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Untitled

Oil on canvas
46 x 36 1/4 inches
1949
Now on view: One Morgan Square, Spartanburg, South Carolina

As exhibited in:
Black Mountain College and Mexico, 2023, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Asheville, North Carolina

While en route from Chicago to Central America in 1949, Emerson Woelffer and his wife, Dina, made a detour to North Carolina. After arriving in the picturesque Blue Ridge, the couple—at the request of Buckminster Fuller—taught a two-month summer course at Black Mountain College. A self-described “abstract Surrealist,” Woelffer’s painting style was intuitive and improvisational, a method he likened to jazz. This “paint first and think afterwards” approach is apparent in Untitled, where totemic symbols and pictographs emerge from a series of undulating lines and oblong shapes. The muted palette exudes an enigmatic, slightly ominous ambiance, underscoring the interplay between color, line, and shape. Woelffer later rose to prominence as a pioneer of California modernism.