Weaving at Black Mountain College:
Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
September 29, 2023 – January 6, 2024

Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students is the first exhibition devoted to textile practices at Black Mountain College (BMC). Celebrating 90 years since the college’s founding, the exhibition reveals how weaving was a more significant part of BMC’s legendary art and design curriculum than previously assumed.

BMC’s weaving program was started in 1934 by Anni Albers and lasted until the College closed in 1956. Despite Albers’s elevated reputation, the persistent treatment of textile practices as women’s work or handicraft has often led to the discipline being ignored or underrepresented in previous scholarship and exhibitions about the College; this exhibition brings that work into the spotlight at last.

In addition to Albers, Trude Guermonprez taught her first classes in the U.S. at BMC, and Marli Ehrman and Tony Landreau brought their own perspectives on the discipline through their work and teaching. Among their students, some went on to find work as weavers, teachers, and textile designers, including Else Regensteiner, Lore Kadden Lindenfeld, Marilyn Bauer, Don Wight, and Joan Potter Loveless. Other students did not pursue future work in weaving but became successful artists and designers in their own right, including Ray Johnson, Don Page, Claude Stoller, Jane Slater Marquis, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Through informal interactions, lectures, and exhibitions, weaving practices, and ideas spread beyond the weaving program into other areas of the College, a transfer of knowledge termed “weaving literacy.” Repositioning the textile work of students and faculty in conversation with the rest of BMC offers a new, rich, and detailed understanding of the weaving program’s relationship to other disciplines. 

Featured works include objects from BMCM+AC’s permanent collection, as well as loans from institutional and private collections, including the families of BMC weavers. Many of the objects to be shown have either never been publicly exhibited, or never been shown in the context of BMC. The exhibition also features work by selected contemporary artists whose work connects to the legacies of the BMC weavers: Kay Sekimachi, Jen Bervin, Porfirio Gutiérrez, Susie Taylor, and Bana Haffar.

The opening reception and a keynote lecture took place in conjunction with BMCM+AC’s annual ReVIEWING conference hosted at UNC Asheville. The exhibition is also accompanied by an illustrated exhibition catalogue. Catalogue contributors include the curators, Michael Beggs and Julie J. Thomson; Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation; Erica Warren, Independent Scholar; and Jennifer Nieling, Independent Scholar. 

Curated by Michael Beggs and Julie J. Thomson

Images: (First) Trude Guermonprez, Hummingbird Cages, ca. 1963. Linen and silk. 41 × 26 in. Courtesy of the Jalowetz Aronson Family Collection. Photograph by Jim Ludlow. (Second) Mimi French, Fabric woven at Black Mountain College, ca. 1940-44. Cotton and unidentified fibers, 18 x 30 in. Private Collection. Photograph by Fritz Horstman. (Third) Janet Heling Roberts, Bookbinding: Johannes Brahms: Fifty Selected Songs, ca. 1945. Paper, thread, and handwoven bookcloth, 12 x 10 x 1 1/8 in. Collection BMCM+AC.

Installation photos by BMCM+AC staff.

ORDER NOW: Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students

A detailed study of the role and legacy of weaving at the legendary Black Mountain College.

By Michael Beggs and Julie J. Thomson, with contributions by Brenda Danilowitz, Erica Warren, and Jennifer Nieling.

In the mid-twentieth century, Black Mountain College attracted a remarkable roster of artists, architects, and musicians. Yet the weaving classes taught by Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and six other faculty members are rarely mentioned or are often treated as mere craft lessons. This was far from the case: the weaving program was the school’s most sophisticated and successful design program. About ten percent of all Black Mountain College students took at least one class in weaving, including specialists like textile designers Lore Kadden Lindenfeld and Else Regensteiner, as well as students from other disciplines, like artists Ray Johnson and Robert Rauschenberg and architects Don Page and Claude Stoller. Drawing upon a wealth of unpublished material and archival photographs, Weaving at Black Mountain College rewrites history to show how weaving played a much larger role in the legendary art and design curriculum than previously assumed.

The book illustrates dozens of objects from private and public collections, many of which have never been shown in this context. Essays explore connections and networks fostered by Black Mountain weavers; the ways in which weaving at the college was linked to larger discourses about weaving and craft; and Bauhaus influences transmitted by way of Anni Albers. The book also includes works by five contemporary artists that connect and respond to the legacy of weaving at Black Mountain College today.

Published in conjunction with the exhibition “Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students” held September 29, 2023–January 6, 2024 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (Asheville, NC). Support for this exhibition and publication has been generously provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Lehman Foundation, and Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

ANNI ALBERS + TRUDE GUERMONPREZ

Helen M Post Modley portrait of Anni Albers at BMC - Courtesy of Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

Anni Albers (Faculty Weaving and Textile Design 1933-1949) (b.1899-d.1994)

Anni Albers arrived at the Bauhaus in 1922, intending to study the visual arts. The conventions of the Bauhaus, which restricted their significant female student body to the weaving workshop, led her down a new path, one that would forever change the role of textiles in modern and contemporary fine art. In 1933, after the Bauhaus closed due to pressure exerted by the Nazis, Anni’s husband Josef Albers was invited to lead the art program at Black Mountain College. The pair came to the United States by ship, landing in New York, and arriving in Black Mountain in December 1933. The weaving program at Black Mountain College was Anni Albers’s brainchild, developed with complete autonomy as an extension of and reaction to her experiences as a student and teacher at the Bauhaus. She began teaching in early 1934, just a few months after her arrival at BMC, and by 1935 weaving was established enough in the curriculum that she was appointed to the College’s faculty. At Black Mountain Albers also developed as an artist, with her deepening interest in pre-Columbian weaving inspiring a freer, more manual approach than she had used at the Bauhaus.

Nancy Newhall Trude Guermonprez BMC , c. 1948

Trude Guermonprez (Faculty in Weaving 1947–1949) (b.1910–d.1976)

Trude Guermonprez arrived at Black Mountain College as an experienced textile designer and production weaver, who had studied with Bauhausler Benita Koch-Otte. Following the death of her husband Paul Guermonprez in Holland in 1944 and the death of her father, Heinrich Jalowetz—beloved professor of music at Black Mountain—in 1946, Trude came to BMC to be closer to her mother Johanna Jalowetz, who still taught at BMC, and her sister, Lisa, who had moved to New York after graduating from Black Mountain. From 1947 to 1949, Guermonprez taught weaving at Black Mountain alongside Franziska Mayer and Anni Albers.

Images: Helen M Post Modley, portrait of Anni Albers at BMC – Courtesy of Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
Nancy Newhall, Trude Guermonprez at BMC, c. 1948.

Video Spotlight: A Conversation with Brenda Danilowitz and Erica Warren

At the 14th Annual ReVIEWING Black Mountain College International Conference, the Keynote Conversation with Brenda Danilowitz and Erica Warren focused on the topic of Anni Albers’s design pedagogy and time at BMC.

LEARNING TO WEAVE

EXPERIMENTATION

Anni Albers’s weaving students learned to design textiles through experimentation rather than duplicating existing or traditional textiles from pattern books. Beginning weavers were taught a few basic weave structures and tried them out on shared looms that were already set up. As the students gained practical experience, they learned to thread the looms themselves and more advanced technical considerations like double weave were layered in. Black Mountain’s other weaving faculty maintained many of the same key concerns and contours of Albers’s classes even after her departure.

Featured Object: Fred Goldsmith, Throw, 1944. Cotton, 54 x 25 in. Collection Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, gift of Fred Goldsmith. Photograph by Alice Sebrell.

MATERIAL STUDIES

Material and design studies made away from the loom were a staple of Anni Albers’s classes at Black Mountain College. Albers felt it was necessary for her students to develop practical familiarity with the characteristics of the threads they would be using. She lectured on material characteristics, and some students also made sample cards or libraries to keep track of different thread types or materials. Albers’s students also made off-loom design studies, called “textile orders,” repeating patterns that mimicked woven structures.

Featured Object: Janet Heling Roberts, Fiber Samples for Anni Albers’ Weaving Class, mid 1940s, fiber and paper. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Artist.

DESIGN + PRODUCTION

Once they learned the practical basics of weaving, students were asked to respond to design prompts, which required them to consider the characteristics the finished fabric should have and determine which materials and weave structures would result in a fabric with those characteristics. Albers felt a good designer was anonymous, and that well designed fabrics were both functionally and aesthetically fit for their purpose, writing that: “the tablecloth that calls ‘Here I am, look at me,’ is invading the privacy of the consumer. The curtains that cry ‘We are beautiful, your attention please,’ but whisper ‘though not very practical, we will need much of your time to keep us in shape,’ are badly designed.”

Featured Object: Lore Kadden Lindenfeld, 8 Harness Group Weaving Sample, circa 1945 – 1948. Textile. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Artist.

MAKING CLOTHES

Throughout Black Mountain College’s history, students and faculty made and mended their own clothing and accessories, sometimes making garments out of handwoven fabrics produced by the weaving program. From casual wear for sunbathing to practical box coats to formal evening dresses, these clothes reflected the atmosphere of the College itself: a highly opinionated aesthetic environment with a strong self-sufficient, do-it-yourself ethos. As at any other college, looking the part went hand-in-hand with belonging at BMC.

Featured Object: Lorrie Goulet, Jacket, circa 1943 – 1944. Woven fabric. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Lorrie Goulet.

Video Spotlight: “The Weavers of BMC” Curator’s Talk

Co-curators Julie Thomson and Michael Beggs gave a Featured Presentation at the 14th annual ReVIEWING BMC International Conference. This presentation explores the work of each BMC weaver included in Thomson and Beggs’ research for the exhibition.

ANCIENT ANTECEDENTS

Textiles from Mexico and Peru were particularly important to Anni Albers, and she would later dedicate her 1965 book, On Weaving, “to my great teachers, the weavers of ancient Peru.” She assembled a textile study collection—in memorial of the late Harriet Engelhart—consisting of ninety-two textiles and tools, with textiles from Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia, among other geographic locations. A few were ancient, but most were practical textiles less than one hundred years old. The Engelhardt Collection gave students and faculty the opportunity to explore many different textile traditions, handling the textiles and seeing them in three dimensions.

Fred Goldsmith, Throw, 1944<br />
Cotton, 54 x 25 in.<br />
Collection Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, gift of Fred Goldsmith. Photograph by<br />
Alice Sebrell.
Fred Goldsmith, Throw, 1944<br />
Cotton, 54 x 25 in.<br />
Collection Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, gift of Fred Goldsmith. Photograph by<br />
Alice Sebrell.

Video Spotlight: A Conversation with Porfirio Gutierrez

Tune into a conversation with Porfirio Gutierrez, a contemporary artist featured in Weaving at Black Mountain College.

Gutierrez is a California-based Zapotec textile artist and natural dyer, born and raised in the richly historic textile community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. His life’s work has been revitalizing and preserving traditional Zapotec natural dye techniques with a focus on reinterpreting traditional textiles and materials to reflect his distinct creative vision.

WEAVING AS ART

The weaving program at Black Mountain College was design-oriented, but students and faculty also made artworks, another facet of BMC’s weaving program that echoed the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus. Anni Albers was an ideal role model of a weaver who alternately embodied craftsperson, designer, and artist, and this trinity of practice was clearly emulated by both her students and her peers (Franziska Mayer and Trude Guermonprez chief among them).

Albers’s classes gave her students all the skills they would need to make woven artworks. The structural, design, and material studies that were central to learning to design were equally applicable to making art. But Albers set no explicit expectation for her students to make woven artworks. If students made art, they did so on their own time or during free weaving periods, a pedagogical approach that paralleled her husband’s, where classwork was treated as practice and artwork was a personal, self-driven pursuit. As a result, the artwork made by students was varied and personal—and notably more pictorial than their design work.

Black Mountain gave Trude the opportunity to find her own approach to teaching and to experiment with her personal weaving practice. In 1948, she made Leaf Study, a work she would later call her first “textile graphic.” Using a leaf study made by BMC student Nicholas Muzenic as the basis, Guermonprez made drawings abstracting the leaves further, and painted her design onto a jute warp before weaving this tapestry with linen threads.

Trude Guermonprez, Hummingbird Cages, ca. 1963. Linen and silk. 41 × 26 in. Courtesy of the<br />
Jalowetz Aronson Family Collection. Photograph by Jim Ludlow.

Trude Guermonprez, Hummingbird Cages, ca. 1963. Linen and silk. 41 × 26 in. Courtesy of the Jalowetz Aronson Family Collection. Photograph by Jim Ludlow.

Trude Guermonprez. “Leaf Study,” 1948. Linen and jute with painted warp. Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Gift of Gregg and Linda MacMillan. ⁠

Trude Guermonprez, Leaf Study, 1948. Linen and jute with painted warp. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Gregg and Linda MacMillan. ⁠

Video Spotlight: A Conversation with Susie Taylor

Check out this conversation with Susie Taylor, a contemporary artist featured in Weaving at Black Mountain College.

Susie Taylor is a weaver and textile designer based in San Jose, California. Taylor’s process recalls the work of the Black Mountain College weavers in her rigorous approach to experimentation, play, and iterative development.

WEAVING LITERACY

Although Black Mountain College now enjoys a reputation as an art school, it was a liberal arts college with a general education curriculum. While some students chose to specialize in weaving, most took weaving classes as a part of studies in other subjects. These interdisciplinary students included artists like Robert Rauschenberg (who took weaving in the spring of 1949), musicians like Patsy Lynch Wood (summer 1948), and architects like Claude Stoller (fall 1940 and spring 1941). An interesting exception was Ruth Asawa, whose extraordinary work in looped metal shares many textile-like qualities, but who never took a weaving class at Black Mountain.

While weaving classes could be highly technical and specialized, they were well integrated within Black Mountain’s interdisciplinary academic culture, and nonspecialist students could interact with the medium in a variety of ways. These many ways of encountering textiles and textile thinking led to a high level of what we have termed weaving literacy —a familiarity with weaving and its processes, key concerns, and products —at Black Mountain College.

Trude Guermonprez, Robert Rauschenberg with Inga Lauterstein, who wears a costume designed by Rauschenberg, 1949. Courtesy of the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.<br />

Trude Guermonprez, Robert Rauschenberg with Inga Lauterstein, who wears a costume designed by Rauschenberg, 1949. Courtesy of the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

Video Spotlight: The Weaver

This video tells the story of Faith Murray Britton’s The Weaver. Using fellow student Don Page as a model, Britton painted this work on the door to BMC’s weaving workshop.

The Weaver is featured in Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students.

CONTINUANCES

Although Black Mountain College closed in 1957, many of the College’s weavers continued to make work, building a collective legacy for the weaving program. This legacy includes the work of BMC students and faculty as well as the work of the many weavers who continue to be inspired by Black Mountain College.

Many of Black Mountain’s most talented weavers made careers in other fields. Don Page, Claude Stoller, and Alex Reed all became architects, where they were able to apply the design lessons they had learned from Anni Albers to their future work. Other students had successful careers in textile design, including Lore Kadden Lindenfeld, Don Wight, and Andy Oates.

Additionally, the Weaving at BMC exhibition featured five contemporary textile artists with connections to the legacy of Black Mountain College. Watch the videos below to learn more about some of the featured artists.

Video Spotlight: Shed

Drawing from the rich legacy of Anni Albers, Bana Haffar engages with the materiality of sound, the essence of cloth, and the symbiosis of the machine and handmade by transposing standard weaving draft notation into musical scores.

Haffar’s graphic score for Shed is featured in Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students alongside this performance with Third Coast Percussion.

Related Programs
RAUSCHENBERG: A Gift in Your Pocket From the Collections of Friends in Honor of Bradley Jeffries

ReVIEWING Black Mountain College 14
October 13 – 15, 2023
Thematic Focus: Material + Structure
Keynote Speakers: Brenda Danilowitz + Erica Warren in conversation

ReVIEWING Black Mountain College conference is a forum for scholars and artists to contribute original work on topics related to Black Mountain College and its place in cultural history. The 14th Annual ReVIEWING Black Mountain Collegeconference will feature Keynote Speakers Brenda Danilowitz + Erica Warren. This three-day program, open to the public, celebrates the opening of the museum’s exhibition Weaving at Black Mountain College: Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Their Students.

RAUSCHENBERG: A Gift in Your Pocket From the Collections of Friends in Honor of Bradley Jeffries

Loom Activation with Warren Wilson College students
October 28, 2023 from 1-3 pm
November 4, 2023 from 1-3 pm
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center {120 College Street}
Free and open to all

Students from Warren Wilson College’s Fiber Arts Work Crew will weave on an original loom from Black Mountain College’s weaving workshop, located on the first floor of the museum’s galleries. Visitors will be able to see the loom in action, observe the process of weaving and ask questions.

RAUSCHENBERG: A Gift in Your Pocket From the Collections of Friends in Honor of Bradley Jeffries

SCREENING: Craft in America: Visionaries
December 6, 2023 at 12pm
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center {120 College Street}
Free and open to all

Craft in America’s “Visionaries” episode discusses the work of many weavers and artists featured in the Weaving at Black Mountain College exhibition–including Anni Albers, Trude Guermonprez, and Kay Sekimachi–and people with connections to BMC artists, including weaver and textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen and collector Forrest L. Merrill. Weaving at Black Mountain College co-curator Julie J. Thomson will provide opening remarks.

RAUSCHENBERG: A Gift in Your Pocket From the Collections of Friends in Honor of Bradley Jeffries

A Conversation with Porfirio Gutierrez
December 14, 2023 at 1 PM Eastern
Streaming to Vimeo + Facebook

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center presents a conversation with Porfirio Gutierrez. Gutierrez is a California-based Zapotec textile artist and natural dyer, born and raised in the richly historic Zapotec textile community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. His contemporary textile work is featured in Weaving at BMC.

RAUSCHENBERG: A Gift in Your Pocket From the Collections of Friends in Honor of Bradley Jeffries

A Conversation with Susie Taylor
December 28, 2023
YouTube + Vimeo + Facebook

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center presents a conversation with Susie Taylor. In this conversation, Taylor discusses her practice, including her origami weavings, the relationship between her work and abstraction, and her philosophy of structural innovation. Taylor’s work is featured in Weaving at BMC.