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Saturday, November 15, 2014

BAM Illustrated: Black Mountain College Yearbook

Black Mountain College was founded in North Carolina in 1933 as a new kind of college with art as its central focus. Students and teachers shared roles and work, boundaries between disciplines dissolved, and art bled into life, nurturing an atmosphere of unfettered creative collaboration. Only open for 24 years, the school was home to an impressive list of former students and teachers, many of whom were, and continue to be, hugely influential in the arts and beyond.

From November 20—23, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Bryce Dessner, Richard Reed Parry, and others celebrate the college with Black Mountain Songs. Below illustrator Nathan Gelgud revisits some of Black Mountain's famous alumni in our own Black Mountain College Yearbook. (Scroll down for additional information on each person.)


Anni Albers was a textile maker who left Germany to teach at Black Mountain in 1933, staying until 1949.

Josef Albers was a multidisciplinary artist, best known as an abstract painter, who taught at Black Mountain with his wife Anni.

John Cage was a composer who taught at Black Mountain in the late 1940s and early 50s, where he organized what is considered the first “happening."

Merce Cunningham, perhaps the most important dancer and choreographer of the 20th century, formed the Merce Cunningham Dance company as a teacher at Black Mountain in 1953.

Willem de Kooning, who taught at Black Mountain in 1948, was one of the keys painters of Abstract Expressionism. 

Buckminster Fuller was a designer and architect who popularized the geodesic dome and the term “Spaceship Earth.” He taught at Black Mountain in the late 1940s.

Franz Kline was an Abstract Expressionist painter whose bold paintings focused not on interpretations of color or figure, but on the brushstrokes themselves. He taught at Black Mountain in the early 1950s.

Robert Motherwell was a painter who coined the term “New York School” to describe a group of Abstract Expressionist painters. He was a teacher at Black Mountain in the 1950s.

Charles Olson was an influential modernist poet, who was the rector of Black Mountain in the 1950s.


Ruth Asawa was a sculptor whose 1970 fountain stands outside the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco. She was at Black Moutain in the 1940s.

Robert Creeley was a poet, loosely associated with the Beats, who was at Black Mountain in the 1950s.

Robert De Niro Sr. was a painter who studied at Black Mountain in 1939-40. While he never gained great fame, it was said that later, if you asked anyone at the Cedar Tavern in New York (where Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning hung out) “Who’s good, besides you?” the response was always Robert De Niro.

Hazel Larsen Archer was a photographer who studied, then taught, at Black Mountain in the 1940s and 50s. Her work included documentation of the environment and students of the college. 

Harvey Lichtenstein spent a summer in the early 1950s at Black Mountain taking classes taught by Merce Cunningham. He was president and executive producer of BAM for 32 years.

Arthur Penn was a student at Black Mountain in the late 1940s. He later directed great films like Bonnie and Clyde and Night Moves.

Robert Rauschenberg attended Black Mountain in the late 1940s, and became one of the most important and innovative artists of the second half of the century.

Dorothea Rockburne is an abstract painter who was at Black Mountain in the 1950s, where she studied with mathematician Max Dehn, who was a lifelong influence on her work.

Cy Twombly was at Black Mountain in the early 1950s, and went on to make huge, scribbly paintings that epitomized a certain aspect of post-Abstract Expressionist painting.

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