“Glyphing” at Black Mountain College: New Artistic Languages in the Work of Anni Albers, John Cage, and Charles Olson



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The legendary Black Mountain College, founded in 1933 near Asheville, North Carolina, cultivated a fascinating and avant-garde community of artists at the forefront of postwar culture in America. While short-lived (the school closed in 1957), the institution’s model of arts-centered education and its distinction as a meeting place for exchange between artists are of everlasting import. In this thesis, I offer a selective view of Black Mountain’s legacy by writing about three of its prominent artists and their projects, including the German artist Anni Albers, composer John Cage, and poet Charles Olson. Through close readings of several of their works of art I uncover similarities in their creative convictions, focusing on their notions of writing and language to seek alternative means of artistic communication. I do this with particular attention to Black Mountain’s widespread interest in the Mayan Hieroglyph, or “glyphs,” as I often refer to them, to study how these three artists conceptualized and idealized the idea of abstract “language.”



Black Mountain, Poetry, Fine Art, Theater, Dance