Interview with Pete Jennerjahn

Warren “Pete” Jennerjahn came to Black Mountain College in the summer of 1948 on the insistence of his wife Elizabeth (“Betty”) Jennerjahn, who had already attended the College’s 1944 Summer Institute of the Arts. Having received his master’s degree in art education from the University of Wisconsin, he first enrolled in Josef Albers’ art course. Becoming Albers’ assistant shortly afterwards, he took over his courses in color and design, when Albers left to teach at the Yale University School of Art in 1949. Together with his wife, Pete Jennerjahn had been appointed to the regular faculty and remained at Black Mountain College as a teacher until 1951. From 1949 to 1951, the Jennerjahns founded the so-called Light Sound Movement Workshop, in which they developed short theater pieces using projected slides, painted backdrops, music, dance and verbal texts, aiming to create a non-verbal, structural relationship of light, sound and movement. Attending students were among others Don Alter, Tim LaFarge, Nicolas Cernovich, M.C. Richards and Mary Fiore. After leaving Black Mountain College Pete Jennerjahn first taught at Cooper Union and Hunter College and from 1954 until 1987 at Adelphi University in New York. He works primarily as a painter and lives in Arizona and New York. In the interview Pete talks about the Black Mountain College’s free atmosphere related to its isolated location, the involvement of the students in the self-sufficient community, his participation in performances with John Cage and Charles Olson and his experiments with project slides at Black Mountain College.

Sources: Harris, Mary Emma: The Arts at Black Mountain College, (Cambridge (Massachusetts); MIT Press, 1987); Harris, Mary Emma: Remembering Black Mountain College, Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, (Asheville (North Carolina); Black Mountain Press, 1996).


These videos by Sigrid Pawelke are part of a long-term research project on the early performances at Black Mountain College foreshadowing the first happening by John Cage in 1952. Sigrid Pawelke is Professor for performance and art history at the School of Visual Arts in Aix-en-Provence and the author of «Influences of the Bauhaus stage in the USA» (Roderer Verlag 2005). She interviewed 16 former BMC students including the choreographers Anna Halprin and Yvonne Rainer. The research and the videos lead eventually to reenactments and a better understanding of the links between the Bauhaus and the performative experiments at Black Mountain College.