robertogreco + 2002 + paulkarlstrom   1

Oral history interview with Ruth Asawa and Albert Lanier, 2002 June 21-July 5 | Archives of American Art
"PK: How did you feel at the time? And I would ask you this as well, Albert. Would you give the Black Mountain experience as a kind of a watershed for you? Did something happen there? Was there an environment in which you did feel that, “Ah, this is heady stuff. We’re working with some new ideas, some new forms.” Did you feel that way about it?

RA: It probably felt as though we were ahead of the administration in that time. At that time we felt we were so beyond them.

AL: You mean as students? We were ahead of the people doing the teaching?

RA: Yes.

AL: I didn’t feel that. But go ahead.

RA: Well, we were encouraged to try out new things at that time.

AL: I think we felt that everything was possible. Everything was possible. Anything’s possible.

RA: And maybe it was our youth that gave us that feeling at that time. But we thought we were given permission to try out new things in terms of the way that . . .

PK: Materials?

RA: Materials. The things that the administration was trying to do. They were experimenting and we were also experimenting at the time. And we were so poor that we were taking materials that were around us and using leaves and rocks and things that were natural rather than having good paper and good materials that we bought. We had to scrounge around with things that were around us. And I think that was very good for us.

PK: And then the instructors there didn’t have that advantage, what you described as a kind of advantage. Since you didn’t have, you had to be more imaginative about what you could use.

RA: Yes.

PK: What you could bring together in your expression and maybe less tied to tradition.

RA: Well, it was through the teachers that we had who encouraged us to use things around us.

PK: Did most of the other students respond well to that freedom that they were offered?

AL: Some did and some didn’t. Some regarded [Josef] Albers as a Fascist, a dictator, because he didn’t react to or condone your feelings, “I feel this and I feel that.” He wasn’t terribly concerned with what we felt. He was concerned with what we saw and that we learned to see. And he would say, “If you want to express yourself do that on your own time. Don’t do it in my class.” He taught design, the same course, year-in-and-year-out. And it wasn’t Design 101, or Design 102, and Design 103. He taught the same course pretty much the same problems year-in-and-year-out. And we did the same things over and over again.

RA: The same problems had a deeper, deeper feeling, experience.

AL: This was continued with him, certainly all the time that he was at Black Mountain. And sitting here in this living room, he was about to be made head of the Design Department at Yale. But there it was about to be made a graduate school and he was very unhappy about that.

PK: Why?

AL: Because he said, “Design knows nothing about graduation. Art knows nothing about graduation.” He wanted those farm boys direct from the farm. He didn’t want them after they could spiel off all that they knew about art, which they might by the time they were in graduate school. He wanted them discovering it. That’s what he wanted. He really wanted us while we were still discovering things. That’s why I say that we had a feeling that everything was possible. And if you wanted to express yourself, and there were many that did, you either did it strictly on your own time or you dropped out of his classes because he did not go in for that.

PK: So he wasn’t one on faculty who gave that kind of permission, I gather, that you were talking about earlier.

AL: No, you had definite problems. You had definite problems and each student’s solution was discussed with the whole class. And very often you learned something from the comments of the rest of the class. They weren’t huge classes. If you didn’t bring something, you’ve got your problem, if you didn’t come back with something, you weren’t made very welcome. That’s freeloading."
ruthasawa  albertlanier  2002  interviews  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  markjohnson  paulkarlstrom 
september 2017 by robertogreco

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