Friday, June 14, 2013


Exploring the Permanent Collection with a Work of the Week

June 14, 2013


Emerson Woelffer, Untitled, 1961. Lithograph, 18.75 x 14.88 inches. Gift of Leo Monahan. Black Mountain College Collection of the Asheville Art Museum. 2009.05.01.61.


Emerson Woelffer (1914-2003) was a prominent Abstract Expressionist painter and artist from Chicago. He is best known for his brightly-colored, tribal-looking abstract paintings, though he also made lithographs and sculptures. Woelffer taught painting at Black Mountain College (BMC) at the request of Buckminster Fuller in 1949, and went on to teach at several other prominent institutions. The artist also spent several years of his life living in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, studying primitive and tribal art forms. Woelffer’s works reflect the blending of artistic cultures; European modernism, American Abstract Expressionism, and primitive art from the Yucatan all greatly influenced his artistic style.

The Asheville Art Museum will feature Woelffer’s Untitled (1961) lithograph alongside many other recent acquisitions in the Museum’s growing Black Mountain College Collection in the upcoming exhibition Lasting Gifts: The Black Mountain College Collection. Black Mountain College (BMC), which operated from 1933 – 1957 in Black Mountain, NC, was an experimental school with great emphasis on the arts, democracy, and the process of learning through experience. Emerson Woeffler’s Untitled reflects the experimental nature of Black Mountain College through his blending of cultures and artistic styles. As a teacher, Woelffer also encouraged his students to follow their convictions; this artistic freedom is also representative of the nature of Black Mountain College.

In addition to this lithograph, several other works by Woelffer were recently gifted to the Museum by the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, CA, to add to the Museum’s BMC Collection. Since 2011, the BMC Collection has grown in number due to implementation of the Museum’s Black Mountain College Collection and Research Project, which supports the digitization and interpretation of the Museum’s collection of works from BMC students and faculty. Developed in partnership with respected BMC scholar Mary Emma Harris, the project will continue to expand the collection of artwork and research materials, such as artist resumes and exhibition catalogues, about BMC-related artists. This project has allowed the Museum a unique opportunity to celebrate, preserve, and share works by BMC artists that would otherwise not be available for residents of and visitors to Western North Carolina to experience. More details on the BMC Project can be found here.

Opening to the public on Saturday, July 27, with a public reception on Friday, August 2, Lasting Gifts: The Black Mountain College Collection will highlight a dynamic selection of art works representative of recently acquired art works within the Black Mountain College Collection.