If you can kill a snake with it, it ain't art!

The following information about this past Turchin Center exhibition is kept here for archival purposes only. This exhibition is not currently on display. View current and upcoming exhibitions.

Friday, March 7, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Main Gallery

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, "Jonathan Williams, With Thyrsus, Abbey of Gethsemane", 1966. Photograph. Image courtesy of the Jonathan Williams Collection.

North Carolina poet Jonathan Williams (1929 - 2008) has been collecting things that captured his visual attention and imagination for most of his life, and especially since the beginning of the 1950s, around the time he dropped out of Princeton University and found a more suitable educational niche for himself closer to home at Black Mountain College.

Before he began to establish himself as a poet and publisher closely tied to the Black Mountain school of writing (the Beat movement's East-Coast wing, in effect), Williams had spent a couple of years investigating the visual arts. He studied painting, printmaking and book design, first at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., then at the Institute of Design in Chicago. In 1951 he turned to photography, and his desire to study with photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind led him to Black Mountain, where they both taught that summer.

Black Mountain would only survive for another five years before closing its doors, but the friendships and associations that Williams formed there played a big part in determining his future. Other developing artists and writers who were fellow Black Mountain students at the time included Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, John Chamberlain, Kenneth Noland, Francine du Plessix, and Suzi Gablik. When he arrived at the school Williams was already writing poetry in addition to his work in visual mediums, and soon he fell under the spell of Charles Olson, Black Mountain's charismatic rector and writing teacher. But Williams also continued to make photographs and otherwise to maintain an active engagement with visual art and artists.

The more than 100 handsomely designed books that Jargon has published in its 55-year history stand as one enduringly significant testament to the range of Williams' visual interests. Among the photographers and other visual artists whose works have graced these volumes are Callahan, Siskind, Rauschenberg, Ralph Eugene Meatyhard and Doris Ulmann. While the books of the Jargon Society (as the press is now known) have been the focus of several exhibitions over the years, this will be the first to focus on Williams' wide-ranging art collection.

Tom Patterson is a writer, critic, independent curator and the author of several books on contemporary folk art and artists and has curated a dozen exhibitions since 1985 for institutions across the US. He has enthusiastically followed Williams' work since their first meeting in 1974.

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