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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

MAM Celebrates 150 Years of Frank Lloyd Wright–Part Two: The Potential of Plywood

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959), Usonian Exhibition Dining Chair, 1953. Oak and plywood. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, in memory of Evelyn Brindis Demmer with funds from the the Demmer Charitable Trust, Jody Brindis Goisman & Dick Goisman, Dr. Charles Brindis & Debra L. Brindis, and Wayne & Kristine Lueders.
Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959), Usonian Exhibition Dining Chair, 1953. Oak and plywood. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, in memory of Evelyn Brindis Demmer with funds from the the Demmer Charitable Trust, Jody Brindis Goisman & Dick Goisman, Dr. Charles Brindis & Debra L. Brindis, and Wayne & Kristine Lueders.

Though world-renowned (and Wisconsin-born) architect Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps best remembered for his work in the Prairie Style, this portion of his career was only the first chapter of a much longer story. And so, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Wright’s birth, the Milwaukee Art Museum is pleased to commemorate multiple aspects of his career—both early and late.

The exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: Buildings for the Prairie, on-view in the Bradley Family Galleries through October 15, 2017, explores work from the first part of his career, while his later achievements are represented by the acquisition of a Usonian Exhibition House Dining Chair—one of only two such objects that are still extant. The Milwaukee Art Museum is fortunate to have added this rare object to our permanent collection through the support of the Demmer Charitable Trust, Jody Brindis Goisman & Dick Goisman, Dr. Charles Brindis & Debra L. Brindis, and Wayne & Kristine Lueders, who have supported this acquisition in memory of Evelyn Brindis Demmer.

This simple plywood chair was produced for an exhibition held at the Guggenheim museum in New York in 1953, when Wright was 84 years old. Titled The Usonian House: Sixty Years of Living Architecture, the exhibition explored the architect’s efforts in the latter part of his life to produce housing that was affordable, yet still adhered to the high standards of beauty dictated by his philosophy of organic architecture. In fact, the catalog that accompanied the Guggenheim exhibition opened with a forceful statement written by Wright: “I believe a house is more a home by being a work of Art.” In this same publication, Wright even asserted that his approach to architecture aligned, fundamentally, with the principles of American democracy.

Categories
Art Curatorial Exhibitions

MAM Celebrates 150 Years of Frank Lloyd Wright–Part One: Presenting Prairie Style

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). "Tree of Life" Window from the Darwin D. Martin House (Buffalo, New York), 1904. Glass with zinc cames. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Frederick Layton Art League in memory of Miss Charlotte Partridge and Miss Miriam Frink M1978.262. Photo credit: Richard Beauchamp. © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). “Tree of Life” Window from the Darwin D. Martin House (Buffalo, New York), 1904. Glass with zinc cames. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Frederick Layton Art League in memory of Miss Charlotte Partridge and Miss Miriam Frink M1978.262. Photo credit: Richard Beauchamp. © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

This year marks a whopping 150 years since the birth of world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

As institutions across the United States host specials exhibitions and events to mark the occasion, the Milwaukee Art Museum has particular reason to celebrate: although Wright has come to represent Midwestern and American architecture at large, he was born and spent much of his life in our own beloved state of Wisconsin.

Wright’s first home was the small farming community of Richland Center, Wisconsin, where he was born in 1867. Wright also spent most of his childhood in Wisconsin (his family relocated briefly to Massachusetts when he was nine), and he attended both high school and college in Madison.

Categories
Art Curatorial

A bit of Milwaukee in the Saarinen Archives at Yale

Milwaukee Art Center, Saarinen building, 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Milwaukee County War Memorial Building, Eero Saarinen, 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

If you’ve visited the Museum recently, you know that we take our 125th anniversary seriously. There was cake for “Barbara Brown Lee Day” on May 2, there are three celebratory exhibitions, including a glamorous salon-style rehang of Gallery 10, and an upcoming publication about the roots of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Layton’s Legacy: An Historic American Art Collection.

An anniversary is an excuse to celebrate and an opportunity to engage the community. It is also a chance for us to dig into our history and learn more about our past.

Research is never done!

For my part, when I was in New England this winter, I made a research diversion to Yale University to delve into their Eero Saarinen Archives to find information we could use about the design, inspiration, and creation of the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.

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Art Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

Frank Lloyd Wright in Color

Film still: Constructing the dormitory at Taliesin, early 1930s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Film still: Constructing the dormitory at Taliesin, early 1930s. Milwaukee Art Museum,
Institutional Archives.
The museum’s archives contain a small but delightful collection of film and videotapes, detailing all sorts of subjects–from small films produced by the museum for various projects and exhibitions over the course of its history, to an odd yet enchanting assortment of documentary and artist-related footage.

But of all the film gems in the archive, my top favorites are two films of very rare footage of the internationally celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright which spans the 1930s into the early 1940s.  Both films were donated to the museum from the personal collection of Joan Salzstein.  She was the granddaughter of Dankmar Adler, one of the renowned architectural duo Adler & Sullivan, who changed Chicago’s skyline at the turn of the 20th century.  Wright worked for and studied under Adler, and his granddaughter Joan became a regular visitor to Wright’s home and farm at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, for many years.

Categories
Art Curatorial

Lewandowski’s Mosaic Mural at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center

Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. Image courtesy www.warmemorialcenter.org.
Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. Image courtesy http://www.warmemorialcenter.org.

Though the soaring wings of the dramatic Santiago Calatrava building sometimes steal the show, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion is just one of two internationally significant architectural gems here on the Museum campus.

The other is the bold Saarinen masterpiece 1957 Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.

Modernist architect Eero Saarinen (American, b. Finland 1910–1961) is known for dramatic design accomplishments like the St. Louis Gateway Arch (1965), JFK Airport’s TWA Flight Center terminal (1962), and the iconic “Tulip chair” (1955). He took over the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center commission at the death of his father, Eliel Saarinen (Finnish, 1873–1950). The designs called for an arts complex that would “Honor the Dead by Serving the Living,” including a museum, performing arts center, and veterans’ memorial.

On the western facade of Saarinen’s Modernist concrete, steel, and glass floating cruciform is a purple and blue tile mosaic. You probably see this mural best when driving toward the building on Mason Street.

I had been working in this stunning building for several years before I finally paused to ask: What is that mosaic? What do the letters mean? Who is the artist?