Things that Never Were and Are No More

frank-lloyd-wrightFrank Lloyd Wright
From Within Outward
Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim has chosen to celebrate its golden anniversary by paying an appropriate homage to its legendary architect. For the devoted Wright aficionado this current exhibit, Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward, constitutes the chance of a lifetime to see the original blueprints for projects left unbuilt and photos of those long since demolished. For those less familiar with Wright’s work, it will prove an intimidating crash course on one of the art form’s finest masters and can only whet the appetite for more.

There is no pretension in this journey through the mind of Frank Lloyd Wright. Blueprints are respectfully displayed in glass cases, allowing viewers to search closely at detail, accompanied by slideshows of demolished buildings and a generous number of scale models. This leaves the work to simply speak for itself and sparks the mind of the viewer to imagine works they would be unable to see in any other manner. In this regard, the curators of the exhibit, Thomas Krens and David van der Leer (along with other collaborators), made a wise choice in focusing largely on projects that would otherwise be all but inaccessible to the general public.

The show begins at the base of the Guggenheim, aptly opening with a curtain designed by Wright for the Hillside Theater in Green Spring, Wisconsin. Narrated by a free audio tour, the exhibit then wanders in an upward exploration along Wright’s spiraling interior design for the museum, culminating with a model of the Guggenheim itself. After searching for Wright’s vision, the viewer is reminded that they are standing in one of the architect’s last great works and encouraged to appreciate both its beauty and the fact that after its completion fifty years ago it remains standing and fully renovated.

Wright clearly had dreams of a new world, not set on some alien soil, but rather to be created by working with the planet we already inhabit. Many of his later projects, most of which remain unrealized, take on a futuristic, almost space-like quality, revealing the limitless expansion of the master’s scope. Being a designer of more than just buildings, Wright set his sights on engineering entire cities with the aim of bringing mass urbanization into harmony with the nature of their indigenous landscapes, a quality much lacking in most current big cities and one of Wright’s prime distastes for concentrated communities. The present movement to go green shows that Wright was once again esthetically ahead of his time, a point that is amusingly contradicted by his love for automobiles (which are given great consideration in most of his works).

Though budgetary limits explain why many of Wright’s works have gone uncompleted, it is mind-boggling to see how many of his masterpieces have been torn down. This show stands as a tribute to both. It avoids patronizing its audience and clearly assumes that anyone coming to see this exhibit is there to gain a deep and fuller comprehension of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Anyone who visits with that intention should leave fully satisfied. - C. Jefferson Thom

Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward is showing through August 23:
Sunday–Wednesday 10 a.m.–5:45 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m.–5:45 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.–7:45 p.m.
Pay What You Wish: Saturdays from 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

cj_thom

Mr. Thom lives in New York City and walks dogs, writes plays, and loves dissecting pop culture.

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