Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students

"Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students" is the first exhibition devoted to textile practices at Black Mountain College (BMC). Celebrating 90 years since the college’s founding, the exhibition reveals how weaving was a more significant part of the College’s legendary art and design curriculum than previously assumed. 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. Through informal interactions, lectures, and exhibitions, weaving practices and ideas spread beyond the weaving program into other areas of the College, a transfer of knowledge co-curators Michael Beggs and Julie J. Thomson have termed “weaving literacy.” Repositioning the textile work of students and faculty in conversation with the rest of the BMC curriculum offers a new, rich, and detailed understanding of the weaving program’s relationship to other disciplines. A particularly notable example of the ways in which this knowledge transfer functioned was the Harriett Engelhardt Memorial Collection, a collection of about 100 vernacular and ancient textiles curated by Anni Albers, which was used to teach students in the weaving program and was the subject of public exhibitions at the College. The exhibition features objects from the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center’s permanent collection and loans from institutional and private collections. Many of the objects to be shown have either never been publicly exhibited, or never been shown in the context of BMC. The exhibition also features work by selected contemporary artists whose work connects to the legacy of Black Mountain College’s weavers: Kay Sekimachi, Jen Bervin, Porfirio Gutiérrez, Susie Taylor, and Bana Haffar. Curated by Michael Beggs and Julie J. Thomson

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