Sunday, June 08, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright at 147: Still dead, still omnipresent

Evans House, Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect
Sunday is his birthday.  Still another year has passed, and Frank Lloyd Wright is still undiminished in fame, reputation, controversy and commercial viability.  Did you know . . .
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 - That it was just two years ago that we demolished the house on east Cedar where Wright lived after Taliesen had been burned down by an insane servant who axed to death Wright's mistress and five others?

 - That the mistress who lived with Wright on the house on Cedar would become his second wife, and would eventually cause Wright to be jailed in Minnesota on charges of infidelity?

 - That Wright, as a nipper of an architect in the employ of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, was said to have chosen the names of the composers on the panels on either side of the Auditorium Theater's proscenium?  (Which of these things don't belong with the hours? Hint: Alfred Hitchcock)

 - That Wright's collection of Japanese prints, in many of which you can seen some of the origins of his style, formed the foundation of the Art Institute's own holdings?

 - That Wright's first employee was the talented but largely forgotten Marion Mahony, who created the signature rendering style that would serve as a trademark and poster for Wright's work?
We've written a lot about Wright - it's the law - and we've republished the links below, but for now, here's a reminder that the Prairie Style wasn't Wright's exclusive personal possession, as evidenced in the above photograph of the 1915 Miller House in the South Shore community, the only surviving Chicago commission by the immensely talented architect, John van Bergen.

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“I.K”, [Frank Lloyd Wright] said with almost no prelude. “I.K, I have been conventional too long! I am a genius, I know no conventions, a genius knows no law. A genius must and will live his own life. From today I cast aside conventions; from today I live my own life!” That was the gist of a ten or fifteen minute prattle, in which the words 'genius', 'life', 'conventions' were flung about like confetti at a carnival. At first, I thought that as usual architecture was on his mind . . . but the next day the papers carried as an item of news that our genius had 'eloped with the wife of a client.'
- from The Autobiography of Irving K. Pond: The Sons of Mary and Elihu
It's been said that Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest creation may have been himself.  Through many rocky decades, he clung to his self-image of ‘world's greatest architect’, and by the time he died at 91 in 1959, he had convinced most of the rest of us, as well.  On this day, June 8th, that would have been Wright's 146th birthday, the old scoundrel's sorcery remains as potent and inspiring as ever, so what better time than provide this highly selective, impromptu portrait from our writings down through the years . . .
The Night Frank Lloyd Wright Spent in Hennepin County Jail was a direct consequence of Wright's willful liberation from his second wife.

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Japanese Print - The Art Institute had a great show last fall displaying many of the Japanese prints Wright had collected early on and sold to sustain himself during the lean times.  Among the prints were some of the original spectacular Japanese-influence renderings that had helped made his work world famous, many of which came not from Wright's hand, but from that of his employee, the richly talented Marion Mahony . . .

Frank Lloyd Wright's Right-Hand Woman

Also last year, the indispensable Tim Samuelson, who currently has another great show, Modernism's Messengers: The Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannelli, up at the Cultural Center, curated an overview of Frank Lloyd Wright's early work, centered on the time he spent as an employee of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sulivan.

Wright's Roots
Wrights Roots: Garrick Theater colors seen for first time in over a century
In May, a joint campaign was announced in which the Alphawood Foundation would contribute up to $10 million in matching funds towards the restoration of Wright's 1908 Unity Temple in Oak Park,, which, if successful, could also see ownership transferred from the Unitarian Universalist
congregation which originally commissioned the building to ownership by a new, endowed foundation.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple among National Trust's 11 Most Endangered 

See Frank Lloyd Wright's Boiler!

Back in 2006, actor Peter Weller brought his own stamp to Wright in his portrayal in Richard Nelson's play at the Goodman Theatre, an interesting effort to capture Wright at his point of exile, the long, lean years between his early triumphs as his re-emergence as an architectural powerhouse in the 1930's.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Pacific Overture
Robocop channels Frank Lloyd Wright

The play also featured Harris Yulin as an alcoholic and exhausted Louis Sullivan, but when, during the play's run, a major American magazine created a list of 100 Influential Americans, Sullivan had a bit of revenge, coming in at position 59 to Wright's 76.

Koolhaas, Wright, Sullivan score in Overnights

Wright continues to be influential, as can be seen in Hyde Park, where Wright's Robie House . . .
. . . is both subtly mirrored and re imagined in Rafael Viñoly's Graduate School of Business for the U of C.
Rafael Viñoly talks Wright, new hospital, at the Logan Center for the Arts

And for dessert, a small Wrightian miscellany . . .

Frank Lloyd Wright archives won't be bleeding Art Institute Red

Frank Lloyd Wright Hits the Wall

Wright's dog house
 Let's Get Small - Frank Lloyd Wright's American System-Built Homes in Beverly
Psssst, hey - buddy!  Wanna buy the Larkin Building?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Frank Lloyd Wright would have been
147 and he's still dead?!