JohnUrbainRed-X1988BlackMountainCollegeJanuary 18 – June 1, 2013
Curated by Yvette Torres

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is proud to announce John Urbain: No Ideas but in Things, an exhibition of collages and paintings by Black Mountain College alumnus John Urbain, opening January 18, 2013. The project includes a retrospective exhibition of Urbain’s paintings and collages (including selected work from BMC), a publication, and a rich array of public programming, all designed to honor and recognize Urbain, sharing his work with a diverse audience in the WNC region and beyond. The opening reception will take place from 5:30 – 7:30 pm on Friday, January 18th. Admission is free for members and students, $3 for non-members.

John Urbain (1920 – 2009) was a student at Black Mountain College (BMC) in 1946 and 1947 after returning from the war. He enrolled at the suggestion of his friend and colleague Ray Johnson, then a student at the college. BMC proved to be a central influence on his future. As a student of Josef Albers, John began a life-long exploration of matière–a French word and concept that Albers emphasized at BMC to describe a focus on the physical and visual properties of materials. This way of thinking was central to his artwork from that point forth. He also met his future wife, Elaine Schmitt, in Albers’ class.

Urbain wrote, “The visual arts involve the optical senses. With matière, there is involved an additional factor, that of the tactile senses. We desire to touch and feel the matiére studies.” One of the best-known 20th century collage artists, Ray Johnson, was also a student at Black Mountain College. Irwin Kremen is another prolific collage artist who emerged from BMC, having entered the school to study writing. All of these artists were profoundly influenced by their time at BMC, and the legacy of Albers’ focus on matière ties all of their collage work together. We are proud to have featured both Ray Johnson (From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson 1943-1967 in 2010) and Irwin Kremen (In Site: Irwin Kremen in 2012). We plan to build upon this successful history with John Urbain: No Ideas but in Things, furthering our mission to preserve and continue the unique legacy of educational and artistic innovation of Black Mountain College.

The project includes a retrospective exhibition of John Urbain’s work (from early design studies made in Albers’ classes to mature work from his final years), accompanied by an exhibition catalogue and public programming, including a collage workshop, a lecture about the history of collage in the twentieth century and two poetry readings.

The exhibition will open at BMCM+AC on January 18, 2013, and close on June 1, 2013. Prior to installation in Asheville, a version of the Urbain exhibition was installed at Yvette Torres Fine Art, a gallery in Rockland, Maine. The Asheville exhibition will incorporate work from the BMC Museum + Arts Center collection, including Urbain’s meticulously illustrated notes from Albers’ classes and two design studies from 1946. A catalogue will be published to accompany this exhibition.

Support for this project has been generously provided by the following: the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts; The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; Rosamond Allen & Paul Landry; Brett Donham; Arlyn Ende; Katherine Gross; Zenith Gross; Nancy Holmes; C.M. Jadwat, M.D. & Chung-Ja Jadwat; Victoria A. Jones; Susan W. Katzev; Dallas and Pamela Kersey; Sura Levine; Bonnie Allen Rotenberg; Richard Russack & Cynthia Hammett; Edward Schiff; Jan & Bragi Schut; Sheldon Seidler; Peter Wood; Margaret & George Yonemura.

Special thanks: Yvette Torres Fine Art, Catherine Urbain, Michael Urbain and Susan Rhew Design.

Red X, 1988, mixed media, collage on masonite, 12 x 10 inches. Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center Collection.

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center preserves and continues the unique legacy of educational and artistic innovation of Black Mountain College for public study and enjoyment. We achieve our mission through collection, conservation, and educational activities including exhibitions, publications, and public programs.