Gerald van de Wiele exhibit at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Jan. 19

Gerald van de Wiele, Odyssey, 2016
Gerald van de Wiele, Odyssey, 2016

Press release from Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center: 

Asheville, NC—Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is pleased to present the exhibition Gerald van de Wiele: Variations / Seven-Decades of Painting. Organized by guest curator Jason Andrew, this retrospective features a survey of paintings, sculptures, drawings, ink sketches, and watercolors from every period of the artist’s seven-decade career. Highlights include Wells Street (1956), a major painting that van de Wiele began at Black Mountain College; Castelli (1962), a work from his first solo exhibition in New York City at the Leo Castelli Gallery; and Chapala (2017) the most recent painting that references a 1951 trip to Mexico and reflects the artist’s profound contemporary vision of nature.

As curator Jason Andrew states, “This historic retrospective captures seven decades of art by Black Mountain College alumnus (1954-56) Gerald van de Wiele in an exhibition that highlights the artist’s distinctive calibration of color and line while tapping the pulse-rhythm of the natural world.” The artist will be present at the opening reception (5:30 – 8pm) on Jan. 19th and will give a gallery talk at 6:15pm. On Saturday, Jan. 20th, exhibition curator Jason Andrew and Gerald van de Wiele will have a public conversation about the artist’s life and work at 2pm.

Gerald van de Wiele was born in 1932 and raised in Detroit. He attended Cass Technical High School when one day, a recent grad by the name of Ray Johnson visited his class “singing the praises of a place called Black Mountain College.” At the time of van de Wiele’s arrival in September of 1954, the faculty at BMC featured poet Charles Olson, writer/director Wes Huss, painter Joe Fiore, and composer Stefan Wolpe. Although there were a range of visiting artists coming to the campus including writer Robert Duncan and poet Robert Creeley (who van de Wiele punched out in a love tryst over student Martha Davis), the student body consisted of only a handful of students that came and went including Fielding Dawson, Jorge Fick, Joel Oppenheimer, Dan Rice, Ann Simone, Naomi and Mona Stea, and Jonathan Williams.

At BMC, van de Wiele grew close to artist Joe Fiore and poet Charles Olson who in 1956 composed and dedicated “Variations Done for Gerald van de Wiele.” van de Wiele told Martin Duberman in 1968: “I don’t believe I ever in my life felt that I belonged any place as much as I felt I belonged at that school. I loved that place.” His work from this period ranged from quick portrait studies to fully realized gestural works in paint. In late spring of 1956 van de Wiele left BMC; the college closed later that year.

van de Wiele had his first solo show at Chicago’s Wells Street Gallery in October 1957, and in November of the same year, his work was selected by guest jurors Franz Kline, Philip Guston and Sam Hunter to be included in the Chicago annual exhibition Momentum. By late 1959 van de Wiele, had moved to New York City. Seeking to establish himself, he walked into the Leo Castelli Gallery. That introduction lead to part-time work and later, his first solo show in New York City at the gallery.

In 1963, van de Wiele was included in a group exhibition of drawings that included works by Lee Bontecou, Nassos Daphis, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Moskowitz, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Jack Tworkov. With the rise of Pop-Art, and van de Wiele’s own move away from abstraction towards more representational pursuits, the artist left Leo Castelli for the Peridot Gallery, exhibiting there on and off until the mid-70s. He continued to support himself and his family of five children working odd jobs including as a framer at Dain and Schiff.

Although van de Wiele’s work slipped out of circulation from the mainstream comings-and-goings of the New York art world, his connections to artists, poets, and composers remained true. A color-rich painting from 2005, on view in the retrospective, is dedicated to his neighbor and friend the painter Pat Passlof, also a former BMC student. The work shares their expressive vision.

As interest in the artists and the history of Black Mountain College increased, so did the interest in van de Wiele’s work. He was among the few featured in Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art, curated by Vincent Katz for the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, in 2002. More recently a selection of his early drawings was included in Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957, the first comprehensive exhibition featuring the artists of BMC to tour the United States. Gerald van de Wiele continues to paint and write poetry from his studio on Allen Street in New York City.

Selected Programs during this exhibition include:

Saturday, February 17, 7pm
First Harvest: Celebrating the book Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards

Wednesday, March 14 – 6pm
AUTHOR EVENT – Malaprop’s Bookstore – Maira Kalman

Friday + Saturday, March 16 + 17, 8pm
DANCE PERFORMANCE – Diana Wortham Theatre
The Principles of Uncertainty: Dance Heginbotham with Maira Kalman

Saturday, March 31, 3-10pm
Re}HAPPENING AT LAKE EDEN, Camp Rockmont, Black Mountain, NC
For more programs, please visit www.blackmountaincollege.org.

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