THE ARTS AT BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE by Mary Emma Harris

THE ARTS AT BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A pricey, profusely illustrated coffee-table look at avant-garde Black Mountain College, which from the 30's to the 50's provided a home for some of the odder theorists in the various arts, from poetry (Charles Olson) to painting (Josef Albers) to dance (Merce Cunningham). Harris is very good with the year-by-year history and developments of the school, which finally went broke in 1957. Unfortunately, the cultural contributions of many of the school's most famous teachers remain very much in dispute. Even Olson's most ardent admirers have trouble following the main drift of his artistic manifesto. To generations of painters, Albers' rigid rules were equally impenetrable. Until these leading lights of the movement are better understood and more lastingly evaluated, it may be a little early for a glossy text like the present one. Part of the book's expense owes no doubt to the extremely generous selection of illustrations; here Harris wanted both to evoke the atmosphere at the College, as well as illustrate some of the main visual achievements. This might really be the task of two separate books. By adding photos of students socializing to an already weighty volume, costs easily rise fast. Readers may finish this volume still wondering which was more important in this elite colony--the exclusion principle that made a pariah of a young woman who dared to like T.S. Eliot, or Olson's gnomic pronouncements, like ""My Maya, the flying god, downward, say, of Tulum,"" speaking of a doorway ornament in the school. A well-documented attempt that does not address the main questions of quality of output.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0262582120
Publisher: MIT Press