He was a renowned Jewish philosopher, and an early member of the NAACP. He was also an art and nature lover, who advocated a global shift toward vegetarianism. However, Albert Einstein is known primarily as the 20th century’s greatest physicist, although he was a radical socialist who called capitalism evil.
The hefty contributions of Albert Einstein to the US civil rights movement are nothing short of legendary. Even before his arrival in the US from his native Germany, Einstein had already “backed a campaign to defend the Scottsboro Boys, nine Alabama teenagers who were falsely accused of rape in 1931.” And according to a 2015 article at Live Science, when “Princeton's Nassau Inn refused to rent a room to contralto opera star Marian Anderson” because she was Black, “Einstein invited the singer home as his guest.”
Albert Einstein with his wife, Elsa (Image: Wikipedia)
Harriet Sohmers Zwerling, The Studies Building, ca. 1949, gelatin silver print. Gift of the artist.
An ignorant public is not just a problem for educators to reckon with, it’s a fundamental crisis within our democracy, because according to Tom Alexander “democracy needs education if it’s going to work.”
John Dewey (Image: Library of Congress)
In the final segment of my podcast interview with Ruth Ericson we conclude with a discussion about Merce Cunningham and some of the other dancers and choreographers at Black Mountain College.
Hazel Larsen Archer, Elizabeth Schmitt Jennerjahn and Robert Rauschenberg, c. 1952, gelatin silver print, 6 1/4 x 9 ¼ inches. Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center.
There are so many things to be learned about Black Mountain College (BMC)—about how the school came into being in 1933 and what went on for the 24 years of its existence, as well as studying the institution’s unrivalled broad appeal to artists and intellectuals of that era, within the Americas, including African-Americans and Asian-Americans, and all the contributors of Europe.
László Moholy-Nagy, Plexi-Chrome Sculpture, 1947, vintage gelatin silver print, 8.875 x 6.25 inches. Collection of Michael Reid.
According to the New York Historical Society, during colonial times 41 percent of New York City’s “households had slaves, compared to 6 percent in Philadelphia and 2 percent in Boston.” Too this, nearly “every businessman in 18th-century New York had a stake, at one time or another, in the traffic in human beings.” Donald Trump is from New York, and as Trump and White supremacy implodes in plain sight, remember that the current iteration of this multi-millennial, hellish and never-ending nightmare has its roots in New York City.
I have never known a time in my life when I wasn't an artist. My first writing was published (a poem) when I was 17, and I made a clay sculpture that was exhibited when I was 16. I was around 12 or 13 when I started designing cars and boats, and I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade when I drew a [scaled] design of a building. I taught my first art class at the Boys Club when I was around 15. However, in the entire 12 years of my public education I did not have one single African-American male teacher of any subject.
Earlier this year I conduced a feature podcast with Ruth Ericson, a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) about the epic Black Mountain College (BMC) exhibition she worked on under the direction of Helen Molesworth, who spearheaded the touring exhibition and presentation. In Part Three of our conversation Ericson and I first talk about pottery at BMC, and about Ruth Asawa’s prolific body of work created while at BMC. In conclusion, we talked about the African-Americans involved with BMC, including Jacob Lawrence.
Peter Voulkos, Rocking Pot, 1956, stoneware with colemanite wash, 13 5⁄8 x 21 x 17 1⁄2 inches. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of the James Renwick Alliance and various donors and museum purchase © Voulkos Family Trust
A popular resurgence of interest in Black Mountain College (BMC) continues to grow nationally. There are numerous exhibitions happening this year recalling the school’s rich historical past while holding high its living legacy, with a show entitled Geometric Vistas: Landscapes by Artists of Black Mountain College opening on August 6th at the Asheville Art Museum in North Carolina. On display at the museum, as well, is a trio of striking installations by Hoss Haley, Sharon Louden and Sol LeWitt.