June 10, 2017 - The Museum of Modern Art - Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive
e-flux Architecture
June 10, 2017
June 10, 2017

The Museum of Modern Art

Frank Lloyd Wright. Ennis House, Los Angeles. 1924–25. Perspective from the southwest. Pencil, colored pencil, and ink on tracing paper, 20 1/8 x 39 1/8 in. (51.1 x 99.4 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art / Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive

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With Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, on view from June 12 to October 1, 2017, The Museum of Modern Art presents a major exhibition that critically engages the multifaceted practice of Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867– 1959), one of the most prolific and renowned architects of the 20th century. A radical designer and intellectual, Wright embraced new technologies and materials, pioneered do-ityourself 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, The Museum of Modern Art.

In a career spanning seven decades, Wright designed more than 1,000 buildings and realized over 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 catalogued and opened to specialists by The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, 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. The questions posed illuminate the complex historical periods through which Wright lived, from the late 19th century, marked by optimism, through the Great Depression of the 1930s, to the decades following World War II, when the United States experienced great demographic and economic growth. Each scholarly inquiry offers insights at once historical and contemporary in resonance, touching on issues that include landscape and environmental concerns, the relationship of industry to daily life, questions of race, class, and social democracy, and the expanding power of mass media in forming reputations and opinions.

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). Unfolding from this orienting spine are 12 subsections, covering themes both familiar and little explored, that highlight for visitors the process of discovery undertaken by invited scholars, historians, architects, and art conservators.

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