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This February, the Hammer Museum at UCLA presents the West Coast debut of “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957,” the first comprehensive U.S. museum exhibition on Black Mountain College, a small, experimental school in North Carolina which had a profound impact that continues to influence art practice and pedagogy today.

The exhibition, which will run from Feb. 21 through May 15, 2016, chronicles how Black Mountain College became a seminal meeting place and dynamic crossroads for many of the artists, musicians, poets and thinkers who would become leading practitioners of the postwar period.

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For a scrappy, short-lived little college founded at a Christian summer camp by an outcast professor, Black Mountain College had a mighty impact on American cultural life. Among the artists who taught and studied there: Josef and Anni Albers, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham.

“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” opens at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Oct. 10.

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In the annals of 20th-century American art, few legends loom quite as large as that of Black Mountain College. Founded in 1933 by the classics scholar John Andrew Rice and the engineer Theodore Dreier, it was a progressive institution based in Black Mountain, a small North Carolina town that aimed to place art making at the heart of a liberal arts education. That same year, the Nazis forced the closing of another grand experiment, Germany’s Bauhaus school, prompting many of its teachers and students to decamp for the United States. Several landed at Black Mountain, most prominently Josef Albers, who was chosen to lead the art program, and his wife, Anni, who taught textile design and weaving.

Under Albers, whose course on materials and form was one of only two requirements (the other was a class on Plato), Black Mountain soon became known as a kind of Shangri-La for avant-garde art.

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