A curiosity-piquing triplet, no?

The Knoxville Museum of Art opened a new exhibition that inspired us to mask up ūüôĄ¬†and reserve a time slot: a series of works from refugees of Hitler’s verboten Bauhaus (and Nazi Germany) who formed an influential art colony in an obscure setting in the wilds of western North Carolina.

Really, the story could be a great streaming series even though¬†Black Mountain College has already been the subject of a handful of documentaries as ¬†“a wartime refuge for artists and intellectuals fleeing the Nazis but was also a hotbed of progressive education where many renowned postwar cultural figures were formed.”¬†

Josef Albers, basically the grandfather of 20th century visual arts gave Hitler a big old Auf Wiedersehen when Hitler shut down Bauhaus and fled to the U.S., settling in at BMC as one of its most notable teachers. Willem de Kooning (and his wife) studied there; Buckminster Fuller directed a summer program in 1949; a Manhattan Project scientist taught chemistry and physics there; and Albert Einstein himself became a member of the BMC advisory council.

Alexander Calder constructed mobiles as early as the 1930’s. This piece by BMC artist Raymond Barnhart,¬†Asterism dates to 1946. I see influence, but what do I know?

Very Escher-esque with its mathematically-inspired design, but it’s a piece by William Albert Lanier, a Georgia (state) artist who studied at BMC.

Not a Mondrian, of course, but another in the possibly-inspired by collection. (Untitled, Ilya Bolowtowsky)

I could go on with the parallels. Like, perhaps this has a whiff of Haring?

There was much more to BMC than “influenced-by” art. A fashion designer who fled Germany first for Holland, Lore Lindenfeld made her way to the U.S. where a friend convinced her to attend BMC. There she studied watercolor with Josef Albers and textile design with Josef’s wife Anni Albers. Following graduation in 1948, Lindenfeld joined New York’s fashion industry, her designs being featured in major publications. Two of her pieces are at the Smithsonian, as well. I have likely viewed them.

Joseph Fiore came to Black Mountain College to study in 1946 and replaced Josef Albers as head in 1949 and remaining as teacher until 1957. The height of his experimentation in abstract is this work,  #9 Red Abstract.  We just liked the colors and the lines.

BMC wasn’t just all about the visual art. John Cage, an American composer/artist/musician/poet and even amateur mycologist was perhaps the biggest influencer of modern theater as we know it. In the Summer of 1948 Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Elaine de Kooning and others collaborated on a festival of satirist Erik Satie’s works, culminating in The Ruse of Medusa. All would have been fine had Cage not decided to declare that Beethoven was in error with his harmony and rhythm, prompting the theatergoers to take sides. This, in turn sparked a duel between the sides, with Wiener Schnitzel and Crepes Suzette as the weapons. Or so the story goes. We were not able to discern who won, except to note that John Cage went on to transform modern theater into something that was “happening.”

As with most programs that are working, the government found a way to make them un-work. In the final years of the college the FBI launched an investigation into whether Black Mountain teachings were appropriate for G.I. Bill support. In a 1956 memo to ¬†F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover an agent wrote¬†‚ÄúSchool officials have advised that they are conducting a very unusual type of school.¬†A student may do nothing all day and in the middle of the night may decide he wants to paint or write, which he does, and he may call on his teachers at this time for guidance. They advised that everything is left to the desires of the individual.‚ÄĚ

In 1957, Black Mountain College closed. A small museum exists to keep the story from being lost to history. 

As was our¬†Leitmotiv in Austria, lunch followed a cultural outing. Not just any lunch, but one that began with a plate of Blue Points and a Bloody Mary. My first Bloody Mary, too. Not sure that I’m a fan, but it worked with the oysters.

Rather coincidentally, Jack and Lovely Fran had been hiking in the Point Reyes National Seashore the same day, and he sent me this snap. Oysters and a local brew.

Like mother, like son. ūü§£