Published: December 12, 2000
NEW YORK CITY – As a young architect Frank Lloyd Wright bemoaned the fact that he had to “cut holes” in his “beautiful buildings.” Yet very soon, American’s greatest architect – the future creator of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and other beloved icons of American architecture – had transformed that seemingly most prosaic of everyday forms, the window, making it a defining element in his protean architecture. In so doing, Wright transformed a centuries-old art from into his own likeness.
Wright’s exploration of light and color in patterned windows is newly considered and meticulously documented in the exhibition “Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright,” organized by Exhibitions International, which premieres at the American Craft Museum in New York from May 10 through September 2, 2001, prior to traveling to five other American cities over the course of more than two years. The six-city tour includes New York City, Grand Rapid, Allentown, Atlanta, Newport Beach, and Washington D.C.
“Light Screens” explores how Wright came to see the design of window spaces as a way to bring the outside in, and to visually unite landscape and interior. The exhibition also challenges conventional wisdom about Wright’s use of windows by revealing the extent to which Wright chose to emphasize, not abolish, the separation of inside and outside. In his own words, Frank Lloyd Wright sought to create “light screens” – that is, active areas of design engineered by Wright for the sculpting of dancing light.
Fifty windows are featured in the exhibition, many shown for the first time in public display and nearly half drawn from private collections throughout North America. Important windows have been lent by The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. Other loans were made possible by several current restoration projects at major Wright buildings that have required the temporary removal of delicate glass panes. The showing of these windows in “Light Screens” make the exhibition a once-in-a-lifetime presentation.
In the exhibition, Wright’s unique conception of the role of ornamental glass in architecture is considered. “Light Screens” finds the sources for Wright’s radical reinterpretation of the window in the Arts and Crafts movement in turn-of-the-century America and in the country’s growing internationalism, as well as in the emergence of new methods of glass production and building construction. The focus of the exhibition is the windows Frank Lloyd Wright created in the first decade of the Twentieth Century of his Prairie houses, a body of work that has achieved iconic status both in the arena of architectural criticism and in the popular imagination.
Following its showing at the American Craft Museum in New York City, “Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright” travels to the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, Mich. (October 12, 2001-Januarty 6, 2002); Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Penn. (February 21-April 28, 2002); High Museum of Art, Atlanta Ga. (June 8-September 1, 2002); Orange County Art Museum, Newport Beach, Calif. (October 5, 2002-January 5, 2003); Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (March 14-July 20, 2003).
The exhibition will be accompanied by two important books published by Rizzoli International: Light Screens: The Leaded Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright, a 160-page catalogue with 192 color illustrations, which examines Wright’s masterly manipulation of light, composition and color in his patterned windows; and Light Screens: The Complete Leaded Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright, a detailed documentation and appraisal of the more than 500 window designs that are major achievements within Wright’s oeuvre. The book includes a detailed technical history of Wright’s leaded glass production from the 1890s to the 1920s.
The American Craft Museum is located at 40 West 53rd Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm; Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm. Closed Monday (and major holidays). For more information, 212/956-3535.
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