Leap Before You Look Black Mountain College 1933–1957 Helen Molesworth, Ruth Erickson

Publication date:
29 Oct 2015
Yale University Press
400 pages: 318 x 241mm
318 color + 170 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

A dynamic new look at the legendary college that was a major incubator of the arts in midcentury America

In 1933, John Rice founded Black Mountain College in North Carolina as an experiment in making artistic experience central to learning. Though it operated for only 24 years, this pioneering school played a significant role in fostering avant-garde art, music, dance, and poetry, and an astonishing number of important artists taught or studied there. Among the instructors were Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Karen Karnes, M. C. Richards, and Willem de Kooning, and students included Ruth Asawa, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly.
Leap Before You Look is a singular exploration of this legendary school and of the work of the artists who spent time there. Scholars from a variety of fields contribute original essays about diverse aspects of the College—spanning everything from its farm program to the influence of Bauhaus principles—and about the people and ideas that gave it such a lasting impact. In addition, catalogue entries highlight selected works, including writings, musical compositions, visual arts, and crafts. The book’s fresh approach and rich illustration program convey the atmosphere of creativity and experimentation that was unique to Black Mountain College, and that served as an inspiration to so many. This timely volume will be essential reading for anyone interested in the College and its enduring legacy.

Helen Molesworth is chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Ruth Erickson is assistant curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

"The richly illustrated catalog . . . offers a visual record of the early efforts of such eminences as choreographer Merce Cunningham, composer John Cage, and the painters Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenbeg."—Wall Street Journal, 2015 'Best Books for Art Lovers'

Finalist for the 2015 George Wittenborn Book Award, given by the Art Libraries Society of North America

Won an honorable mention for the 2016 Dedalus Foundation Exhibition Catalogue Award

"I cannot praise the show’s beautiful and accessible catalog highly enough. It will have a long life, and will ensure that Leap Before You Look will be looked back on for years to come as the landmark event that it is."—Sebastian Smee, Boston Globe

"Strikingly desiged and weighty . . . [the authors] have delved deeply into the history of the unconventional North Carolina art school."—Introspective: The 1stdibs Magazine, 2015 Holiday Book Roundup