Frank Lloyd Wright At The MoMa

From June 12 through October 1, MoMA will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of a transformational American architect – Frank Lloyd Wright. The exhibition titled, Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, is not as much a retrospective of Wright’s seminal works and practice, according to Dr. Barry Bergdoll, Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. It’s more of a critical dialogue that examines the practice of one of the 20th century’s most prolific and celebrated architects through an engagement with 450 pieces from his complete archives jointly acquired by Columbia University and MoMA in 2012. The complete archive contains 600 manuscripts, 44,000 photographs, 23,000 architectural drawings and more than 300,000 documents of professional and personal correspondence.

To much of the general public, Wright is principally known for his extravagant, later works, such as Falling Water, a home cantilevered above a stream in Mills Run, Pennsylvania. Wright was the avant-garde designer of his day; he worked with new materials, new technologies, and raised theories about nature, social politics and urban planning in relation to commercial and residential design. The exhibition digs deeper, sifting through archives from the 1890s through the 1950s, to interpret and provide context to Wright’s work, and compare certain pieces with others. According to MoMA curators, the exhibition will include architectural drawings, models, building fragments, films, television broadcasts, print media, furniture, tableware, textiles, paintings, photographs, and scrapbooks. Several of these works have never been publicly exhibited, and remain obscure to Wright aficionados and scholars.

The exhibition will be divided into twelve sections that investigate objects by themselves or in clusters. Sections will be presented as a sort of interpretative anthology rather than a comprehensive snapshot of Wright’s work. They will provide new perspectives on the life and work of the architect whose interests ranged from rug pattern and furniture design to landscape architecture and city planning (Buffalo, NY’s Martin House Complex is possibly one of Wrights greatest expressions of all the aforementioned). He designed homes, museums, skyscrapers, and introduced new styles that would change the way people experienced residential and community spaces. Wright designed over 1,000 projects in the United States and throughout the world. Unpacking the Archive is an opportunity for visitors to look beyond the built environment that Wright created and perhaps initiate a dialogue about his obsessions with particular forms and ornamentation; his celebrity status, and his understanding of relationships between different disciplines or subjects; nature, landscapes, and architecture, among other considerations.

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Words by Rocky Casale