Although it lasted only twenty-three years (1933-1956) and enrolled fewer than 1,200 students, Black Mountain College was one of the most fabled experimental institutions in art education and practice. Its art teachers included Josef Albers, Ilya Bolotowsky, Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Franz Kline, and Robert Motherwell, and among their students were John Chamberlain, Kenneth Noland, Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothea Rockburne, and Cy Twombly. The performing arts teachers included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Lou Harrison, Roger Sessions, David Tudor, and Stefan Wolpe, and among the literature teachers and students were Robert Creeley, Fielding Dawson, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, Francine du Plessix Gray, Charles Olson, M. C. Richards, and John Wieners.
This book, which accompanies an exhibition organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, contains nearly 500 color and black and white illustrations, many never before published.
Most of the images directly support the ideas and evidence presented in the book's four essays, all commissioned for this book. Poet Robert Creeley recounts his first meeting with his mentor and friend Charles Olson. Composer Martin Brody gives a history of the musical world of the 1930s to 1950s, in which Black Mountain played a significant role. Critic Kevin Power looks at the history and content of the experimental literary journal The Black Mountain Review, which was instrumental in the launching of the Black Mountain school of poetry. Curator Vincent Katz discusses the philosophy of the college's founders, the Bauhaus principles followed by art instructor Josef Albers, and the many interactions among the arts in the college's later years. The book also contains detailed histories of the careers of sixty-five Black Mountain artists, drawing on new interviews with John Chamberlain, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Fielding Dawson, Joseph Fiore, Richard Lippold, Kenneth Noland, Pat Passlof, Arthur Penn, Dan Rice, Dorothea Rockburne, Gerald van de Wiele, Susan Weil, and John Wieners.