Black Mountain – The fiber arts tradition runs deep in Western North Carolina with spinning, knitting, weaving and felting all literally a part of the region’s fabric. Many must be familiar with Allanstand weavings at the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors to the area find the traditions of shearing, dyeing, spinning, knitting and weaving alive and well in and around Asheville. In fact, the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair will be held October 20, 21 and 22, 2023 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher, NC.
Thus the opening of a new exhibit at the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center in downtown Asheville should be of particular interest to many in the area. It celebrates the 90th anniversary of the founding of Black Mountain College. The exhibition, Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students, reveals how weaving played a significant role in the legendary art and design curriculum of this illustrious school. This exhibition spotlights some of the amazing works of art that were produced at the college.
The weaving program was started in 1934 by Anni Albers and lasted until Black Mountain College closed in 1956. Despite Albers’s elevated reputation, the persistent treatment of textile practices as women’s work or handicraft has often led to the discipline being ignored or underrepresented in previous scholarship and exhibitions about the College; this exhibition brings that work into the spotlight at last.
In addition to Albers, Trude Guermonprez taught her first classes in the United States at Black Mountain College, and other notable weaving faculty like Marli Ehrman and Tony Landreau brought their own perspectives on the discipline. Among their students, some went on to find work as weavers, teachers, and textile designers, including Else Regensteiner, Lore Kadden Lindenfeld, Marilyn Bauer, Don Wight, and Joan Potter Loveless. Other students did not pursue future work in weaving but became successful artists and designers in their own right, including Ray Johnson, Don Page, Claude Stoller, Jane Slater Marquis, and Robert Rauschenberg.
This exhibition is showing works from the Museum’s permanent collection, with some pieces on loan from private collections. The show contains a selection of works that were made at Black Mountain College, as well as works representing the continuing careers of many BMC alumni and faculty (so, work they made after leaving the college). It also features work from five contemporary weavers whose work connects to the legacy of BMC. They are being shown in the expanded gallery space now located at 120 College Street (no longer located on Broadway) in Asheville. The Museum is open from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday through Saturday. There is no charge for entry, but a donation is welcome. The exhibition will be through January 6, 2024.
An opening will take place on the evening of Friday, October 13th from 6:30-9:00 PM at the museum. It will be accompanied by a performance by artist Jen Bervin. The opening is presented in conjunction with the annual ReVIEWING Black Mountain College International Conference held at UNCA. This conference is a forum for scholars and artists to contribute original work on topics related to Black Mountain College and its place in cultural history. This three-day conference, open to the public, features performances, lectures, and discussions by a diverse group of local, regional, and international artists, experts and scholars. To learn more about the conference go to: https://www.blackmountaincollege.org/reviewing
A Brief Introduction to Black Mountain College
According to their website Black Mountain College began in 1933 and was “born out of a desire to create a new type of college based on John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. The events that precipitated the college’s founding occurred simultaneously with the rise of Adolf Hitler, the closing of the Bauhaus school in Germany, and escalating persecution of artists and intellectuals in Europe. Some of these refugees found their way to Black Mountain, either as students or faculty. Meanwhile, the United States was mired in the Great Depression. The founders of the college believed that the study and practice of art were indispensable aspects of a student’s general liberal arts education, and they hired Josef Albers to be the first art teacher. Speaking not a word of English, he and his wife Anni left the turmoil in Hitler’s Germany and crossed the Atlantic Ocean by boat to teach art at this small, rebellious college in the mountains of North Carolina.”
Legendary even in its own time, Black Mountain College attracted and created maverick spirits, some of whom went on to become well-known and extremely influential individuals in the latter half of the 20th century. A partial list includes Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Susan Weil, Vera B. Williams, Ben Shahn, Ruth Asawa, Franz Kline, Arthur Penn, Buckminster Fuller, M.C. Richards, Francine du Plessix Gray, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Dorothea Rockburne and many others who have made an impact on the world in a significant way. Even now, decades after its closing in 1957, the powerful influence of Black Mountain College continues to reverberate.”