Black Mountain College and the Beats of the North Beach Scene
The Asheville Art Museum is pleased to present the Digital Exhibition Minds, Bodies, and Spirits: Black Mountain College and the Beats of the North Beach Scene 1953–1960 organized by Jordan Wolfe, spring 2022 Curatorial Intern (Black Mountain College Collection). This exhibition follows select artists from their time at Black Mountain College (BMC) through their early years in the Beat scene of 1950s San Francisco. There is a particular interest in The Place, an artist’s bar in San Francisco founded by BMC artist Leo Krikorian, known to some as the grandfather of the Beats. Though the bar only existed from 1953–1960, it served as an epicenter of cultural exchange with jazz performances by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, poetry readings by Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan, and art shows with Basil King and Jay DeFeo. During this decade, artists, poets, and musicians frequented bars and galleries throughout the city to form a tight network of distinctly West Coast creatives who, through explorations of the arts, philosophy, and politics, would help shape the future of American counterculture for decades.
“Minds, Bodies, and Spirits and its audio companion are the result of months of intimate moments spent with archival materials of BMC students including student records, stream-of-consciousness poems, artist memoirs, and candid interviews spanning from the 1960s to today. Through linking these materials with artworks in our collection, I got to know these artists as deeply as our separation of time and space would allow. Providing a glimpse of part of the Beat story that did not always make headlines, this exhibition is transportive and intricate, yet merely scratches the surface of all the people and events in 1950s North Beach. I hope it leaves you with a sense of Black Mountain College’s creative force at work in San Francisco, as well as a desire to play, experiment, and explore just as these artists did decades ago.”
—Jordan Wolfe, spring 2022 curatorial intern for Black Mountain College Collection