ART, EXPERIMENTATION, AND BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE
January 2, 2018
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An exhibition of vintage photographs about Black Mountain College and work by those associated with this groundbreaking school will be mounted at Vanderbilt this winter. LOOKING BACK (LOOKING FORWARD): THE BLACK MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE explores the highly interdisciplinary approach to education fostered at this school in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains from 1933–1957. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, January 11 from 5 to 7 pm in Cohen Memorial Hall in conjunction with the opening of FAMOUS! (AND NOT-SO-FAMOUS): POLAROIDS BY ANDY WARHOL. Both exhibitions will be on view through March 2, 2018, with a closure January 15 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Additionally, on February 1 at 6 pm in Cohen Memorial Hall, there will be a lecture by Ruth Erickson, Mannion Family Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and a performance of Third Voice by Intermission Arts and New Dialect Dance Company. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall at 1220 21st Avenue South, on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 11 am–4 pm, Weekends 1–5 pm. Admission and all events are free and open to the public.
Inspired by the educational philosophy of John Dewey, Black Mountain College was, from its inception, an incubator of experimentation, equally valuing the fine and the so-called applied arts as an integral part of a liberal arts education. It stressed hands-on learning and a democratic administrative structure, with students and teachers innovating side-by-side, often discovering together linkages between art, architecture, poetry, music, theatre, and dance. The school’s establishment during the Great Depression coincided also with the rise of Germany’s Nazi Party and the resulting exodus of many artists and intellectuals from that country, including Bauhaus instructors Josef and Anni Albers. The two were promptly invited to join Black Mountain College’s faculty and modeled its art curriculum on that of the German school of design, architecture, and applied arts.
LOOKING BACK (LOOKING FORWARD): THE BLACK MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE presents several photographs taken at the school of composer John Cage, dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, and architectural futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. All are on loan from the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Additionally, it features art from the Fine Arts Gallery’s collection by Cage and Fuller along with Josef Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, and Kenneth Snelson, notable students and teachers that all went on to become highly recognized artists. A rare film made at Black Mountain College by Nicholas Cernovitch of dancer and choreographer Katherine Litz performing Thoughts Out of Season (ca. 1952) will be shown continuously.
Joseph Mella, director of the Fine Arts Gallery and exhibition curator, reflected that “While modest in scope, this exhibition hopes to shed light on a remarkable school that was hugely influential in how art was taught and created. The exhibition also serves as a catalyst for interdisciplinary, trans-institutional programing here at Vanderbilt, one of the Gallery’s central goals.” The exhibition is timed to coincide with a class on The Experimental Arts of Black Mountain College and a symposium at Vanderbilt showcasing scholarship about the school as well as contemporary experimental choreography and composition.
The exhibition includes:
- Artworks by Josef Albers, John Cage, R. Buckminster Fuller, Robert Rauschenberg, and Kenneth Snelson
- Vintage photographs from Black Mountain College by Hazel Larsen Archer and Clemens Kalischer
- A video of Thoughts Out of Season (ca. 1952) filmed by Nicholas Cernovitch and choreographed and performed by Katherine Litz
LOOKING BACK (LOOKING FORWARD): THE BLACK MOUNTAIN EXPERIENCE is organized by the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and curated by Joseph S. Mella, director, and is being presented in conjunction with the course The Experimental Arts of Black Mountain, taught by John Warren, Department of Art. Support for the exhibition has been provided, in part, by the Department of Art. Additional support is provided by the Dr. and Mrs. E. William Ewers Gift for Fine Arts.
For more information on visiting the gallery, see Vanderbilt.edu/gallery. Visitors to the opening reception may park, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95, accessible from 21st avenue south.