New Books: Art Communities

NYSThe SVA library recently added two new books that focus on two different but sympathetic mid-twentieth century art movements: the New York School and Black Mountain College. Although only one of the two operated as an actual school (Black Mountain 1933-1957), both embraced interdisciplinary approaches to art-making within communities and often through collaboration. Poetry, painting, dance, music—all mediums were tantamount and all were called upon to explore the lived experience of a post-World War II society. Both movements are known not only for their associated visual artists, but also their notable poets.

New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight by Jenni Quilter is comprised of 320 fully-illustrated pages of rare ephemera, film stills, photographs, interviews, recollections, poetry, paintings, and more. To turn its pages is to take a tour through a carefully selected archive of highlights from this charged and generative time. Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Philip Guston, John Ashbery, Alice Notley, Frank O’Hara, and Anne Waldman are just a few of the many artists included in this new publication.

BMCLeap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 features over 50 essays on this pioneering experiment in education. Located outside of Asheville in rural North Carolina, Black Mountain College put the creative process at the center of all learning. Today the list of students is as impressive as the list of instructors—artists and poets like Cy Twombly, Robert Creeley, Ruth Asawa, Elaine de Kooning, and Robert Rauschenberg studied with teachers like Josef and Anni Albers, Charles Olson, John Cage, M. C. Richards, Merce Cunningham, and Willem de Kooning. (De Kooning being just one example of Black Mountain’s direct overlap with the New York School.) The education experience was reciprocal: instructors also learned from students, creative collaborations developed between them, and many students even went on to teach at the school. Each essay in Look Before You Leap focuses on a different element of the whole: students, instructors, campus life, learning, from topics like “The Formation of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company” to “Building Autonomy, Creating Community: The Farm and Work Program at Black Mountain College” and “Textures of the South: Roland Hayes and Integration at Black Mountain College.”

Find both these titles on the new book shelf in the SVA Main Library!

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (a birthday picture for Hermine), 1952. Solar print, 28x22 inches.

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (a birthday picture for Hermine), 1952. Solar print, 28×22 inches. From Look Before You Leap: Black Mountain College, p. 315.


Philip Guston and Bill Berkson, Negative, 1973. From New York School: Painters & Poets, p. 270.

Philip Guston and Bill Berkson, Negative, 1973. From New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight, p. 270.

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