Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957

10:00 am - 6:00 pm


Hazel Larsen Archer, Elizabeth Schmitt Jennerjahn and Robert Rauschenberg, c. 1952, gelatin silver print, 6 1/4 x 9 ¼ inches.
Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957
Fall ExhibitionsSept 17, 2016–Jan 1, 2017

“Few legends loom quite as large as that of Black Mountain College.”—New York Times

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—and perhaps nowhere more pervasively than at the Wex, where this acclaimed exhibition makes its only stop in the Midwest.

Leap Before You Look chronicles how, over a relatively brief period of time, this rural college became a crucial incubator and gathering place for future giants of the midcentury avant-garde. The exhibition features formative work by such teachers and students as visual artists Anni and Josef Albers, Ruth Asawa, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Ray Johnson, Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly; architect Buckminster Fuller; and poets Robert Creeley and Charles Olson. While the traditional arts of sculpture and painting are amply represented, they’re given equal billing with weaving, metalwork, jewelry design, and furniture produced at the school. Along with extensive archival photographs and recordings, the exhibition is brought to life by in-gallery performances of work created and inspired by choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage.

A radical, idealistic initiative, Black Mountain College broke new ground in arts education—encouraging teachers and students to collaborate, to improvise as well as rehearse, and to create beyond category. As a place that encouraged artists to push traditional disciplines as far as they might go, Black Mountain stands as the model for today’s contemporary arts institutions. Indeed, the Wex—itself multidisciplinary, experimental, and risk-taking—shares more than just DNA with Black Mountain. Three artists in the show (Cage, Cunningham, and Rauschenberg) have been honored with the prestigious Wexner Prize, and many others have been the focus of Wex programs over the years.

Remarkably, Leap Before You Look is the first comprehensive US exhibition to chart Black Mountain’s seismic impact on art pedagogy and practice. Its restless, joyous spirit lives on at the Wex. Come see what happens when art, music, and dance collide in an acclaimed laboratory for contemporary art.



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