ART ABOUT TOWN
his wife Anni, who taught textile design and production. It finds continuity among painters as disparate as abstract expressionists Willem and Elaine de Kooning and constructivist Ilya Bolotowsky. It cleverly superimposes pottery and poetry, not (just) for the sake of the near-homonym but also for history’s sake (as these two art forms endured especially late into Black Mountain’s waning years). It unearths now-obscure teachers and students and places them, to no disadvantage, with their better known peers. And it captures the ambience of the community and the spirit of its members through extensive photo-documentation produced by devoted shutterbugs like Hazel Larson Archer. Now-revered figures such as Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, and Robert Rauschenberg certainly get pride of place in the show, but that’s understandable: their work and attitudes had a notable impact on the Black Mountain experience not just in hindsight, but at the time. It isn’t easy to design and mount a show that must frequently jump scale and medium to encompass the variety of its many subjects’ styles. Leap Before You Look does so with as much grace as clarity. Taking advantage of the Hammer’s own flowing layout, the show (which did not originate here) posits discrete displays of particular people and disciplines that abut one another with the doubled logic of formal connection and chronological sequence. The show comes to a crescendo of sorts in the rooms devoted to music and dance, for it’s there that the John Cage-Merce Cunningham-Rauschenberg team is forged and goes on to re-invent the world. However spectacular, though, it’s a thoughtful crescendo. There is, alas, precious little documentation of Cage’s multivalent multi-media 1952 Theater Piece and none of productions such as the 1948 staging of Erik Satie’s Ruse of Medusa, starring Fuller, Cunningham, and Elaine de Kooning. (The massive catalogue, of course, provides such documentation.) But the immense screen showing early performances of even earlier Cunningham choreographies makes up for these lacunae.