leap before you look – a visit to the ICA.

“Instead of art I have taught philosophy. Though technique for me is a big word, I never have taught how to paint. All my doing was to make people to see.”

-Josef Albers

On Sunday I spent the afternoon with my mom at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, viewing their latest exhibit “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957”. Years ago I worked at the ICA – first as a visitor’s services assistant (gallery monitor) and later selling tickets at the front desk. Despite the lower back pain I experienced from standing on a concrete floor for 8 hours at a time, the ICA is still a special place for me and their latest exhibit did not disappoint.

Leap Before You Look presents the history and the work created at Black Mountain College during the school’s 24-year lifespan. I’m not going to get into a detailed review of the show because The Boston Globe and The New Yorker have already done so better than I can. I will give a little context though. Black Mountain College was founded by Andrew Rice in 1933 and was not, in fact, an art school – but rather a liberal arts college which placed art at the center of its’ curriculum. The school was headed by Josef Albers and ultimately produced many of the most influential artists of post-war America.

As I made my way through the show, I was struck by the number of famous names I recognized from my own study of art and art history (Josef & Anni Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Willem & Elaine de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Susan Weil to name just a few). While many of the works in the exhibit read as finished pieces by established artists, others have the distinct feel of being a student project. The pieces range from painting to sculpture to poetry to dance and everything seems to reflect the free-form spirit of the institution itself.

Below are a few pictures I took during my visit (back when I worked at the ICA, visitors weren’t allowed to photograph any on-loan artwork but luckily they’ve relaxed this policy). The exhibit runs through January 24 and I absolutely encourage anyone and everyone to visit. The museum is free on Thursday evenings from 5-9pm!

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Josef Albers, Multiplex

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Josef Albers, Encircled

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This was a color study that Josef Albers required his students to perform. As an undergraduate studio art major I had to complete a similar assignment. As I mentioned this to my mom while viewing the piece, a woman next to us said to her friend “they’re still doing this in art school!”

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Josef Albers, Variants

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Ruth Asawa, Untitled Sculpture


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Ilya Bolotowsky, Upright in Gold and Violet


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Pat Passlof, Yardstick

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Franz KlinePainting, 1952

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Susan Weil, Secrets

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Stan VanDerBeek, A Book of Ours

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Come for the art, stay for the view.

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