Thursday, December 20, 2012

Artist Rediscovered: Alfonso Iannelli: Modern by Design

click images for larger view
Sculptor and designer Alfonso Iannelli is "known" without being "well known", but that's all about to change.

Born in Italy in 1888, Iannelli's came to Chicago in 1914 to work with Frank Lloyd Wright on Midway Gardens, and he continued to be a major presence in the city for half a century, right through one of his final, and most seen, commissions - the relief of the Rock of Gibraltar on the side of the Prudential Building, completed in 1955.
Iannelli kept trying to make the relief stand out from the building, and in one of his drawings, surrounded The Rock with blue sky.
 That drawing is part of a fascinating small exhibition, Alfonso Iannelli: Modern by Design, which you can see at the Architech Gallery only through December 22nd.  (730 North Franklin, Suite 200 - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, noon to 5:00 p.m.)

Next year, Iannelli may finally be getting his time in the spotlight.  Sometime in the spring of 2013, gallery owner and Iannelli scholar David Jameson, who acquired most of Iannelli's archive a few years back, is scheduled to publish a new book, also called Alfonso Iannelli: Modern by Design, an exhaustive, lavishly illustrated account of Iannelli's life and work.

Sitting across a desk and looking at a computer screen, I got a preview of the book, and its a stunner.  We've already written about the striking, abstracted posters Iannelli and his wife Margaret created for the vaudeville acts at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.
Jameson has images of nearly all of them, and many more will make their way into the book.  Margaret Iannelli was a talented artist in her own right, and a major collaborator with his husband to the point where its sometimes unclear where one hand left off and the other began.  Committed to a sanatorium after a mental breakdown, she continued to create illustrations and art for her husband's clients.  That story will also be covered in Jameson's book, as will Iannelli's troubled relationship with Wright, which soured after  FLW claimed all the credit for Iannelli's Midway Garden sprites.
There's also a section on the spectacular sculptures Iannelli created for Purcell and Elmslie's Woodbury County Courthouse in Sioux City, Iowa.  There's the Pickwick in Park Ridge, and his work with Barry Byrne, including the Kenna Apartments in South Shore.
I think you get the picture.  Alfonso Iannelli: Modern by Design looks to be one of the must-have books of 2013.  When he hear of an official release date, we'll be sure to let you.  For now, check out the show at Architech, only through this weekend, closing December 22nd.


BW said...

Actually it's closing earlier, on Saturday the 22nd, per an email blast.

Lynn Becker said...

BW: corrected. thanks!