June 5, 2009

Growing up Wright

For the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail, my review of the Frank Lloyd Wright show at the Guggenheim veers into a personal essay about how individuals (specifically me) have been affected by Wright's groundbreaking notions about design and space. Here's an excerpt.

"...Wright is justifiably considered a visionary. Yet in a post-modern retrospective moment, for people like me who grew up in Wright-inspired modern houses, his imagined future looks paradoxically nostalgic. In the ’60s, my parents were among the converted. It’s unclear whether their Wright-ness was an informed decision or not, but they wholeheartedly adopted the same dream that drove him. They engaged an architect to design their home, which embodied a decisive break with the props of their traditional New England childhoods. The house was the envy of my school friends. Most of them had drafty old houses built in the 1800s or raised ranches in crowded neighborhoods.

"Our snazzy, custom-designed split-level house was set at the end of a winding dirt road, nestled into the hillside, and surrounded by woods, with a beautiful view looking out over the reservoir. The open floor plan, built around a central fireplace, featured floor-to-ceiling windows on all the exterior walls. They appointed it with brand-new, neutrally-colored, angular furniture, and my father copied the works of the painters he most admired—Klee, Mondrian, and Picasso—to hang on the pristine white walls. His favorite artist was Alexander Calder, which eventually moved him to make a collection of riveted aluminum sculptures that he installed, shiny and unpainted, throughout our property. In the winter, when the trees were bare, you could see them glinting in the sun through the woods.
My parents, hermetic and reticent by nature, loved that house, and lived there for over forty years. For me, though, it was like living on an island, or, less generously, in a jail..." Read more.

"Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward,"
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. Through August 23.

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