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April 2011

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, NC, Offers Works by Irwin Kremen

The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, NC, is presenting the exhibit, In Site: Late Works by Irwin Kremen, on view through June 4, 2011.

The exhibition will primarily focus on recent collages by this master collagist but will also include a selection of his sculptures. A 48-page color catalogue will accompany the exhibition with an essay by the artist. This exhibition is organized by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center.

Irwin Kremen was born in Chicago, IL, in 1925. He attended Northwestern University from 1942-45. Working as a reporter and columnist for a local daily newspaper in New York City, five months after he had quit studying journalism at Northwestern University, Kremen came across an article featuring Black Mountain College. Without hesitation, he boarded a train and joined this small, avant-garde community flourishing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Kremen recalls that he “sought fresh experience, different ideas, expanded feeling, in short, another way to be in the world.”

Although Kremen enrolled in Black Mountain College in 1946 to pursue his aspirations as a young writer, the progressive and collective environment he encountered there permanently re-defined his ideas about education. Black Mountain College exposed Kremen to such various and influential artists as poet and potter M. C. Richards who remained a lifelong friend, artist and teacher Josef Albers, and painter and Asheville native Kenneth Noland. It was M. C. Richards who prompted his first collage experiment nearly twenty years after he left BMC.

After Black Mountain College, Kremen lived in New York’s Greenwich Village where, through his friendship with M. C. Richards, he befriended John Cage, Merce Cunningham and David Tudor, all of whom spent some time at BMC during the late 1940s and early 1950s. He met his wife Barbara at a Cage performance in 1952, and Cage dedicated his famous composition 4’33” to Kremen.

Eventually Kremen went back to school and earned his Ph.D in clinical psychology from Harvard and moved to Durham, NC, to teach at Duke in 1963. It was a few years later that M.C. Richards introduced him to collage making. What, at the time, seemed to be only a playful activity for the family, instigated a major shift in Kremen’s life as he began to make collages with a feverish obsession. The papers he uses are carefully collected from walls and other surfaces encountered during travels to Europe. He says about the work, “I hunt out papers that have been in sun, in rain, covered with the dirt of the city. Yet as I look at them, I realize their exquisite potential.”

Significantly, Kremen has developed a complex technique of hinging the elements of his collages, so each scrap of paper is allowed to exist independently within the composition. This allows for an edge integrity and subtle depth that are not possible when the usual method of gluing is used.

Kremen has had solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, as well as at a long list of other galleries and museums in the US and abroad. He won the Sam Ragan Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina in 1998.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 828/350-8484 or visit(

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