Published: August 1, 2017
NEW YORK CITY – “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive,” on view through October 1 at the Museum of Modern Art, presents a major exhibition that critically engages the multifaceted practice of Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959), the prolific and renowned architect.
A radical designer and intellectual, Wright embraced new technologies and materials, pioneered do-it-yourself construction systems and avant-garde experimentation, and advanced original theories with regards to nature, urban planning and social politics. Marking the 150th anniversary of the American architect’s birth on June 8, 1867, the exhibition comprises nearly 400 works made from the 1890s through the 1950s, including architectural drawings, models, building fragments, films, television broadcasts, print media, furniture, tableware, textiles, paintings, photographs and scrapbooks, along with a number of works that have rarely or never been publicly exhibited.
“Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” is presented by MoMA in collaboration with the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York, and organized by Barry Bergdoll, curator, department of architecture and design, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Meyer Schapiro professor of art history and archaeology, Columbia University; with Jennifer Gray, project research assistant, department of architecture and design, MoMA.
In a career spanning seven decades, Wright designed more than 1,000 buildings and realized more than 500. Ever concerned with posterity, Wright preserved most of his drawings – despite some tragic losses to fires – to form an archive that he hoped would perpetuate his architectural philosophy, first as a tool in the production of architecture in the Taliesin Fellowship, an apprenticeship program he founded in the 1930s at his studio-residences in Wisconsin and Arizona, and subsequently as an academic resource for outside researchers.
Progressively cataloged and opened to specialists by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, the archive was jointly acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University in 2012. This exhibition celebrates this pioneering collaboration and the new accessibility of the collection to both scholars and the public.
“Unpacking the Archive” refers to the monumental task of moving 55,000 drawings, 300,000 sheets of correspondence, 125,000 photographs and 2,700 manuscripts, as well as models, films, building fragments and other materials. It also refers to the work of interpretation and the close examination of projects that in some cases have received little attention. For this exhibition, a group of scholars and a museum conservator were invited to “unpack” – contextualize, ask questions about, and otherwise explore – an object or cluster of objects of their choosing. Their processes of discovery are recorded in a series of short films that introduce the thematic sections of the exhibition.
“Frank Lloyd Wright at 150” is organized around a central chronological spine highlighting many of Wright’s major projects, which will be illustrated with some of his finest drawings and include key works such as Unity Temple (1905-08), Fallingwater (1934-37), the Johnson Wax Administration Building (1936-39), and the Marin County Civic Center (1957-70).
The museum is at 11 West 53rd Street. For more information, www.moma.org or 212-708-9400.
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