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robertogreco : josefalbers   26

The most influential college you’ve never heard of, why it folded, and why it matters | Scalawag
"But Black Mountain College was not, strictly speaking, an art school. And it certainly didn’t start that way. In 1933, classics professor John Andrew Rice tossed the snowball that kicked off a decades-long avalanche, foregoing more pointed Latin and Greek coursework at Rollins College to lead his students on Socratic journeys about topics from religion to “What is Art” and bad-mouthing academic hierarchy. The Rollins College president, a self-proclaimed “experimenter in education,” was nonetheless displeased. For this curricular skullduggery, and for Rice’s generally winking attitude toward authority, he had Rice fired.

Popular as Rice was, his exit caused a scandal. When the dust settled, eight professors had left Rollins, and a number of students with them. After some uncertainty, Rice and his colleagues decided to put their rebellious philosophies to test. Thanks to a local professor, property was located in western North Carolina, a grand colonnaded hall atop an Appalachian hill in the shadows of the Blue Ridge; funders were secured to support the endeavor; teachers were recruited. From a pedagogic schism, Black Mountain College was born.

The goal was from the outset to approach education in an unregimented way. There were no required courses, no extensive examinations, no formal grading. The school was not even accredited, “graduating” only sixty students throughout its lifetime. Yet its alums were accepted by graduate schools and as transfers, from Harvard to Princeton to the Pasadena Playhouse College of the Theatre, despite their lack of certificates.

To ensure an open curriculum, the founders decided to avoid top-down control, instead granting ownership of the school to the whole faculty evenly, including new hires. Meanwhile, the school decided to make no decisions without student input—student officers could be present at faculty meetings and would sit on the governing Board of Fellows (constituted otherwise of a subgroup of the professoriate). Discussions of school policy were typically open affairs attended by all. Collectivism was applauded; democracy reigned.

This opened space for BMC’s idea that learning and living should interlace. As Louis Adamic, who spent three months at the school as a curious visitor, described the method in a breathless 1936 article for Harper’s: “At BMC there is no head-cramming. There education is experience that involves in action the whole person.”

To that end, Rice and his cofounders made art a core piece of the Black Mountain experience, in an effort to get each student to “put the same faith in doing that he has been taught to have in absorbing,” as an early school catalogue put it. Serendipitously (for Black Mountain, anyway), the year of the college’s founding, the Nazis closed down the radical Bauhaus art school in Germany. Josef and Anni Albers, looking to escape the rising tide of fascism, agreed to come on at BMC to teach art, despite the fact, as Josef wrote, that he did not “speak one word English.” In subsequent years, many Germans would follow.

The Albers’ arrival was a coup for the school. It immediately provided a strong artistic spine and influenced the pedagogy greatly: Josef was a champion of a humanistic approach to education, of art as a way to engage the world completely. So while art was central, everyone was not to become an artist, per se; instead, art looked more like the core of a liberal arts education today. BMC alum Will Hamlin described the result to historian Martin Duberman: “I think we had this in common with the painters and weavers and musicians, that we were trying to make some kind of order out of things, I mean really trying, not just pretending to be… I think we were—with a few exceptions—really working at creating our own universes of meaning.”

The decision to avoid any sort of administrative board cut both ways. The educational model was open as the sky. But the school was constantly scrambling for money, seemingly always on the verge of closing—although it still maintained a pay-what-you-can system (sometimes counterbalanced by accepting wealthier students for that reason alone).

The “precariousness, though deplored and decried at the time, may well have contributed to the community élan,” as Duberman writes. “The severity of the struggle for economic survival helped to knit the community together.” The upshot was a focus on collectively tending to the college: a work program was instituted early on, and students and professors alike worked a farm that provided food for sustenance and sometimes sale, constructed new school buildings, washed dishes, and maintained the grounds. This was cause for grumbling in some corners—it was work, after all—and romantic reverie in others. Rice, the school’s cheeky founder, perhaps summed up the ambivalent attitude best in his autobiography. “Untoiling poets may sing of the dignity of toil;” he wrote, “others know there is degradation in obligatory sweat.”

Nevertheless, there was definite communal buy-in among the Black Mountaineers. When psychologist John Wallen joined the faculty in 1945, he broadened the question of collective responsibility by reaching out to the largely bemused and distrustful surrounding community. (There was a bit of a cultural gap between the school and its environs. A maintenance man on BMC’s first campus described the student body to me as many contemporary locals would: “nothing to do but moonshine and sex.”)

In many ways, the experiment was successful. Students volunteered in town, worked in the Southern Negro Youth Conference, registered voters, gathered signatures for petitions. But it was also short-lived, as Wallen left BMC contentiously not two years into his appointment, taking his ideals with him.

Still, while insulated at times from its surroundings, the school tackled the social issues of its day. It offered a home to German Jews, artists and intellectuals during another era when immigration vexed the United States. In 1944, ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Alma Stone, a Black musician from Georgia, attended BMC’s summer institute in the Jim Crow South. The following summer black artists began to teach, and Black students enrolled full-time, some back from the war on the GI Bill. When the students went into town, they abided by segregation laws; but when outsiders came to Black Mountain for concerts, theater productions, and the like, everybody sat where they pleased.

Democracy proved hard. Immediately upon BMC’s founding, a more powerful group of faculty emerged at its helm: John Rice, Josef Albers, engineer Theodore Dreier, a few compatriots. Soon, some of their colleagues began to resent the group’s authority as at odds with the school’s mission; when Rice had a very public affair with a student in the late ’30s, it provided a catalyst to put him on leave for a time. He never returned.

Sans affair (although that continued to happen every so often), this process repeated itself throughout the school’s history: groups of professors were forced out or resigned, sometimes taking significant portions of the student body with them. Eventually even Albers fell victim to such a dispute after a younger crop of professors decided that he and his ilk had become too stuffy.

The infighting shaped life at the school and gives a sense of the easy-come-easy-go nature of the work. Professors were appointed initially to two-year terms, and later to one-year terms; there was no tenure. Faculty could be asked to leave for the vaguest of reasons—complaints about classroom technique became shorthand for any number of nebulous collegial gripes. Yet because they were part of steering the college, because of their great freedom in implementing their visions of education, professors came. And they stayed.

Josef and Anni Albers, despite the consistently meager pay, taught at the school for 16 years. Co-founder Theodore Dreier, too. Poet Mary Catherine Richards stayed seven years and continued to be involved with the school after she left. The poet Charles Olson stayed six years, until the school closed. (Some students stayed about as long.) The pay was bad, yes. But to be architects of education, rather than grunts on its front line, was for many worth the shortfall.

Albers’s exit in 1949 began the last, most incandescent period of BMC’s history, under the rectorship of Olson, a six-foot-seven-inch whirlwind of a man. After a (comparatively) more staid period in the late ‘40s, the school under Olson lived up to its ideals of radical experimentation. Any semblance of traditional course structure was scrapped, seminars ran until the wee hours of morning, the lines blurred fully between students and faculty. The literary arts took central importance, and the “Black Mountain School” of poets emerged, buoyed by Robert Creeley’s publication of the Black Mountain Review, a journal whose contributors also included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

The Olson years were BMC magnified: yet more cash-starved, yet more experimental, yet more soul-searching. Yet more famous alumni—painter Dorothea Rockburne emerged from this period as well—yet more piercing thought. But the lack of structure had its costs; dwindling enrollment meant emptier coffers, and finally, in 1956-7, the school’s closure. Professors and students spun off to more traditional universities, to new experiments in communal living, to Abstract Expressionist New York and the San Francisco of the Beats.

Black Mountain College’s troubles stemmed from staunch opposition to centralized hierarchical governance. The UNC system’s current issues lend credence to those fears. Early last year, after the NC Board of Governors reviewed 240 academic institutes and centers across the UNC system, they decided to close down three—the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, at UNC Chapel Hill; East Carolina University’s NC Center for Biodiversity; and … [more]
northcarolina  2016  sammyfeldblum  hierarchy  education  highered  highereducation  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  johnandrewrice  charlesolson  democracy  art  arts  curriculum  openness  experience  experientialeducation  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  governance  politics  precarity  rollinscollege  authority  opencurriculum  living  lcproject  openstudioproject  louisadamic  martinduberman  precariousness  community  collectivism  responsibility  theodoredreier  marycatherinerichards  robertcreeley  history  horizontality 
5 days ago by robertogreco
Josef Albers: “open Eyes” By Brenda Danilowitz | The Chinati Foundation | La Fundación Chinati
"To coincide with an exhibition of Josef Albers’s paintings opening at the Chinati Foundation in October 2006, the following pages feature an excerpt from Brenda Danilowitz’s essay in Josef Albers: To Open Eyes, a study of Albers as teacher, and essays on the artist written by Donald Judd over a 30-year period.

At the very moment Josef and Anni Albers found themselves unable to imagine their future in Germany, the offer of a teaching position at Black Mountain College arrived. This surprising invitation, which came in the form of a telegram from Philip Johnson, then head of the fledgling department of architecture and design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, was an unintended consequence of three events: Rice’s resignation; the attendant dismissals and sympathetic resignations of a group of Rice’s colleagues; and the founding by this group of idealistic and disenchanted academics of a new college where they hoped to realize, independently, their educational philosophies and dreams."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  annialbers  brendadanilowitz  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  art  arts  education  arteducation  2006 
5 days ago by robertogreco
Ruth Asawa, a Pioneer of Necessity
"Black Mountain College was not Ruth Asawa’s first choice. Determined to be an art teacher, she enrolled in Milwaukee State Teachers College from 1943 to ’46. She chose Milwaukee because it was the cheapest college in the catalog she consulted while she and her family were interned in the Rohwer Relocation Center, in Rohwer, Arkansas. However, when she learned that her fourth year was going to be devoted to practice teaching, and that no school in Wisconsin would hire someone who was Japanese, she decided to go to art school. The war might have been over, and the Japanese defeated, but the racism it engendered was still officially in place.

This is perhaps why she and her sister Lois took a bus trip to Mexico City, where she enrolled in a newly formed art school, La Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Escultura La Esmeralda. She also enrolled at the University of Mexico, where she took a class with Clara Porset, an innovative furniture designer from Cuba who had been at Black Mountain College in 1934 and studied with Albers. Through the influence of Porset, as well as that of Asawa’s friend Elaine Schmitt, whom she had met at the end of her freshman year in Milwaukee, Black Mountain College and Josef Albers emerged as a viable American option — a small, relatively isolated environment where she had at least one friend, Schmitt.

Asawa was 20 years old when she and her sister arrived at Black Mountain in the summer of 1946. On the way there, at a stop in Missouri, they did not know whether to use the “colored” or “whites only” bathroom. Like other Asians living in America at that time (and even now), she was both visible and invisible, not always knowing which way she would be regarded.

I thought about the road that Asawa took to Black Mountain College on her way to becoming an artist when I went to the exhibition Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner (September 13–October 21, 2017), her first with this gallery, which now represents her estate. Asawa — whose work was included in the traveling exhibition, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957, organized by Helen Molesworth — is the latest postwar American artist to be rediscovered by an establishment still waking up to its racist and sexist biases.

In the summer of 1947, Asawa returned to Mexico and worked as a volunteer teacher in the town of Toluca. While she was there, she learned about the crochet loop, which the locals used to make wire baskets. The act of making a loop, or bundling wires together and tying them with a knot, is central to her work. The loop, done in profuse repetition, gave her the freedom to make a range of transparent forms and to contain other transparent forms within them. Many of these works she suspended from the ceiling. Conceivably they could grow to any size, limited only by the dimensions of the room in which they were suspended. There are a number of works done in this way in the exhibition, spheres and cones and teardrop shapes, often with another shape suspended within. I was reminded of soap bubbles stretching but not dispersing, of a form changing slowly and inevitably as it descended from the ceiling.

Made of woven wire, the sculptures oscillate between solidity and dematerialization, which is underscored by the shadows they cast. I think this aspect of the work should have been dramatized more. The strongest works are the ones made of a number of what artist called “lobes” and forms suspended within forms. When she weaves a wire sphere within a larger, similarly shaped form, it evokes a woman’s body, an abstract figure with a womb.

The sculptures with an hourglass shape underscore this association. But this connection can be extended further. In some of Asawa’s sculptures, an elongated tubular form periodically swells into a globular structure with a small spherical form cocooned inside. It is as if these are models for cells undergoing a transformation, generative organisms giving birth to a similar being. At the same time, because they are suspended, gravity is registered as an inescapable and relentless force, an invisible presence manifesting itself on the very structure of the sculpture’s body.

Through the act of weaving the artist has transformed wire — an industrial material — into a cellular structure, something both microscopic and organic. Paradoxically, the structure is a kind of armor, at once protective and vulnerable, with inside and outside visible at the same time.

In other classes of sculptures, of which there are fewer examples, Asawa bundled together wires, which she tied with a knot. These spiky constructions — which are like abstract root systems — were inspired by nature, as were the artworks Asawa made while a student at Black Mountain: small oil paintings on paper, a potato print, a work in ink on paper made with a BMC (Black Mountain College) laundry stamp.

These pieces are complemented by archival materials and vintage photographs of her and of her works taken by Imogen Cunningham. The presentation is beautiful and clean, which made me happy and yet bugged. The wall text at the entrance to the show cited the difficulties Asawa encountered because she was a “woman of color,” which to my mind dilutes what happened.

In all of the work, a simple action or form is repeated. Asawa took this lesson and made it into something altogether unique in postwar sculpture. She does not weld or fabricate. There is nothing macho about her work. Rather, she weaves; her practice, gender, and race cast a shadow over her initial reception in the 1950s in New York, when she had shows at the Peridot Gallery in 1954, ’56, and ‘58. She was a woman of Japanese ancestry making art in the years after World War II, which was a double whammy. In the Time magazine review of her first show at Peridot, the writer paired her exhibition with one by Isamu Noguchi. That same writer identified her as a “San Francisco housewife.” The Art News review of her 1956 show by Eleanor C. Munro characterized her this way:
These are “domestic” sculptures in a feminine, handiwork mode — small and light and unobtrusive for home decoration, not meant, as is much contemporary sculpture, to be hoisted by cranes, carted by vans and installed on mountainsides.

Looking at this exhibition, and thinking about Asawas’ persistence and generosity, I realized why Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” has often bothered me. In that poem, read by nearly all American schoolchildren, the poet talks about taking the road “less traveled.” That is all fine and dandy if you have that choice. Asawa did not. More than once, she had to make a road where there was none. She was a pioneer out of necessity."
ruthasawa  art  artists  education  arteducation  2017  blackmountaincollege  bmc  mexico  sanfrancisco  sculpture  josefalbers  claraporset 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Black Mountain College Museum en Instagram: “"Albers was a beautiful teacher and an impossible person. He wasn’t easy to talk to, and I found his criticism so excruciating and so…”
[Robert Rauschenberg on Josef Albers as his teacher at Black Mountain College]

"Albers was a beautiful teacher and an impossible person. He wasn’t easy to talk to, and I found his criticism so excruciating and so devastating that I never asked for it. Years later, though, I'm still learning what he taught me, because what he taught had to do with the entire visual world. He didn’t teach you how to do art. The focus was always on your personal sense of looking. When he taught watercolor, for example, he taught the specific properties of watercolor - not how to make a good watercolor picture. When he taught drawing, he taught the efficient functioning of line. Color was about the flexibilities and the complex relationships that color have with one another.
...
I consider Albers the most important teacher I've ever had, and I'm sure he considered me one of his poorest students. Coming from Paris, entering in the middle of the term, and showing all that wildness and naivety and hunger, I must have seemed not serious to him, and I don’t think he ever realized the it was his discipline that I came for. Besides, my response to what I learned from him was just the opposite of what he intended. When Albers showed me that one color was as good as another that that you were just expressing a personal preference if you thought a certain color would be better, I found that I couldn’t decide to use one color instead of another, because I really wasn’t interested in taste. I was so involved with the materials separately that I didn’t want painting to be simply an act of employing one color to do something to another color, like using red to intensify green, because that would imply some subordination of red. I was very hesitant about arbitrarily designing form and selecting colors that would achieve some predetermined result, because I didn’t have any ideas to support that sort of thing — I didn’t want color to serve me, in other words. That’s why I ended doing the the all-white and all-black paintings — one of the reasons anyway." (via @rauschenbergfoundation)"
bmc  blackmountaincollege  teaching  robertrauschenberg  josefalbers  howeteach  looking  seeing  color 
december 2018 by robertogreco
26 | Black Mountain College — Do Not Touch
"We're going back to school and learning about an arts college in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. For 24 years the college attracted famous teachers and produced students who would go on to achieve their own fame. I have two guests speaking to me about Black Mountain - Kate Averett from the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and Professor Eva Diaz from Pratt Institute."
bmc  2018  blackmountaincollege  bauhaus  annialbers  johndewey  art  arts  education  highered  highereducation  alternative  experimental  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  horizontality  evadiaz  kateaverett  history  arthistory  pedagogy  lcproject  openstudioproject  form  exploration  liberalarts  roberrauschenberg  willemdekooning  abstractexpressionism  howwework  discipline  self  identity  johncage  mercecunningham  self-directedlearning  self-directed  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  vision  cognition  expressionism  expression  music  dance  buckminsterfuller  technique  chance  happenings  anarchism  ego  spontaneity  unknown  improvisation  radicalism  transilience  northcarolina  transience  hippies  communes  integration  jacoblawrence  almastonewilliams  outsiders  refugees  inclusion  inclusivity  openness  gender  rayjohnson  elainedekooining  karenkarnes  dorothearockburn  hazellarsenarcher  blackmountaincollegemuseum  susanweil  maryparkswashington  josefalbers  charlesolson  poetry  johnandrewrice 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Black Mountain College: "The Grass-Roots of Democracy" - Open Source with Christopher Lydon
"Our guest, the literary historian Louis Menand, explains that B.M.C. was a philosophical experiment intent on putting the progressive philosopher John Dewey‘s ideas to work in higher education. The college curriculum was unbelievably permissive — but it did ask that students undertake their own formation as citizens of the world by means of creative expression, and hard work, in a community of likeminded people.

The college may not have lived up to its utopian self-image — the scene was frequently riven by interpersonal conflict — but it did serve as a stage-set to some of modern culture’s most interesting personalities and partnerships."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  rutherickson  louismenand  teddreier  theodoredreier  sebastiansmee  taylordavis  williamdavis  2016  robertcreeley  jacoblawrence  josefalbers  robertrauschenberg  annialbers  davidtudor  franzkline  mercecunningham  johncage  charlesolson  buckminsterfuller  johndewey  democracy  art  music  film  poetry  cytwombly  bauhaus  experientiallearning  howwelearn  education  johnandrewrice  unschooling  deschooling  schools  schooling  learning  howelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  christopherlydon  abstractexpressionism  popart  jacksonpollock  arthistory  history  arts  purpose  lcproject  openstudioproject  leapbeforeyoulook  canon  discovery  conflict  artists  happenings  openness  rural  community  highered  highereducation  curriculum  willemdekooning  small  control  conversation  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  mitmedialab  medialab  chaos  utopia  dicklyons  artschools  davidbowie  experimentation  exploration  humanity  humanism  humility  politics 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-July 5 | Archives of American Art
"PK: How did you feel at the time? And I would ask you this as well, Albert. Would you give the Black Mountain experience as a kind of a watershed for you? Did something happen there? Was there an environment in which you did feel that, “Ah, this is heady stuff. We’re working with some new ideas, some new forms.” Did you feel that way about it?

RA: It probably felt as though we were ahead of the administration in that time. At that time we felt we were so beyond them.

AL: You mean as students? We were ahead of the people doing the teaching?

RA: Yes.

AL: I didn’t feel that. But go ahead.

RA: Well, we were encouraged to try out new things at that time.

AL: I think we felt that everything was possible. Everything was possible. Anything’s possible.

RA: And maybe it was our youth that gave us that feeling at that time. But we thought we were given permission to try out new things in terms of the way that . . .

PK: Materials?

RA: Materials. The things that the administration was trying to do. They were experimenting and we were also experimenting at the time. And we were so poor that we were taking materials that were around us and using leaves and rocks and things that were natural rather than having good paper and good materials that we bought. We had to scrounge around with things that were around us. And I think that was very good for us.

PK: And then the instructors there didn’t have that advantage, what you described as a kind of advantage. Since you didn’t have, you had to be more imaginative about what you could use.

RA: Yes.

PK: What you could bring together in your expression and maybe less tied to tradition.

RA: Well, it was through the teachers that we had who encouraged us to use things around us.

PK: Did most of the other students respond well to that freedom that they were offered?

AL: Some did and some didn’t. Some regarded [Josef] Albers as a Fascist, a dictator, because he didn’t react to or condone your feelings, “I feel this and I feel that.” He wasn’t terribly concerned with what we felt. He was concerned with what we saw and that we learned to see. And he would say, “If you want to express yourself do that on your own time. Don’t do it in my class.” He taught design, the same course, year-in-and-year-out. And it wasn’t Design 101, or Design 102, and Design 103. He taught the same course pretty much the same problems year-in-and-year-out. And we did the same things over and over again.

RA: The same problems had a deeper, deeper feeling, experience.

AL: This was continued with him, certainly all the time that he was at Black Mountain. And sitting here in this living room, he was about to be made head of the Design Department at Yale. But there it was about to be made a graduate school and he was very unhappy about that.

PK: Why?

AL: Because he said, “Design knows nothing about graduation. Art knows nothing about graduation.” He wanted those farm boys direct from the farm. He didn’t want them after they could spiel off all that they knew about art, which they might by the time they were in graduate school. He wanted them discovering it. That’s what he wanted. He really wanted us while we were still discovering things. That’s why I say that we had a feeling that everything was possible. And if you wanted to express yourself, and there were many that did, you either did it strictly on your own time or you dropped out of his classes because he did not go in for that.

PK: So he wasn’t one on faculty who gave that kind of permission, I gather, that you were talking about earlier.

AL: No, you had definite problems. You had definite problems and each student’s solution was discussed with the whole class. And very often you learned something from the comments of the rest of the class. They weren’t huge classes. If you didn’t bring something, you’ve got your problem, if you didn’t come back with something, you weren’t made very welcome. That’s freeloading."
ruthasawa  albertlanier  2002  interviews  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  markjohnson  paulkarlstrom 
september 2017 by robertogreco
David Byrne | Journal | A Society in Miniature
"How does one learn to think different?

The Tate show is wonderful, even if it only covers a smattering of Bob’s prodigious output. The curator, Achim Borchardt-Hume, met my friend and I, and we began to ask about the place where Bob spent some of his formative years, Black Mountain College, in western North Carolina, near Asheville. We were curious what sort of place would nurture the innovation and free thinking of someone like Bob, as well as that of host of other writers, artists, architects, composers and choreographers who passed through that place. Ultimately one wants to know, can that spark be re-ignited, in a contemporary way?

That tiny place in Asheville North Carolina seemed to possess some magic ingredient during its relatively short life—pre- and post-WWII—that produced an incredible number of ground-breaking creators in a wide range of fields. It almost seemed as if everyone who was touched by that place, by their experience there, went on to a have a major impact in the 20th century, and beyond.

It was established in 1933, during the depths of the economic depression, and by the time the war was in full swing the faculty included an amazing group of people. Here is a partial list: Josef and Anni Albers, he a teacher and artist from the Bauhaus in Germany, she a textile artist; Walter Gropius, the innovative German modernist architect; painter Jacob Lawrence; the painters Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell; Alfred Kazin, the writer; Buckminster Fuller the writer and architect—he made his dome there in ‘48; Paul Goodman, the playwright and social critic and poet Charles Olson. Poet William Carlos Williams and even Albert Einstein eventually joined the staff, as well.

The students were a hugely influential and innovative bunch, too. As word spread others visited there during their summer sessions to create new work—in 1952, John Cage came down and staged his first "happening" here while students Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham assisted him with what later became known as performance art. There were painters Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Dorothea Rockburne, Ben Shahn, Franz Kline, film director (Bonnie and Clyde!) Arthur Penn, writer Francine du Plessix Gray and poet Robert Creeley.

What kind of place could attract and nurture this diverse group of people?

One can’t help but wonder if there was a formula and if the kind of radical innovation that happened there and that was carried out into the world can be repeated. What was that formula? Was it the teachers? The location? The philosophy? The students—the self-selected types who opted to try that kind of experiment?

Here are the basics of the school’s philosophy. John Rice, the founder, believed that the arts are as important as academic subjects:

1. There was less segregation between disciplines than what might find at a conventional school.
2. There was also no separation between faculty and students; they ate together and mingled freely.
3. There were no grades.
4. One didn’t have to attend classes. During break sessions the faculty trusted the students, and, as a result—without the top down rules—the students worked harder than during normal class times.
5. Here’s what now seems like a really radical idea—manual labor (gardening, construction, etc) was also key. Try that at Harvard!. No one had outside jobs; they they all chipped in to build the actual school and to help serving meals or doing maintenance. The schools finances were somewhat precarious, so this was an practical economical measure as well as being philosophical. In order to allow for these daytime activities and work, classes were often scheduled at night!

A Society in Miniature—Created by its Members

It was also believed that the school community should be a kind of miniature society and to that end it should be democratic and communal. Students were on the school board and they chimed in on hiring and all the other decisions. All of these things—the work, play and learning balance, the non separation of disciplines and the self determination—were believed by the founders to be equally important. Students, Rice believed, learned better through experience than from the passing on of rote information. It was not a top down kind of education—it was non-hierarchical in that sense—and one was encouraged to discover things for oneself. Not all students are cut out for this (some kids do need discipline!), but the ones that did thrived. Needless to say, that also meant that as a result collaboration, experimentation and work across disciplines was all encouraged. The idea was less to turn out clever academics, but rather to help students find themselves and become a “complete person”. You weren’t learning a trade, but learning how to think, how to collaborate and cooperate.

The overarching theme as I see it (but maybe not explicitly expressed) is that students—with the help of the faculty—were here to create a kind of society in miniature. THIS was the deep and rich experience that they would take with them—something far more profound than specific lessons in creative writing, engineering or color theory.

I asked the curator, Achim, if these new ideas about progressive education and their implementation were what was primarily responsible for the explosion of creativity in this tiny school. He said, yes, those factors were influential, but just as much were other factors—the fact that many of the faculty were refugees (those pesky immigrants!) from the rise of nationalism and intolerance going on in Europe at the time. So you had this influx of some of the best and the brightest. The little college reached out for talent and they came to this little tolerant oasis in the Smoky Mountains. Oddly they did not end up at the big name universities—they gravitated to the mountains of North Carolina. (Though later some did end up at Yale and elsewhere.)

Rice himself asked Josef Albers to create the arts curriculum (though Philip Johnson made the recommendation), as the Bauhaus was being shuttered as Nazi influence grew across Germany. Albers was key in mixing disciplines in the arts department; there was little distinction made between fine and decorative arts (Ani Albers made nice rugs), as well none between architecture, theater, music, dance and writing. A writer in the literature deparment developed the pottery program. I personally find Albers artwork boring, but as pedagogical aids (and demonstrations of how our eyes and brains work) they are gorgeous. There’s an interactive tablet app version of his course available now—lots of fun.

Rauschenberg was very receptive to Werklehre, Albers's teaching method that incorporated design elements. In his teaching, Alber used various non-traditional art materials like paper, wire, rocks and wood to demonstrate the possibilities and limits of those various materials. He would have his students fold paper into sculptures so that they might understand the three dimensional properties of what is ordinarily seen as two dimensional. He had them solve color problems by devising situations in which colors are perceived differently in different environments. For a comparison, this was not about learning oil painting techniques

Bob hated Albers—he was too didactic for Bob’s freewheeling sensibility. But to his credit, Albers realized his limitations and brought in others who were very different in sensibility than he and his wife. He allowed for difference. Bob too adapted, he recognized the value of the discipline that Albers espoused.

Achim pointed out that these innovative artists allowed the Black Mountain students to experience the most innovative ideas that had been emerging in Europe firsthand (see learning by experience above). They were getting this stuff before many others and in a more visceral way. Intolerance was draining the sources of innovation from large parts of Europe and they would find roots in this odd corner of the New World.

The place Asheville was and still is an island of open mindedness and tolerance in a state that is fairly conservative. Other southern colleges were still quite segregated, but Black Mountain bravely bucked that tradition. They admitted Alma Stone Williams, the first black student to attend an all white educational institution in the South. I’m going to propose that the atmosphere in Asheville might have helped to allow these things to happen; in other southern towns Ms. Williams would have been hounded and possibly driven out. (That said, some of the locals thought the school as all about wild behavior and orgies.) The school wanted to bring the (NY-based black) painter Jacob Lawrence to visit, but busses, as we know, were segregated at the time, so they had a car drive him all the way down from NY. Homosexuality was tolerated there, as well, which, given that word of this tolerance might have gotten out, all of this may have encouraged young men who didn’t fit in to attend this college—a place where they wouldn’t be viewed simply as perverts and freaks. In this too I’d argue that Asheville had a tolerant hand.

Bob continued to be active post Black Mountain, and, though we might consider the idea naive, he believed in the power of art to bring people together. His series of international collaborations—ROCI—produced some wonderful work, but maybe just as important, his presence in many countries kick started a whole generation of younger artists in those places around the world.

Is This a Model for Today?

Are you kidding? Yes, in all ways—in the collaborations and the innovative work, in the tolerance and welcoming of the persecuted and unappreciated. We need to look to this place and time as a model for today—and boy do we need it now more than ever!

Why should we emulate this? Well, because it works! The ideas that flowed out of this place changed the course of 20th century innovation in a wide range of fields, and the influence is still being … [more]
2017  davidbyrne  bmc  blackmountaincollege  via:austinkleon  sfsh  education  thinking  learning  society  pocketsofutopia  utopia  roberrauschenberg  anialbers  josefalbers  achimborchardt-hume  jacoblawrence  diversity  johnrice  segregation  integration  agesegregation  hierarchy  horizontality  grades  grading  bauhaus  refugees  werklehre  asheville  almastonewilliams  alberteinstein  inclusivity  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  johncage  process  tcsnnmy  progressive  johndewey  work  community  democracy 
february 2017 by robertogreco
No. 225: Helen Molesworth, Jennifer Raab | The Modern Art Notes Podcast
"Episode No. 225 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features curator Helen Molesworth and art historian Jennifer Raab.

Molesworth’s “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” is on view at the Hammer Museum through May 15. It is the first exhibition to examine Black Mountain College, an experimental, inter-disciplinary and immensely influential liberal arts college in the mountains of western North Carolina. The school attracted faculty and students from all over the world at a time when World War II was forcing significant global emigration, and thus provided a place where questions of globalism and the role of the artist in society were considered and furthered. Among the artists who spent time at Black Mountain and who are included in Molesworth’s exhibition are Ruth Asawa, Willem de Kooning, Josef and Anni Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Ray Johnson, Jess and plenty more. Ninety artists are included in Molesworth’s show. The show’s outstanding, must-own catalogue was published by Yale University Press.

Molesworth is the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Her previous exhibitions include “This Will Have Been,” which examined the impact of feminism on the art of the 1980s, and “Work Ethic,” which looked at how mostly 1960s artists merged everyday life with art-making.

On the second segment, art historian Jennifer Raab discusses her new book, “Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail.” The book examines how and why Church used unusually detailed passages in enormous paintings to engage contemporary debates about Union, nation and science. Raab teaches at Yale University."

[Direct link to SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/manpodcast/ep225 ]
helenmolesworth  jenniferraab  leapbeforeyoulook  bmc  blackmountaincollege  2016  art  curation  history  education  artseducation  liberalarts  diversity  highered  highereducation  progressive  progressiveeducation  learning  howwelearn  pedagogy  teaching  howeteach  inquiry  modernism  postmodernism  form  process  materials  via:jarrettfuller  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  collaboration  disciplines  ruthasawa  mercecunningham  josefalbers  theastergates  rebuildfoundation  lowresidencymfas  bardcollege  oberlincollege  vermontcollege  bhqfu  noahdavis  undergroundmuseum  mountainschoolofarts  andreazittel  greggbordowitz  artinstituteofchicago 
april 2016 by robertogreco
How John Cage made performance the true heart of Black Mountain College - LA Times
"A month after the New York Times had listed John Cage (along with Leonard Bernstein) as one of the six most promising young American composers, and just as Cage was starting to become an avant-garde celebrity in New York, he used his exceptional powers of persuasion to borrow a car from Sonia Sekula. The edgy Swiss Abstract Expressionist painter and the 35-year-old Cage happened to be neighbors in a Lower East Side tenement building that the composer had encouraged starving young artists to inhabit.

Cage thought it high time that he and dancer-choreographer Merce Cunningham drove across country to see how the West Coast, where they were both from, reacted to their radical ideas about music and dance. In April 1948, the pair set out for California in Sekula's jalopy.

The trip began with a five-day stopover at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. That visit doesn't merit more than an aside in the catalog of the Hammer Museum's exhibition "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957." There is a lot of important territory to cover in the 24-year history of the uniquely influential liberal arts college where noted artists and thinkers held forth. Nor is there much in the way of decent documentation of the visit.

Cage had finished Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, his most ambitious work up to this time and one for which he would finally be taken seriously as a composer and not be seen merely as the beguilingly inventive mastermind of musical novelties. A main motivation for heading west was an invitation to play Sonatas and Interludes at the Monday Evening Concerts series in Los Angeles.

But it was at Black Mountain where Cage gave the first public performance, if you want to call it that. This was Sonatas and Interludes at a makeshift concert in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on a makeshift stage with a modest piano and before an audience of the tiny college's student body and faculty. (If everyone showed up, at best 100 were on hand.)

The school couldn't afford to pay Cage and Cunningham — they taught as well as performed — but the morning they left, they found Sekula's car overflowing with artwork and food, the students' and faculty's expression of gratitude. Cage and Cunningham got something else, as well: an invitation to return and teach that summer.

They did, and thanks to Cage, neither Black Mountain nor American art would ever be the same.

By its nature, an art exhibition cannot fully convey what that meant or how Cage did it. "Leap" does not look away from the importance of music, dance, theater and literature at Black Mountain, and beginning Tuesday, the Hammer will make an eight-day leap into Black Mountain performance through concerts and lectures and dance performances.

Although visual art must understandably be a museum's core concern, there is validity to curator Helen Molesworth treating it as central to Black Mountain. Founded in 1933, the school was modeled after the Bauhaus in Germany, and the émigré German Bauhaus painter, pedagogue and color theorist Josef Albers guided Black Mountain through some of its early years.

Albers and his wife, textile artist Anni Albers, are as central to the exhibition as they were to the school. Because of the couple's great curiosity, they avidly explored a range of attitudes and cultures, which were shared throughout a school where students and faculty lived, ate, worked and socialized in an environment of inescapable conversation and inevitable argument. Molesworth captures this chattering zeitgeist by displaying carefully chosen artworks in such a way that they talk to one another.

What was all that chattering about? Attitudes toward music, Molesworth notes in the catalog, were one way to distinguish artistic differences at Black Mountain. Music, according to a Black Mountain brochure, represented "a world of inner order [that] can help toward developing that community for which we all toil." The noted Viennese violinist Rudolf Kolisch, invited in summer 1944 to take part in Black Mountain's celebration of Arnold Schoenberg's 70th birthday, taught a course called Democratic Principals of Ensemble Playing.

But it was Cage who advocated true democracy, which meant throwing a monkey wrench into such high-minded musical conceit, and Cunningham was the monkey.

Cage had become fascinated by Erik Satie, the then-obscure, feisty French composer who wittily defied the German deification of structural logic. In summer 1948, in response to the Schoenberg Festival four years earlier, Cage produced a Satie Festival that included a lecture defending Satie. He used the very ideals that Black Mountain professed to "oblige" German refugees to listen to his half-hour presentations of Satie's piano music for 25 consecutive evenings.

Creating an uproar

Cage's attitude was that Beethoven had been in error because he created music defined by harmony. Cage proposed following Satie's example of music defined on time lengths.

This defense was essentially personal. Cage always liked to say he had no gift for harmony, and here he hit home. Albers' pedagogic philosophy was that art didn't require talent as much as it did understanding and technique. But Cage, one of the most gifted musicians of all time, never felt comfortable with the harmony on which Western music was said to depend.

The defense of Satie created the expected uproar and led to a famous food fight among distinguished artists, the Beethoven camp armed with sausages, Satie-ists with crepes.

The climax of the festival was the staging of "The Ruse of Medusa," Satie's surreal farce with piano interludes called monkey dances, which featured, of course, Cunningham.

Buckminster Fuller, who attempted to build his first geodesic dome at Black Mountain that summer (he failed but succeeded the following summer), portrayed the nonsensical baron. A theater student, Arthur Penn (the future filmmaker), directed. Décor was by Willem and Elaine de Kooning, then young artists Cage had brought along to Black Mountain. A small acting role was assigned to student sculptor Ruth Asawa, whose works are among the highlights of "Leap."

The levity of "Medusa" lightened the atmosphere but in no way lessened Cage's challenges to the Black Mountain belief system. His target was not harmony but memory, the idea that for music to be followed you must be able to remember what came before. But what is necessary for Beethoven and Schoenberg is not for Satie. Cage wanted a contemporary art that reflects life as it was led. To the Black Mountain traditional modernists, and especially for the émigrés, memory must always be honored, one must never forget.

Rather than disremember, Cage simply called for action. He used performance to bring together a community of artists through their work without the compromise of collaboration. Essentially, Cage made "Medusa" an extension of breakfast. He and Cunningham began each morning at Black Mountain with Fuller, discussing ideas and telling stories about themselves. For Cage, memory wasn't a required prescription for consuming art but a deeper one for making it, bringing the experiences of many into the moment.

Four years later, in 1952, Cage returned to Black Mountain, and this time he staged what has become the most celebrated of all the college's activities. It wasn't called anything, just announced as a concert. There were entertainments of all sorts given almost daily, most often evening dances, excellent for letting off steam and fostering romances.

It was a strange summer for Cage. He was working on "Williams Mix," what came to be the first American piece of electronic music made by splicing recording tape. This had a Black Mountain association, having been commissioned by Paul and Vera Williams, who met and married as students there. Cage had intended to employ his students to help him with the laborious business of splicing tape. But the kids were too clever to be lured into that, and no one signed up for the class.

Instead, Cage hung out with them at meals, the dining hall being the principal place on campus for discussion. One morning the topic was French dramatist Antonin Artaud's ideas about theater reflecting the immediacy of experience, and Cage suggested making an illustrative theater piece to be performed that day using the resources of Black Mountain.

He asked artists to do their thing somewhat simultaneously. He quickly sketched out a layout with the audience surrounding the performers and created the timing for the participants. They were not told what to do, just where and when.

The poet Charles Olson read, probably on a ladder. Cage delivered a lecture he had written earlier for Juilliard. Cunningham improvised a dance. Avant-garde virtuoso David Tudor played something or other on the piano. Robert Rauschenberg, who had been a student of Albers, hung his white paintings and maybe a black one. There were projections of film and a painting by Franz Kline overhead.

This is widely credited as having been the first Happening and the inciter of performance art. Retrospectively it has been given the title "Theater Piece No. 1," although it is not an official part of the Cage catalog. Though a pack rat, Cage considered it such a classroom-casual event that he never even bothered to keep the "score." No one bothered to take a photograph.

And no one is sure exactly what happened at the first Happening. Witness accounts vary. An enormous literature has sprung about theorizing why that could be, what it all means and how we deal with a fleeting historic event we can't pin down. But Cage's revolutionary intention (or non-intention) was to defeat memory.

The participants couldn't remember because they were too focused on their own work. There had been no rehearsal, other than Cunningham testing the space so that he wouldn't accidentally kick someone. Not all artists are afforded the luxury of leaping before they look.

The lack of structure, moreover, meant it was impossible to take everything… [more]
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2015  johncage  history  eriksatie  mercecunningham  buckminsterfuller  soniasekula  education  democracy  annicalbers  josefalbers  helenmolesworth  leapbeforeyoulook  art  music  highered  highereducation  robertrauschenberg  happenings  williamdekooning  elaindekooning  arthurpenn  charlesolson  davidtudor 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
"Work with Material

Life today is very bewildering. We have no picture of it which is all-inclusive, such as former times may have had. We have to make a choice between concepts of great diversity. And as a common ground is wanting, we are baffled by them. We must find our way back to simplicity of conception in order to find ourselves. For only by simplicity can we experience meaning, and only by experiencing meaning can we become qualified for independent comprehension.

In all learning today dependence on authority plays a large part, because of the tremendous field of knowledge to be covered in a short time. This often leaves the student oscillating between admiration and uncertainty, with the well-known result that a feeling of inferiority is today common both in individuals and in whole nations.

Independence presumes a spirit of adventurousness—a faith in one's own strength. It is this which should be promoted. Work in a field where authority has not made itself felt may help toward this goal. For we are overgrown with information, decorative maybe, but useless in any constructive sense. We have developed our receptivity and have neglected our own formative impulse. It is no accident that nervous breakdowns occur more often in our civilization than in those where creative power had a natural outlet in daily activities. And this fact leads to a suggestion: we must come down to earth from the clouds where we live in vagueness, and experience the most real thing there is: material.

Civilization seems in general to estrange men from materials, that is, from materials in their original form. For the process of shaping these is so divided into separate steps that one person is rarely involved in the whole course of manufacture, often knowing only the finished product. But if we want to get from materials the sense of directness, the adventure of being close to the stuff the world is made of, we have to go back to the material itself, to its original state, and from there on partake in its stages of change.

We use materials to satisfy our practical needs and our spiritual ones as well. We have useful things and beautiful things—equipment and works of art. In earlier civilizations there was no clear separation of this sort. The useful thing, could be made beautiful in the hands of the artisan, who was also the manufacturer. His creative impulse was not thwarted by drudgery in one section of a long and complicated mechanical process. He was also a creator. Machines reduce the boredom of repetition. On the other hand they permit a play of the imagination only in the preliminary planning of the product.

Material, that is to say unformed or unshaped matter, is the field where authority blocks independent experimentation less than in many other fields, and for this reason it seems well fitted to become the training ground for invention and free speculation. It is here that even the shyest beginner can catch a glimpse of the exhilaration of creating, by being a creator while at the same time he is checked by irrevocable laws set by the nature of the material, not by man. Free experimentation here can result in the fulfillment of an inner urge to give form and to give permanence to ideas, that is to say, it can result in art, or it can result in the satisfaction of invention in some more technical way.

But most important to one's own growth is to see oneself leave the safe ground of accepted conventions and to find oneself alone and self-dependent. It is an adventure which can permeate one's whole being. Self-confidence can grow. And a longing for excitement can be satisfied without external means, within oneself; for creating is the most intense excitement one can come to know.

All art work, such as music, architecture, and even religion and the laws of science, can be understood as the transformed wish for stability and order. But art work understood as work with a substance which can be grasped and formed is more suited for the development of the taste for exploration than work in other fields, for the fact of the inherent laws of material is of importance. They introduce boundaries for a task of free imagination. This very freedom can be so bewildering to the searching person that it may lead to resignation if he is faced with the immense welter of possibilities; but within set limits the imagination can find something to hold to. There still remains a fullness of choice but one not as overwhelming as that offered by unlimited opportunities. These boundaries may be conceived as the skeleton of a structure. To the beginners a material with very definite limitations can for this reason be most helpful in the process of building up independent work.

The crafts, understood as conventions of treating material, introduce another factor: traditions of operation which embody set laws. This may be helpful in one direction, as a frame for work. But these rules may also evoke a challenge. They are revokable, for they are set by man. They may provoke us to test ourselves against them. But always they provide a discipline which balances the hubris of creative ecstasy.

All crafts are suited to this end, but some better than others. The more possibilities for attack the material offers in its appearance and in its structural elements, the more it can call forth imagination and productiveness. Weaving is an example of a craft which is many-sided. Besides surface qualities, such as rough and smooth, dull and shiny, hard and soft, it also includes color, and, as the dominating element, texture, which is the result of the construction of weaves. Like any craft it may end in producing useful objects, or it may rise to the level of art.

When teaching the crafts, in addition to the work of free exploring, both the useful and the artistic have to be considered. As we have said before, today only the first step in the process of producing things of need is left to free planning. No variation is possible when production is once taken up, assuming that today mass production must necessarily include machine work. This means that the teaching has to lead toward planning for industrial repetition, with emphasis on making models for industry. It also must attempt to evoke a consciousness of developments, and further perhaps a foreseeing of them. Hence, the result of craft work, work done in direct contact with the material, can come here to have a meaning to a far wider range of people than would be the case if they remained restricted to handwork only. And from the industrial standpoint, machine production will get a fresh impetus from taking up the results of intimate work with material.

The other aspect of craft work is concerned with art work, the realization of a hope for a lawful and enduring nature. Other elements, such as proportion, space relations, rhythm, predominate in these experiments, as they do in the other arts. No limitations other than the veto of the material itself are set. More than an active process, it is a listening for the dictation of the material and a taking in of the laws of harmony. It is for this reason that we can find certitude in the belief that we are taking part in an eternal order.

1937"

[Additiona sections:

"Work with Material [above]
Weaving at the Bauhaus
On Jewelry
Design Anonymous and Timeless
Material as Metaphor"]
josefalbers  annialbers  bmc  blackmountaincollege  1937  materials  craft  art  jewelry  bauhaus  timelessness  anonymity  metaphor 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Mapping BMC
"Crossroads and Cosmopolitanism at Black Mountain College chronicles the stories of fifteen students and teachers. Select any artist to begin their story."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  robertcreeley  robertrauschenberg  ruthasawa  mercecunningham  johncage  jeancharlot  josefalbers  margueritewildenhain  rayjohnson  rolandhayes  trudeguermonprez  willemdekooning  charlesolson  annialbers  buckminsterfuller 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Learn By Painting - The New Yorker
"What made Black Mountain different from other colleges was that the center of the curriculum was art-making. Students studied pretty much whatever they wanted, but everyone was supposed to take a class in some kind of artistic practice—painting, weaving, sculpture, pottery, poetry, architecture, design, dance, music, photography. The goal was not to produce painters, poets, and architects. It was to produce citizens.

Black Mountain was founded by a renegade classics professor named John Andrew Rice, who had been kicked out of Rollins College, in Florida. Rice believed that making something is a different learning experience from remembering something. A lot of education is reception. You listen to an expert explain a subject to you, and then you repeat back what you heard to show that you learned it. Teachers push students to engage actively with the material, but it’s easy to be passive, to absorb the information and check off the box.

Rice thought that this made for bad social habits. Democracy is about making choices, and people need to take ownership of their choices. We don’t want to vote the way someone else tells us to. We want to vote based on beliefs we have chosen for ourselves. Making art is making choices. Art-making is practice democracy.

Rice did not think of art-making as therapy or self-expression. He thought of it as mental training. As anyone who has tried to write a poem knows, the discipline in art-making is exercised from within rather than without. You quickly realize that it’s your own laziness, ignorance, and sloppiness, not somebody else’s bad advice, that are getting in your way. No one can write your poem for you. You have to figure out a way to write it yourself. You have to make a something where there was a nothing.

A lot of Rice’s ideas came from the educational philosophy of John Dewey (although the idea that true learning has to come from within goes back to Plato), and Rice was lucky to find an art teacher who had read Dewey and who thought the same way. This was Josef Albers. Albers had not been so lucky. He was an original member of the Bauhaus school, but when Hitler came to power, in 1933, the Bauhaus closed down rather than accept Nazi professors. Albers’s wife, Anni, was from a prominent Jewish family, and they were understandably anxious to get out of Germany. Rice heard about them from the architect Philip Johnson, and he sent a telegram to Albers inviting him and his wife to come teach at Black Mountain. The reply read: “I speak not one word English.” (Albers had read his Dewey in translation.) Rice told him to come anyway. Albers eventually did learn English, and he and Anni, an accomplished and creative weaver, established the mode of art instruction at Black Mountain. Everything would be hands-on, collaborative, materials-based, and experimental.

Bauhaus was all about abolishing distinctions between craft, or design, and fine art, and Black Mountain was one of the places where this aesthetic entered the world of American art. (Another was the Carnegie Institute of Technology, in Pittsburgh, where Andy Warhol went to college.) Albers’s most famous (although probably not his favorite) student at Black Mountain was Robert Rauschenberg, and Rauschenberg is the presiding spirit at the I.C.A. exhibition. Although goofier than most Black Mountain art—there is an earnestness about a lot of the work; this was schoolwork, after all—putting an automobile tire around a stuffed goat is the essence of Black Mountain practice.

Black Mountain College was a holistic learning environment. Teachers and students worked together; people who came to teach (and who stayed—not everyone found the work conditions to their liking) sat in on one another’s classes and ended up learning as much as the students. When a new building needed to be constructed, students and teachers built it themselves, just as, at the old Dewey School, at the University of Chicago, the children grew their own food and cooked their own meals.

It seems as though half the midcentury American avant-garde came through Black Mountain in one capacity or the other. The I.C.A. exhibition includes works by (besides Rauschenberg and the Alberses) Ruth Asawa, John Cage, John Chamberlain, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Robert Duncan, Buckminster Fuller, Shoji Hamada, Lou Harrison, Ray Johnson, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, Charles Olson, Ben Shahn, David Tudor, and Cy Twombly. Black Mountain produced art of almost every kind.

Did it also produce good citizens? That’s an educational outcome everyone embraces but that’s hard to measure. In the case of Black Mountain, the sample size is miniscule, and most students left before graduating. There is also the self-selection issue. People who choose to attend progressive colleges are already progressive-minded, just as people who want a liberal education are usually already liberal (meaning interested in knowledge for its own sake), and people who prefer vocational or pre-professional education are already headed down those roads. College choice tends to confirm prior effects of socialization. But why keep those things separate? Knowing and doing are two sides of the same activity, which is adapting to our environment. That was Dewey’s point.

People who teach in the traditional liberal-arts fields today are sometimes aghast at the avidity with which undergraduates flock to courses in tech fields, like computer science. Maybe those students see dollar signs in coding. Why shouldn’t they? Right now, tech is where value is being created, as they say. But maybe students are also excited to take courses in which knowing and making are part of the same learning process. Those tech courses are hands-on, collaborative, materials-based (well, virtual materials), and experimental—a digital Black Mountain curriculum. The other liberal-arts fields might take notice. Arts practice should be part of everyone’s education, not just in preschool."
blackmountaincollege  bmc  2015  louismenand  johndewey  democracy  practice  experience  education  tcsnmy  progressive  progressivism  art  arts  highered  highereducation  collectivism  learning  unschooling  deschooling  bauhaus  johnandrewrice  making  creativity  josefalbers  annialbers  craft  design  robertrauschenberg  collaboration  ruthasawa  johncage  mercecunningham  buckminsterfuller  willemdekooning  robertduncan  johnchamberlain  robertcreeley  shojihamada  louharrison  rayjohnson  franzkline  jacoblawrence  robertmotherwell  charlesolson  benshahn  davidtudor  cytwombly  kennethnoland  elainedekooning  liberalarts  technology 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Return to Black Mountain College - WSJ
"“Black Mountain is a myth, but it was mythic in its inception,” says Helen Molesworth, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, who is organizing the first major American museum show to examine the school’s legacy, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957, opening this month at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. “The people who made it had a lofty sense of what they were doing before it even started. They were trying to form a better world.” The exhibition will feature work by nearly 100 artists. Along with stars like the architect Walter Gropius and the Alberses, it includes figures like the sculptor Ruth Asawa, the collagist Ray Johnson and the funk potter Peter Voulkos, together with scores of photos and archival materials, as well as dance and music performances held within the galleries.

Other 20th-century art luminaries passed through the college too, including the abstract expressionists Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline, Russian-born WPA muralist Ilya Bolotowsky and Jacob Lawrence, the African-American painter whose Great Migration pictures were the subject of a recent MoMA retrospective, all drawn largely by Josef Albers’s allure. From the start, “Albers had an international reputation, and so did the college,” says Alice Sebrell, program director of the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center in nearby Asheville, which was founded in 1993 to honor the school. “He was very open to artists whose work was different from his own. The whole package was appealing to artists who were doing non-mainstream work.”

From today’s vantage point, the reality of Black Mountain College as a crucial nexus for artistic, intellectual and even political activity is coming into sharp focus. Artists, scholars, educators and curators are increasingly recognizing that its unique environment was essential to the flowering of midcentury American art and culture, a place where the avant-garde of Europe and the United States came together and created something new. The past year has seen another major show, Black Mountain: An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933–1957, at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, which explored the creative contributions made by German refugee artists and intellectuals who converged at the school during the Nazi era. A new book, The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College, was published last December.

“Today Black Mountain seems so avant la lettre, so proto-Beat, proto-hippie, so completely off the known of the region but also of the nation,” says Eva Díaz, the book’s author. In a contemporary art world riveted by the idea of experimentation, she adds, “Black Mountain is often invoked as a touchstone.”

The school’s interdisciplinary outlook is like catnip to curators and academics because it anticipated the current interest in performance art, craft and design. Artists are fascinated by it too: “There’s a growing need for us to be socially engaged, to want an interaction with a larger aspect of society,” says photographer and sculptor Sara VanDerBeek, whose father, the experimental filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek, studied at the college from 1949 to 1951. “That’s in keeping with the things they were discussing and engaging in at Black Mountain.”"



"“The teachers who were at Black Mountain were there because they really believed in freedom and education,” says abstractionist Dorothea Rockburne, who heard of it as a teenager in Montreal and began saving money to attend, which she finally did, from 1950 to 1954. She took science with the physicist Goldowski, but her most profound connection was with the German mathematician Max Dehn, with whom she studied topology, linear algebra and Euclidean geometry.

Part of what made Black Mountain special was the mix of disciplines, the intensity and the fact that everyone was together so constantly in the remote location. “We were all foreigners, so to speak, in that setting,” says Theodore Dreier Jr. (the son of the co-founder), who studied music there before transferring to Harvard, later becoming a psychiatrist. “It enhanced that kind of participatory, creative openness.”

The college was never accredited, largely because the founders wanted to remain independent from outside influences. Its largest class was 100, and only 66 students ever graduated. But great teaching was always the byword. Although the constantly evolving curriculum always included classroom instruction, Rockburne recalls that most of Dehn’s teaching “took place on our morning walks to the waterfall five days a week. He would explain to me the mathematics of nature,” pointing out examples of probability theory and Fibonacci progression as they occurred in plants. “I always had the sense that my teachers were living for me.”

By 1941, just before the United States joined the war, the school had raised the money to buy its own lakeside campus. It moved after the faculty and students had spent a year and a half constructing a two-story, 202-foot-long, streamlined modernist compound known as the Studies Building. When its summer art and music sessions, initiated by Albers, began in 1944, a dizzying array of instructors arrived, including the art critic Clement Greenberg, the choreographer Agnes de Mille, the gamelan composer Lou Harrison and the photographer Harry Callahan—most long before they became well known."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2015  carolkino  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  art  education  schools  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  freedom  autonomy  learning  history  robertrauschenberg  johncage  johnandrewrice  rollinscollege  highered  highereducation  stanvanderbeek  saravanderbeek  mercecunningham  jeromerobbins  josefalbers  bauhaus  communes  cytwombly  annialbers  buckminsterfuller  helenmolesworth  robertmotherwell  jacoblawrence  franzkline  ilyabolotowsky  alicesebrell  theodoredreier  jonathanwilliams  walking 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Manual Issue 4: Blue | e-flux
"Indigo blue, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, zaffre blue, indanthrone blue, phthalo blue, cyan blue, Han blue, French blue, Berlin blue, Prussian blue, Venetian blue, Dresden blue, Tiffany blue, Lanvin blue, Majorelle blue, International Klein Blue, Facebook blue. The names given to different shades of blue speak of plants, minerals, and modern chemistry; exoticism, global trade, and national pride; capitalist branding and pure invention. The fourth issue of Manual is a meditation on blue. From precious substance to controllable algorithm to the wide blue yonder, join us as we leap into the blue. 

From the Files: Curatorial assistant A. Will Brown discusses color theory of Joseph Albers’s Homage to the Square series, revealing notations on the back of the canvases. 

Double Takes: Curator Dominic Molon and cognitive scientist Karen Schloss illuminate the perceptual play of a Dan Flavin light sculpture; conservator Ingrid Neumann and curator Lawrence Berman unearth the matter and meaning of the ancient pigments in an Egyptian paintbox; art historian Margot Nishimura and paper preservation specialist Linda Catano look closely at the exquisite details and hues of a 15th-century manuscript illumination. 

Object Lessons: Curator Kate Irvin provides a tactile archaeology of the faded shades of indigo of a Japanese boro garment. Louis van Tilborgh and Oda van Maanen of the Van Gogh Museum examine the dominant blues and disappearing violets of van Gogh’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise. 

Portfolio: A survey of blue from azure to zaffre. 

How To: Curator Elizabeth A. Williams illuminates the history of blue and white porcelain. Photographer Anna Strickland discusses Anna Atkins’s early cyanotypes. 

Artists on Art: Artist Spencer Finch presents a tear-out color study. Author Maggie Nelson considers an Alice Neel’s portrait. Graphic designer Jessica Helfand mixes Facebook blue with the cyanotype process."
blue  color  colors  indigo  josefalbers  awillbrown  dominicmolon  karenscholes  danflavin  ingridneumann  lawrenceberman  margotnishimura  lindacatano  kateirvin  louisvantilborgh  odavanmaanen  vangogh  elizabethwilliams  annastrickland  annaatkins  maggienelson  aliceneel  jessicahelfand  cyanotypes  glvo  boro  yvesklein  ikb  toread  2015  internationalkleinblue 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Life and Work of an Institution of Progressive Higher Education: Towards a History of Black Mountain College, 1933-1949 by Jonathan Fisher | BMCS
"This ambitious new democratic structure for the administration of a college was unique to BMC, and to my knowledge has not been repeated on such a scale since. It would mean that teachers, in addition to their classroom and other responsibilities on campus, would also be taking on administrative tasks like bookkeeping, fundraising, hiring of new faculty and student admissions on a rotating basis. This commitment to a radically more democratic organizational structure for the new Black Mountain College would last until the bitter end, despite a list-ditch effort led by Dreier and Albers to alter it in the late 1940s. This attempt ultimately led to the Board of Fellows voting to remove Dreier, who had been on an extended leave of absence, in 1948. Josef and Anni Albers would leave the following year. But it was this radically democratic structure that would attract some of the world’s most visionary artists and teachers to this tiny town in rural Western North Carolina for more than two decades. It was also this structure which would allow the BMC community to move forward on issues of racial integration in the 1930s and ‘40s—decades before such attempts would be made at larger, more established colleges in the southeastern United States. It was ultimately John Dewey’s principles of progressive education that were at the foundation of these radical organizational structures, which were adopted by BMC’s founders.

During the first five years of Black Mountain College’s existence, things went remarkably smoothly. Of course finding enough money was always a problem. It was the height of the Great Depression in the United States and despite Rice, Dreier and Albers’ best efforts, BMC had never managed to secure more than minimal financial support for their new experimental progressive institution. A budget drawn up by Dreier in the first year of BMC totaled $32,000, with staff salaries totaling less than $2000, excluding Albers’ salary of $1000 annually, which was supported separately by an individual benefactor (Duberman, 1972, p.71). In these early years there were none of the scandals or disputes that would plague the community later on in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Furthermore, the college’s system of governance appeared to be working. And efforts at self-sustainability were taken on unflinchingly. A student-run cooperative store was set up on campus as well as a print shop and a cottage school for the community’s youngest members (ibid.). In addition to their academic work, students engaged in projects ranging from the staffing of the various cooperative enterprises set up on campus, to the manufacture of bookshelves, curtains and other furnishings for campus buildings. These activities helped supplement the goods available to them on the campus they were leasing from a Christian group, which used it for a summer camp for just a few months each year.

Among the highlights of these early years of the college were two visits by John Dewey, who in 1936 began serving officially as a member of BMC’s Advisory Council. Both of Dewey’s visits took place during the 1934-35 school year. It is unclear from the correspondence in the North Carolina Archives whether or not Dewey ever visited the campus again. But these two early visits set a precedent, which caused BMC faculty—especially Rice and Dreier— to request future visits, which always seem never to have quite worked out (e.g. Dreier [to Dewey] April 6, 1938; Dewey [to Dreier] April 13, 1938). In one of the oldest Dewey letters in the BMC General Collection of the North Carolina Archives, which is handwritten on Columbia University Department of Philosophy letterhead, Dewey expresses his regrets at not being able to pay Rice and the others at BMC a visit during the fall of 1936. He writes of postponing his planned visit until the spring, “when I hope to see the countryside and the flowers at their best” (Dewey [to John Rice] October 29, 1936)."



"Ultimately Dewey remained committed to his position on the Advisory council until the late 40s. A final lengthy unsent hand-written letter from Dreier addressed to Dewey provides a grim picture of the final days of Dreier’s involvement in college affairs (Dreier [unsent letter to John Dewey] 1947, July). Duberman has described in less sympathetic terms Dreier and Albers’ ploy to wrest control of BMC from the faculty and hand it over to a new Board of Trustees. At the root of Dreier’s decision, as usual, was a concern for the financial stability of the college. Black Mountain had never been officially accredited by the State of North Carolina, and student enrollment was too unreliable (Duberman p.484-5). But this was just one of many problems facing BMC in the late 40s. Dreier despairs in his unsent letter at the difficulty of finding good teachers who are also capable and willing college administrators:
Our program, a pretty real thing to [Albers] and me, was not much more than words to most new [faculty] members with one or two notable exceptions… One way of looking at the present difficulty is to say that we simply haven’t been able to get the staff we need. If we could get an adequate team that could pull together, then I think we could raise the money we need (Dreier [unsent letter to Dewey] 1947, July).

So, Dreier’s concerns are both immediate and practical, but no less frustrating for their immediacy or practicality. He is trying to escape a catch-22 of money and talent. But also, more tellingly, Dreier writes:
Another way of looking at our trouble is that our program has become unclear, conviction has sagged… Hardly anybody sees what’s wrong, but gradually the whole thing is sagging toward breaking (ibid.).

Dreier’s pain and frustration are palpable here. The emotion of this letter is even intensified by the fact that he decided not to send it to his mentor, Dewey. But this unsent letter to Dewey shows the philosophers’ influence as a guiding voice for Dreier, Albers and other faculty at BMC in the 1940s. Dreier, in writing this letter seems to be implicitly asking himself, “what would Dewey do?” not because John Dewey was some all-knowing being, capable of rescuing Black Mountain College from dire financial straits, but because Dewey’s pragmatist method of evaluating experience and taking action had been the basis for everything he had helped create at BMC over the course of the previous 15 years.

The changes in administrative structure that Dreier alludes to in his final unsent letter to Dewey, which he and Albers attempted to implement as a last-ditch effort at financial solvency for BMC, ultimately failed to stick. The ensuing crisis ended in Dreier and Albers being forced to leave. Ironically, strict adherence to the Deweyan progressive educational principle of professional autonomy, which was at the core of Rice’s idea for Black Mountain College, and which Dreier resigned from Rollins in support of, was the same issue that brought Dreier and Albers careers at BMC to an end when they switched sides. In other words, the same philosophical inclination that justified the founding of BMC in 1933 remained and kept BMC on its own radical trajectory in the late 40s, even when figures like Dreier and Albers stepped in to try to change the way the college was organized. So, on the one hand, Albers and Dreier failed at prolonging the life of BMC. But, on the other hand, even in this final failure on Dreier and Albers’s part— in their capitulation to the mainstream bureaucratic structure of higher education, the creation of a non-faculty Board of Trustees which would have had hiring and firing power for BMC— illustrates that the college retained that uniquely Deweyan pragmatist orientation and progressivism. When the community became aware of the changes that Dreier and Albers had gotten underway, they acted democratically to kick Dreier and Albers out!"
bmc  blackmountaincollege  education  progressive  progressiveeducation  johnndewey  johnandrewsrice  josefalbers  theodoredreier  democracy  tcsnmy  progressivism  compromise  annialbers  pragmatism  democratic  democraticschools  unschooling  deschooling  experience  complexity  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Art of Graphic Design: Lustig, Albers, Johnson, and the 1945 Summer Session by Julie J. Thomson | BMCS
"Without visionary artists and educators like Josef Albers and Alvin Lustig who propelled the establishment of graphic design in the academy, the field of graphic design would not have experienced the boom starting in the 1960s that continues today. What Albers and Lustig were able to achieve at Yale was strongly informed from their time teaching and working directly with students at Black Mountain College. Having a student like Ray Johnson at Black Mountain, who achieved success and recognition in the field while still a teenager also supported the possible results that such education could have for students, even though much of this would depend upon the individual student. Black Mountain College gave artists like Albers and Lustig the space and opportunity to develop their own theories about teaching, but it also gave them the opportunity to instill a spirit of experimentation and confidence in the personal vision of their students."
graphicdesign  bmc  blackmountaincollege  alvinlustig  josefalbers  rayjohnson  juliethompson  1955  2013 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Works Cited: Wasting time on the internet: a syllabus
"This is a syllabus in progress, imagined as part writing workshop, part American studies course on aesthetics. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

What I Did For Love: Taste, Evaluation, and Aesthetics in American Culture

“I don’t know art, but I know what I like,” goes the disclaimer. In this writing-intensive part-workshop, part-seminar, we will seek to unpack the relationship between “art” and “what I like” by examining a variety of cultural objects together with accounts of “taste.” What are the uses of an art that nobody likes? Could “annoyance” be an aesthetic principle? What is the role of money in taste? What are the ethics of aesthetics? Under what circumstances is an aesthetic pleasure “guilty”? When should the appreciation of art works be a matter of disinterested judgment, and when a matter of passionate engagement? Does “love” blind? What is the difference between a “fan” and a “critic”? What are the affordances and limits of the “formulaic” and the “generic”?

Four weeks of this course will be devoted to workshopping students’ critical writing, examining the roles of description, praise, blame, analysis, and enthusiasm in writing about culture. Students will also maintain a course blog. For the final assignment, students are encouraged to pitch their writing to an appropriately chosen publication.



Short exercise: choose a cultural object to describe as plainly as possible. About 500 words.



Essay 1: Describe some piece of culture (novel, film, painting, poem, music video, etc.) that you love, and that you also think is good. (These are two different things.) Explain why it is that you love the piece, what it is that makes it good, and how you can tell the difference (and under what circumstances you can’t). Be sure to explain what it is that makes art good in general—you don’t need to advance a fully developed theory of aesthetics, but you do need to unpack your assumptions as much as you can. Have an argument. This should be around 3000 words.



Short exercise: write a piece of fanfiction, about 1000 words, in the setting of your choice.



Short exercise: Make the case that some cultural object is a “remake” of another, earlier one (for example, that Pixar’s Toy Story is a remake of Disney’s Pinocchio). Be honest about the ways in which the claim does not hold up. In addition to noting similarities or lines of influence, you should explain what we gain from understanding the later object as a remake of the earlier one. 500–1,000 words.



Essay 2: Choose a piece of art and viciously pan it. Your critique should be utterly devastating, which is to say that you should be able to persuade your reader that this piece is a blight on humanity, and not merely that you are a mean-spirited person. This will be more effective if you resist choosing an easy target. 2,000–3,000 words.



Essay 3: Review some piece of culture that was recently produced—say, since January 2012. Give your reader a fairly thickly textured sense of what this piece is like, and explain what its successes and failures are. Once again, be sure to unpack what it means for something to “succeed” (in any register). What is the historical, cultural, or aesthetic milieu in which this piece is ideally legible? Make a point. This should be around 3,000 words.



Essay 4: Revise your review for publication in a venue of your choice. It may be print or online. When you submit this assignment to me, you should also submit a copy of the submission guidelines for this venue (to which your revised review should adhere) and a rationale (about 500 words) for choosing this publication. You are encouraged to actually submit the review to the publication you have chosen. (You might be interested in this [http://whopays.tumblr.com/ ].)"
nataliacecire  culture  internet  web  reading  2013  johnkeats  robertfrost  petercoviello  aesthetics  beauty  guiltypleasures  thomasnagel  judgement  clementgreenberg  pierrebordieu  thorsteinveblen  barbarahernsteinsmith  tseliot  andrewlloydwebber  thewasteland  taste  class  williambutleryeats  josefalbers  difficulty  mariannemoore  siannengai  leonarddiepeveen  lawrencelevine  rosalindkrauss  popculutre  authenticity  criticism  gender  chinuaahcebe  appropriation  music  williamgibson  cuteness  commodification  marktwain  edgarallanpoe  lililoofbourow  christianbök  walterbenjamin  maryoliver  writing  syllabus  classideas  highbrow  lowbrow  kant  syllabi 
january 2014 by robertogreco
MoMA | Composing Silence: John Cage and Black Mountain College
"In the summer of 1951 at Black Mountain College, Rauschenberg began a series of entirely white paintings. (His 1965 instructions for the White Paintings are on view adjacent to the album in the exhibition.) Only a few months prior, Cage was introduced to Rauschenberg at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, initiating a period of close exchange that lasted throughout both artists’ lives. Upon witnessing the development of the White Paintings, Cage was taken aback by the younger artist’s bold abandonment of figuration. He recognized that the White Paintings were not, in fact, devoid of form, but rather served, in his words, as “mirrors of the air” and “airports for the lights, shadows, and particles.” As early as February 1948, Cage introduced the theoretical foundations for 4′33″—to “compose a piece of uninterrupted silence”—during a lecture at Vassar College. However, he claimed that it was not until seeing Rauschenberg’s White Paintings that he had the courage to explore silence within his own work.

In August 1952, Cage returned to Black Mountain College and organized Theater Piece No. 1, an unscripted performance considered by many to be the first Happening. The event took place in the college dining hall and included Rauschenberg, Cunningham, and Cage’s frequent collaborator, the young pianist David Tudor, among others. As Kyle Gann described in his book No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4′33″, the audience was seated in four triangular sections, while Cage stood on a ladder at the center. From his elevated position, Cage delivered a lecture as artists, musicians, and dancers moved freely through the space—which featured at least one of Rauschenberg’s White Paintings—deflecting attention from any single narrative and complicating the distinction between art and life. Just weeks after the production of Theater Piece No. 1, David Tudor encouraged Cage that the timing was right for Tudor to publicly perform Cage’s “silent” piece during his upcoming program at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York.

There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4′33″ reunites many of the figures and works that influenced Cage between 1948—the year in which he first discussed his idea for 4′33″—and its premiere on August 29, 1952."

[See also: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/arts/music/momas-there-will-never-be-silence-about-john-cage.html?pagewanted=all ]
johncage  silence  happenings  performance  music  erasure  bmc  blackmountaincollege  2014  robertrauschenberg  via:shannon_mattern  josefalbers  annialbers 
january 2014 by robertogreco
NEH Project
Black Mountain College existed for a mere 24 years. In that short time this small experimental college in the Appalachian Mountains just outside of Asheville, North Carolina produced a legacy that makes it central to American culture in multiple ways. While often thought of as an art school, in actuality the arts were considered an important aspect of an overarching liberal arts education emphasizing the broader area of the humanities. From the centrally important teachers such as John Andrew Rice, Josef Albers and Charles Olson through other important figures such as Robert Creeley, Mary Caroline (M.C.) Richards, Buckminster Fuller, and John Cage, to the important students such as Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Francine du Plessix Gray, Arthur Penn, Dorothea Rockburne, Jonathan Williams, and Suzi Gablik, Black Mountain College influenced American culture through advances in educational practice, the visual and performing arts as well as literature. Not only was it an experiment in education, but it also was an experiment that was modeled by John Andrew Rice upon the work of the foremost philosopher of education at the time, John Dewey. Combined with the Dewey's influence was the cutting-edge modernist tradition of Europe’s most famous art and design school, the Bauhaus.

Black Mountain College: An Artistic and Educational Legacy will address the fascinating history of the college through presentations by experts in the field as well as experiential workshops and field trips all designed to deepen and enrich the study of this innovative college."

[See also the reading list: http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/programs/neh-project/12-programs/neh-project/79-reading-list and
the suggested readings: http://www.blackmountaincollege.org/programs/neh-project/12-programs/neh-project/78-suggested-readings]
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2011  readinglists  johnandrewrice  johndewey  josefalbers  charlesolson  robertcreeley  marycarolinerichards  arthurpenn  dorothearockburne  jonathanwilliams  suzigablik  francineduplessixgray  cytwompbly  robertrauschenberg  education  arteducation  liberalarts  pedagogy  bauhaus 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Special Designers & Books Podcast Series with Debbie Millman: Interaction of Color App for iPad | Designers & Books
"This episode features an interview with two specialists involved in the development of the app for iPad version of Josef Albers’s classic book Interaction of Color (Yale University Press), celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This interactive edition of one of the most influential books on color ever written offers users an entirely new way to experience Albers’s original masterwork, including experimenting with and sharing the designs. Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, and Philip Tiongson, a principal at Potion, a design and technology firm in interactive experiences, talk about the process of producing the app as well as artist and educator Josef Albers’s ideas on teaching and learning about how to use color creatively, and present archival audio (included in the app) of Albers in the classroom."

[See also: http://yupnet.org/interactionofcolor/ and https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/interaction-color-by-josef/id664296461 ]
via:tealtan  josefalbers  color  books  ipad  ios  applications  interaction  design  art  interactionofcolor  brendadanilowitz  philiptiongson  debbiemillman  2013  blackmountaincollege  bmc  robertrauschenberg  teaching  learning  seeing 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Maverick Colleges: Ten Noble Experiments in American Undergraduate Education (1993)
[Second edition (1996) of the book with some additional schools here in PDF: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/experimental-study-group/es-291-learning-seminar-experiments-in-education-spring-2003/readings/MITES_291S03_maverick.pdf ]

[Wayback:
http://web.archive.org/web/20130730023648/http://www.mit.edu/~jrising/webres/maverick.txt
https://web.archive.org/web/19961105162647/http://www.gse.utah.edu/EdAdm/Galvin/Maverick.html ]

"This book is a product of a University of Utah graduate seminar conducted in the spring of 1991: "Notable Experiments in American Higher Education" (Educational Administration 728). The contributing authors are professor of educational administration L. Jackson Newell and seminar students, each of whom selected an innovative, or "experimental," college for research and reporting."

"Common Themes:

As seminar participants exchanged findings about the ten selected colleges, several prominent themes emerged that had not been predetermined by selection criteria but appeared to indicate common postures among experimental colleges. These include:

• Ideals spawning ideas. In most cases, the ten colleges appeared to start with the ideals of visionary founders. For some, the ideal concerned the citizens who would emerge from the learning experience …

• Emphasis on teaching; retreat from research. The vast majority of experimental colleges are liberal education colleges where the art of teaching and the development of students are values of high esteem. …

• Organization without specialization. Not unexpectedly, these experimental colleges also tended to turn away from the disciplinary organization of scholarship that had sprung from the German research university model. …

• Administrative innovations. Freedom from traditional higher education bureaucracy and hierarchy have been common pursuits of the colleges studied. …

Divergent Approaches:

Just as common themes instruct us about the aims and aspirations of various experimental colleges, so too do their divergent approaches. Two notable areas of difference among the colleges focus on who should attend and how their learning might best be organized during the college years."

[Bits from the section on Black Mountain College:]

"Its educational commitment--to democratic underpinnings for learning that comes from "human contact, through a fusion of mind and emotion" (Du Plessix-Gray 1952:10)-- was reflective of a larger liberal environment that managed a brief appearance before the 1950s ushered in fear of Communism and love of television."



"Rice and his colleagues had stronger convictions about how a college should operate than about how and what students might learn. Democracy would be paramount in the administration of the college, and structure would be loose. Students and faculty joined in marathon, long-winded decision-making meetings with decisions ranging from a faculty termination to a library acquisition.

Particularly prominent, and vital to the democratic underpinnings envisioned by Rice, was the absence of any outside governing body. Rice had determined that control exerted by boards of trustees and college presidents rendered faculty participation meaningless, limiting faculty to debate, "with pitiable passion, the questions of hours, credits, cuts. . . . They bring the full force of their manhood to bear on trivialities. They know within themselves that they can roam at will only among minutiae of no importance" (Adamic, 1938:624).

The faculty did establish a three-member "Board of Fellows," elected from among them and charged with running the business affairs of the College. Within a year, a student member was added to the Board."



"The 23-year history of Black Mountain College was one of few constants and much conflict. Three forceful leaders marked three distinct periods during the 23 years: the John Rice years, the Josef Albers decade, and the Charles Olson era.

During the first 5 years of the College, a solidarity of philosophy and community gradually took shape. It revolved largely around John Rice's outgoing personality (much intelligence and much laughter mark most reports from colleagues and students) and forceful opinions about education. He was determined, for example, that every student should have some experience in the arts.

This translated as at least an elementary course in music, dramatics and/or drawing, because:
There is something of the artist in everyone, and the development of this talent, however small, carrying with it a severe discipline of its own, results in the student's becoming more and more sensitive to order in the world and within himself than he can ever possibly become through intellectual effort alone. (Adamic 1938:626)

Although he cautioned against the possible tyranny of the community, Rice eventually decided that some group activity would,
…help the individual be complete, aware of his relation to others. Wood chopping, road-mending, rolling the tennis courts, serving tea in the afternoon, and other tasks around the place help rub off individualistic corners and give people training in assuming responsibility. (Ibid, 1938:627)



"Rice soon discovered what he would later call the "three Alberses"--the teacher, the social being and the Prussian. The Prussian Albers decried the seeming lack of real leadership at the College and the free-wheeling, agenda-less, community-wide meetings. Rice noted later, "You can't talk to a German about liberty. You just waste your breath. They don't know what the hell you mean" (Duberman 1972:69)."



"The war years ushered in a different kind of Black Mountain; one where students, and at least some faculty members, started lobbying for more structure in learning, but yet more freedom outside the classroom. Lectures and recitations were starting to occur within the classroom, while cut-off blue jeans and nude sun bathing appeared outside. Influential faculty member Eric Bentley insisted to his colleagues: "I can't teach history if they're not prepared to do some grinding, memorizing, getting to know facts and dates and so on…" (Duberman 1972:198). Needless to say, with Albers and many of the original faculty still on board, faculty meetings were decisive and volatile.

Overshadowing this dissent, however, was a new program that was to highlight at least the public notion of a historical "saga" for the College, the summer institutes. Like much at Black Mountain, the summer institutes started more by chance than choice."



"The summer institutes grew throughout the 1940s to include notable talents in art, architecture, music and literature. And it is probably these institutes and the renown of the individuals in attendance that contributed most to Black Mountain's reputation as an art school."



The excitement and publicity generated by the summer sessions, in addition to a general higher education population explosion spurred by the G.I. Bill, put the Black Mountain College of the late 1940s on its healthiest economic footing yet.

Still, Black Mountain managed to avoid financial stability. Student turnover negated some of the volume gains. Faculty salaries rose substantially, but grants and endowments did not. Stephen Forbes, for example, who had always been counted on to supply money to the College in tough times, refused a request in 1949 because he was disenchanted with the new emphasis on arts education at the expense of general education. The ability to manage what money it had also did not increase at Black Mountain, although Josef Albers proposed a reorganization that would include administrators and an outside board of overseers. In the wake of arguments and recriminations about the financial situation and how to solve it, a majority (by one vote) of the faculty called for the resignation of Ted Dreier, the last remaining faculty member from the founding group. In protest, four other faculty members resigned--including Josef and Anni Albers. By selling off some of the campus acreage, the remaining faculty managed to save the College and retain its original mindset of freedom from outside boards and administrators, while setting the stage for yet another era in its history [Charles Olson].



"What Albers lacked in administrative ability, he compensated for in tenacity and focus. What Rice lacked in administrative ability, he balanced with action and ideas. However, when Olson couldn't manage the administrative function, he simply retreated. His idea about turning the successful summer institutes into a similar series of year-long institutes fell on deaf faculty ears. So he gave up trying to strengthen the regular program."



"The vast majority of former Black Mountain students can point to clear instances of lasting influence on the rest of their lives. Mostly, this seems to have occurred through association: with one or two faculty members who made a difference, with a "community" of fellow individuals who were essential resources to one another, or with a new area of endeavor such as painting or writing or farming. Black Mountain, apparently, was a place where association was encouraged. Perhaps this occurred through the relatively small number of people shouldered into an isolated valley, perhaps by a common dedication to the unconventional, or perhaps to the existence of ideals about learning and teaching. At any rate, the encouragement of association with people and with ideas was not the norm in higher education then, nor is it now. Clearly, it is possible to graduate from most colleges and universities today with little, if any, significant association with faculty, students or ideas.

But at Black Mountain, as at other experimental colleges, association could hardly be avoided. Engagement with people and ideas was paramount; activity was rampant. It was social, and it was educational. As Eric Bentley would remark:

Where, as at Black Mountain, there is a teacher to every three students the advantage is evident. . .a means to … [more]
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may 2013 by robertogreco
Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albet Lanier, 2002 June 21-Jul 5 - Oral Histories | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
"An interview of Ruth Asawa and her husband, Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-2002 Jul.5, conducted by Mark Johnson on June 21 and Paul Karlstrom on July 5, for the Archives of American Art, in the subjects' home/studio in San Francisco, Calif.

Asawa and Lanier shared their memories of Black Mountain College, Josef and Anni Albers (with whom they became close friends) and Buckminster Fuller. Part of their account of those years and the early stage of their marriage dealt with issues of race.

This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators."
ruthasawa  albertlanier  2002  interviews  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  annialbers  buckminsterfuller  oralhistory  history  race  art  visualarts  glvo  interracialmarriage  markjohnson  artists  sanfrancisco  bmc 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Tate Papers - Josef Albers, Eva Hesse, and the Imperative of Teaching
"Albers believed that one learned as a result of a direct interaction with life & required that his students become familiar w/ the physical nature of the material world. This was due, in part, to the influence of John Dewey, who advocated for laboratory-based education & coined the phase ‘learning by doing.’ For Dewey, ‘the conditions of daily life’ determined the ‘nature of experience’ & thus, art (aesthetic experience) was to be actively engaged. Indeed, he often praised Dewey, whose ideas were fundamental to the founding of Black Mountain College, where Albers first taught in America from 1933 to 1949. & like Dewey, his pedagogic emphasis lay in practical, concrete exercises: in the artist-educator’s own words ‘learning through conscious practice.’ Similar notions, including the Montessori method as well as those of Froebel, Pestalozzi, & others key to discourse on early childhood development were fundamental to the educational programme of the Bauhaus…"
josefalbers  evahesse  teaching  johndewey  pedagogy  art  education  arteducation  bauhaus  learningbydoing  blackmountaincollege  materials  color  sollewitt  learning  progressive  johannesitten  lászlómoholy-nagy  experimentation  empathy  visualempathy  form  order  aesthetics  engagement  instruction  bmc 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Robert Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College - a set on Flickr
"Photos of Robert Rauschenberg when he was a student at Black Mountain College c.1948-1949 where he studied under Josef Albers and became friends with the experimental composer John Cage, whose silent 4' 33" for piano was inspired by Rauschenberg's white paintings. Also at Black Mountain College he worked with the dancer Merce Cunningham, with whom he later collaborated on set and costume design. All photos in this set were taken by Black Mountain College weaving instructor Trude Guermonprez and are from the Black Mountain College Research Project papers, Visual Materials Box 87, in the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC."
blackmountaincollege  robertrauschenberg  johncage  mercecunningham  josefalbers  trudeguermonprez  bmc 
september 2010 by robertogreco

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