Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Conversations: Ruth Erickson, Curator @ ICA Boston, Part Three

Peter Voulkos, Rocking Pot, 1956, stoneware with colemanite wash, 13 5⁄8 x 21 x 17 1⁄2 inches. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of the James Renwick Alliance and various donors and museum purchase © Voulkos Family Trust

In Part One of my talk with Ruth Ericson, she explained the layout of the Leap Before You Look exhibition while it was still on display in Southern California.  As that show was in its final week, in Part Two of the conversation was published, in which Ericson and I talked some about the architects involved with Black Mountain College, most notably Lawrence Kocher.

The exhibition has since traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts (the Wex) at Ohio State University, where it opened on September 17th.


Ruth Asawa, Dancers, c. 1948, oil on blotting paper 12 x 19 inches. Weverka Family Collection. © Estate of Ruth Asawa. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Moving on to Part Three of our conversation, Ericson and I first talk about pottery at BMC.  And thereafter, Ericson shares details about Ruth Asawa’s prolific body of work created while at BMC.  I then mentioned Jacob Lawrence, who taught at BMC and was one of the most renowned Black artists of the 20th century, also inviting Ericson to talk about some of the other] African-Americans involved with Black Mountain College(BMC), where she replied in part that “Black Mountain made the decision after a heated debate in 1944, which is a full 10 years before Brown vs Board…and it was an African-American female singer who came, and her name was Alma Mae Stone Williams.”  

Jacob Lawrence, Watchmaker, 1946, tempera and graphite on paper, 30 1⁄2 x 21 1⁄2 inches.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Photo by Lee Stalsworth. 
© 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS)


Ericson also talked about Roland Hayes, who taught at BMC in 1945, and who was—according to the Harris Arts Center and other arts institutions—considered “the first African-American classical singer to have an international career on the concert and operatic stage.”

What now follows is a statement by the Wex, and thereafter Part Three of my podcast with Ericson:
This fall, step into an immersive, sweeping exploration of one of America’s most important artistic legacies. Featuring 200 works by 90 artists, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 sheds light on an experimental school in North Carolina that has had an extraordinary impact on contemporary art. Its influence is still profoundly felt today…

SYNOPSIS: From Bauhaus | To Black Mountain

Without the past there can be no present or pathway to the future, and with the knowledge that the telling of history determines who is most enfranchised in the everyday, there is at least one story about the history of art and education in the 20th century deserving a much closer and careful examination.

By investigating one of the most enduring spans in the history of modern art—from 1919 to 1933 and directly thereafter 1933 to 1957—representing the respective years of operation for the Bauhaus school, which closed the same year that Black Mountain College opened—renowned artist, writer and historian, Max Eternity, goes beyond familiar tropes and conversations on the subject.  Eternity illuminates a multitude of crucial transatlantic arts and humanities relationships in the Western world during those times, whereby sharpening and refining the historical lens.

Observed in the study of Germany's Bauhaus and the United States’ Black Mountain College, and by playing close attention to the social impact of these educational (forums) institutions and their respective players, From Bauhaus | To Black Mountain presents an intriguing and voluminous, yet concise, historical record in a manner accessible to layperson, practitioner, and academic.

In the malleable present and within the great hallways of collective memory, From Bauhaus | To Black Mountain offers an intellectually exciting and richly detailed understanding of the roots, and other aspects, of early to mid-century modernism’s family tree.