The New York Sun

Weekend Edition, September 26-28, 2003

The Knickerbocker

Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art Edited by Vincent Katz
(MIT, 2002, reprinted 2013)

"From Black Mountain College to Eternity"


MAGIC MOUNTAIN  Poets, artists, and musicians came out last week to 192 Books, a new general-interest bookstore and exhibition space in Chelsea, for a book signing of "Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art" (MIT Press).  Edited by Vincent Katz, with essays by Martin Brody, Robert Creeley, Mr. Katz, and Kevin Power, the book accompanied a show at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia of Madrid.  Richly illustrated, it tells the story of Black Mountain College, a progressive educational institution in North Carolina that exited between 1933 and 1956.

At Black Mountain College, students and faculty pursued study of the humanities and fine arts both outside and inside the classroom.  The place attracted a stellar array of figures such as Josef Albers, Walter Gropius, Paul Goodman, Alfred Kazin, Robert Motherwell, R. Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessix Gray, Charles Olson, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham.

On hand at the 192 Books event were painter Alex Katz; photographer Alison Bradley; photography curator Pierre Apraxine; painter Francesco Clemente; journalist Adrian Dannatt; the owners of the bookstore, Paula Cooper and husband Jack Macrae; poet David Lehman, who is editing the "Oxford Book of American Poetry"; Stacey Harwood, who has written an essay on movies and poetry; Roy Skodnick, who is writing a biography of American sculptor James Metcalf, and Mr. Brody, a composer tho teaches at Wellesley College.  Also in attendance were three artists who studied at Black Mountain College:  painter Dorothea Rockburne and Basil and Martha King.

Mr. Creeley is now teaching at Brown University.  Mr. Katz has just finished a translation from Latin of the complete poems of Sextus Propertius, to be published by Princeton University Press next spring.

The room was brightened by a large wall painting by Sol LeWitt.  The audience laughed when Mr. Creeley recalled a quote about Black Mountain College by Willem de Kooning:  "The only thing wrong with the place is that if you go there, they want to give it to you."