Black Mountain College


Gallery No. 1, Black Mountain College


Black Mountain, North Carolina







With the rise of the white box, the power which environment has over the experience of the art has been debated throughout the twentieth century and continues to this day. In the spirit of immersive and isolated art viewing experiences such as Donald Judd’s Marfa and the various Dia sponsored works throughout the west, the new galleries proposed for Black Mountain seek to place the visitor in direct contact with the environment in which the work was conceived and created.

Founded during the depths of the depression by classics scholar and avant-garde educator John Rice in the mountains of North Carolina, the aim of the college was to establish an educational environment with its basis in “freedom, community and democracy”. Although the physical size of the college was small, averaging about 50 students at any given time, the influence of the individuals and ideas has been immeasurable, reaching far across the Twentieth Century.

The new galleries on the former site of the college will focus on the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly, displaying work from their formative time together at the school in the early 1950’s. With a circle of students and teachers including Josef Albers, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, the time Rauschenberg and Twombly spent at Black Mountain was a touchstone for the remainder of their respective careers.

As the collection will be on permanent display, the gallery spaces have been designed with a curatorial as well as spatial intent. Conceived as a series of discrete volumes, the visitor is forced to move continuously between exterior and interior, allowing a moment to pause for the atmosphere specific to the place to set in.

Both sheltered and directed by the bar shaped plan, the loose dispersal of galleries along the path upends the traditional gallery enfilade progression for the viewer. In this sense, the intention is for every experience to be unique to the sequence chosen by the individual as well as the season of the visit. The concepts of “freedom, community and democracy” which drove the founding of the college are redeployed to define the boundaries between the artwork and nature.