Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 opens September 17

Mon, Feb 29, 2016

September 17–January 1, 2017, the Wexner Center for the Arts will present Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957, the first major US museum exhibition on Black Mountain College (BMC), a small, experimental school in North Carolina whose seismic impact on art pedagogy and art practice is still felt today. The Wexner Center is the exhibition’s final and only Midwest stop.

This dynamic and acclaimed exhibition chronicles how, over a relatively brief period of time, the college became a seminal gathering place and creative nexus for many visual artists, composers, choreographers, designers, writers, and poets who would become post-World War II legends. The exhibition encompasses Black Mountain faculty and students alike, including Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem de Kooning, Buckminster Fuller, Gwendolyn and Jacob Lawrence, Ruth Asawa, and many more. Containing more than 200 works, from 90 artists in a wide array of materials—including painting, sculpture, poetry, soundscapes, weaving, and pottery—the exhibition offers a glimpse at not just the work created at the college, but also at archival materials such as photo documents, books produced at the college, and recorded readings and performances. As at its two prior venues, the Wexner Center’s presentation of the show will be accompanied by a full schedule of complementary programming overseen by the center’s performing arts, film/video, and education departments.

Notes Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin, "Leap Before You Look is a remarkable exploration of a groundbreaking multidisciplinary art school that literally changed the trajectory of 20th century creative expression. Black Mountain was in many ways the “ur” habitat for artistic cross-pollination, an ethos perfectly situated and celebrated at the Wex, where collaboration across creative disciplines is embedded in our very mission."

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and curated by Helen Molesworth, chief curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, with Ruth Erickson, associate curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. The Wexner Center’s presentation is organized by Bill Horrigan, curator at large. It is accompanied by a major catalogue published by the ICA Boston in association with Yale University Press. It includes an essay by Helen Molesworth focusing on the interrelated themes of art pedagogy, progressive education, democracy, and cosmopolitanism. Contributions from more than 20 scholars—including Harry Cooper, Eva Diaz, Steve Evans, Jennifer Gross, Jonathan Hiam, Katherine Markoski, Nancy Perloff, Jeffrey Saletnik, Alice Sebrell, Jenni Sorkin, and Gloria Sutton—address a variety of topics, from the history of weaving and ceramics to modernist music and American poetry.

"Genius abounds in landmark exhibit."
Boston Globe


Founded in 1933 (and closed in 1957), Black Mountain College has exerted enormous influence on postwar cultural life in the United States. Strongly influenced by the utopian ideals of the progressive education movement, it placed the arts at the center of liberal arts education and believed that in doing so it could better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society. It was a dynamic crossroads for refugees from Europe and an emerging generation of American artists. Profoundly interdisciplinary, it offered equal attention to painting, weaving, sculpture, pottery, poetry, music, and dance.


The sprawling multidisciplinary nature of Black Mountain College will be reflected throughout the Wexner Center during the run of the exhibition. Performances of works created by Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Christian Woolf, and others will be presented on a specially created stage in the galleries, and a complementary film series will be screened in our Film/Video Theater. Walk-in tours, free with gallery admission, will be available throughout the exhibition’s run.


Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957, will be on view September 17, 2016–January 1, 2017 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High St. (at 15th Avenue) on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus. Gallery hours are 11 am–6 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, and 11 am–8 pm Thursday–Saturday. Galleries are closed Mondays. Admission is $8; free for Wexner Center members, college students, and visitors 18 and under; free Thursdays 4–8 pm and the first Sunday of the month.

More info on bus routes, parking, and other visitor information: http://wexarts.org/visit/location-and-directions or (614) 292-35335.

Downloadable Assets

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 19331957 has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence

Major support is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Wexner Center receives general operating support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, The Columbus Foundation, Nationwide Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council. Generous support is also provided by the Corporate Annual Fund of the Wexner Center Foundation and Wexner Center members.