” He challenged the assertion of Robert Maynard Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago and creator of the Great Books curriculum, that students should be introduced to “a common stock of fundamental ideas” gleaned from a select group of books deemed to be the “classics” or that a “fixed curriculum based on eternal truths” was a meaningful education (587; 594).

“’In general education…,’” Hutchins had posited, “’we may wisely leave experience to life and set about our job of intellectual training.’” Rice points out the disparity between “logic” and “truth.” Simply reading and thinking, he observes, does not prepare the student for life. He asserts that experience is essential to education, but that is the quality of experience that counts. Language, he notes, is only an “approximation” of thought. Feeling plays a role. In Nazi Germany, he warns, well-educated people with their emotions raised by a “house-painter” turned to “savagery.” “While intellection was being sharpened and polished, savagery was going its way, waiting for a chance. If we think this cannot happen here we are fools” (588-90).

The “higher learning” Rice suggests is “to follow the Socratic direction to teach the young how to become, not how to be, philosophers and to show them that in their quest for certainty the only thing on which they can rely with assurance is the experience of the quest.” “Education,” he proposes, “instead of being the acquisition of a common stock of fundamental ideas, may well be a way of learning of a common way of doing things, a way of approach, a method of dealing with ideas or anything else. What you do with what you know is the important thing. To know is not enough.” Rice’s Plato class was less about Plato than it was about the Socratic method. Students were challenged to examine their assumptions and beliefs as a step toward the process of becoming philosophers (592; 595).

Rice concludes his essay with a statement which for years puzzled me: “When every day offers the adventure of seeking the word for the meaning rather than the meaning for the word, when action and word merge and become one, then shall we have the higher learning in America, and not before” (596). Robert Creeley understood that the definition for the word should not determine the meaning (or experience). Instead the experience should define the word.

The issue today is the possibility that the “real” Black Mountain College is being lost in the frenzy of excitement over the more luminous events in its history. Almost fifty years ago when I first heard about Black Mountain College, it had for the most part disappeared from memory. A few in San Francisco and some in the Massachusetts area knew about the college through the Black Mountain Poets, which carried its name. Frequently, those in education dismissed it as an interesting but failed experiment in American education that had no lasting influence. Now in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century, its influence is undeniable. For most, however, the college is associated with a few names—John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller—all of whom were there for only a few months as guest faculty members. Unfortunately, its educational ideals are less known and often reduced to a few clichés: No grades, work program, farm. The danger today is not so much the unconsidered dismissal of the college as it is an over-inflation of the small modest school and a distortion of its history. The danger is that the educational ideals and the dynamics of the small community, the foundation on which the college thrived, are being oversimplified or ignored.

I encountered the myth early in my Black Mountain journey. When I entered the art department at Washington University in St. Louis and asked about a former student from Black Mountain College, a student working in the office responded, “Oh, Camelot!” It is all too possible to romanticize BMC, to forget that there was magic but also there was a dayliness to classes, farm work, study and committees. It is all too easy to forget the struggle each year to raise money and pay bills. It is all too easy to forget that all this was not easy.

In his novel The Longest Ride (2013), Nicholas Sparks writes of the life-changing experience of Ira and Ruth, a young couple who visited the college on their honeymoon in the summer of 1946. Ruth exclaims in wonder, “‘…to think that it was all there, at a small college in the middle of nowhere! It was like finding….’” And Ira finishes, “’A treasure chest!’” “‘It was Abstract Expressionism!’” (194). In an effort to enhance the experience of the honey-mooning couple, Sparks places Willem and Elaine de Kooning at the college in the summer of 1946 along with “Ken and Ray and Robert,” when, in fact, that summer only Ray Johnson was in attendance, and Abstract Expressionism was not introduced until two years later. Nevertheless, Ira purchased for Ruth six Abstract Expressionist paintings one each by Ken, Ray, Elaine, and Robert and two by “Elaine’s husband.” (This is probably the only instance in which Willem de Kooning has been referred to as “Elaine’s husband.”) Even in fiction to recreate the historic facts of the college to enhance a story is to create a double-fiction and to distort our perception of the “real” Black Mountain. Likewise, for scholars to condense the college’s history into a few luminous events, which actually were scattered over a period of twenty-four years, is to perpetuate the Camelot myth (197).

Last year when I conducted a tour of the Blue Ridge Assembly buildings, we entered a large auditorium with a capacity of hundreds. A representative of Blue Ridge noted that college concerts and performances took place there. When I commented that, in fact, they took place on an improvised stage in the dining hall, in the lobby of Lee Hall, or on occasion in the gym, someone noted that there would have been townspeople attending. In fact, twenty townspeople would have been a large turnout.

Is the “real” Black Mountain College relevant today? The issues of the arts in education, of testing, of the relevance of manual activities in a digital world and of the role of faculty and administration are contemporary themes. Recently, on the news a school was featured where the teachers, tired of having directives handed down, took over the school. As at Black Mountain, decisions are reached by consensus. Learning is project-based. The school principal remains though she does not have an office. In his New York Times 14 August 2014 editorial, “Don’t Dismiss the Humanities,” Nicholas Kristof notes how parents of students in the humanities are concerned that their children will be “dog-watchers for those majoring in computer science.” He argues that “the humanities are [not] obscure, arcane and irrelevant” because it is through the humanities that we come to understand the world.

A poem is a place; likewise, the “real” Black Mountain College was aplace. It was a complex landscape— vibrant, interactive, torn by conflicting personalities and ideals, and often dull. It was a “made-up” world affording innumerable higher learning experiences that redefined the possibility of what a college might be.

Works Cited

Albers, Anni. On Weaving. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1965. Print.
Albers, Josef. Poems and Drawings. New Haven: Readymade Press, 1958. Print.
Creeley, Robert. “Was That A Real Poem Or Did You Just Make It Up Yourself?” Sparrow 40. Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press, January 1976. Print.
Kristof, Nicholas. “Don’t Dismiss the Humanities.” New York Times. 14 August 2014. Print.
Rice, John Andrew. “Fundamentalism and the Higher Learning.”Harper’s Magazine 174 (May 1937): 587-97. Print.
Sparks, Nicholas. The Longest Ride. New York/Boston: Grand Central Publishing, 2013. Print.

Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: G Merriam Company, 1965. Print.

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