Categories
Art Collecting

Frank Lloyd Wright is best known for his architecture, but a new exhibition highlights his relationship with the decorative arts | Pro Club Bd

There is plenty of inspiration at the Kirkland Museum in Denver: paintings, sculptures and many other items to be sure. But the gift of a lamp has inspired a new exhibition with a familiar name.

Frank Lloyd Wright Inside the Walls explores the relationship between Wright’s architecture – for which he is best known – and his decorative arts, including this lamp.

About a dozen of Wright’s building projects, including the Imperial Hotel (Tokyo), the Price Tower (Oklahoma), and the Austin House (South Carolina), are represented in the Kirkland Museum’s permanent collection of decorative art objects. But it was the story of the lamp that sparked the idea for this unique exhibit.

However, the lamp did not start out as a lamp, but as two separate pieces of glass art. Frank Lloyd Wright’s glass expert Julie Sloan recognized the art glass pieces as his designs. She learned that Wright had exhibited them as part of his 1907 show at the Art Institute of Chicago. Years later, they disappeared from the art world’s radar.

Then, in 1964, art collector Lewis Newman’s mother, Bertie Slutzky, found the pieces in a Chicago antique store.

“She realized it was Wright. She was a fan of his — a Wright enthusiast, I think,” said exhibition co-curator Christopher Herron. “And she took the pieces to a local blacksmith and had them made into a lamp.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Kirkland Museum Assistant Curator Christopher Herron directed the installation “Frank Lloyd Wright Inside the Walls,” which sheds light on a perhaps lesser-known side of the famous architect and features Wright-designed decorative art objects from the museum’s permanent collection that formed part of it his various architectural projects.
220616 KIRKLAND FRANK LLOYD WRIGHTHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Formal tableware designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, part of Inside the Walls at the Kirkland Museum in Denver. The exhibition sheds light on a lesser-known side of the famous architect, featuring decorative art objects designed by Wright from the museum’s permanent collection that formed part of his various architectural projects.

The lamp eventually ended up with Newman, who displayed the lamp in his own shop window for years after receiving it from his mother as a graduation gift.

“He tells this story of how he lived in a New York apartment and he had this lamp in the window and it kind of just lit up and people could see it from the street,” said Becca Goodrum, co-curator of the exhibition. “So it was sort of on public view, but not really, but you could see it in her window, which I think is a really cute story.”

In 2018, Newman and his husband presented it to the founding director of the Kirkland Museum, Hugh Grant, for his collection.

Another highlight of the exhibit is an office chair that Wright designed for the family-owned SC Johnson headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, a building he also designed. The exhibition shows not only Wright’s “Gesamtkunstwerk” or Gesamtkunstwerk approach, but also how even he was able to revise his pieces in the face of practical concerns.

“The curator we spoke to at SC Johnson called it a problematic piece of furniture because it had three legs,” Goodrum said. “He wanted this chair to force you into good posture. And you had to sit perfectly and really not move a muscle to keep from tipping over. He received many complaints, but he was reluctant to change the design…until one day he fell off a chair. And he finally said, ‘Oh, alright, guys, I think you’re right. I will redesign the chair to give it four legs, like our example at the Kirkland Museum.”

The type of branding that is common today for ‘lifestyle’ brands and designers also has a consistent lineage with Frank Llloyd Wright’s work. Color was such an integral part of his work that in 1955 Wright merged with Martin Senour Paints. And that’s not all.

220616 KIRKLAND FRANK LLOYD WRIGHTHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Frank Lloyd Wright Inside the Walls at the Kirkland Museum in Denver sheds light on a lesser-known side of the famous architect, with decorative art objects designed by Wright from the museum’s permanent collection that were part of his various architectural projects.
220616 KIRKLAND FRANK LLOYD WRIGHTHart Van Denburg/CPR News
An office chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the SC Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin in 1937. It is part of “Frank Lloyd Wright Inside the Walls” at the Kirkland Museum in Denver, which sheds light on a perhaps lesser-known side of the famous architect, with decorative art objects designed by Wright from the museum’s permanent collection that were part of his various architectural projects.

“At the same time, he was working with long-established furniture company Hendon and mass-producing a line of his own furniture,” Herron said. “So the idea was that you could create your own Wright environment or a Wright-inspired environment in your home. And the colors we used came from some of his original Martin Senour Paint palettes that we could track down. So the greens and golds of the early craftsmanship … give way to what he called Cherokee red floors of the later work.”

The most prominent American architect of our time, Frank Lloyd Wright, built interiors and accessories alongside the iconic buildings for which he is best known as part of his concept of a total work of art. And in the exhibition at the Kirkland Museum, Wright’s furniture, tableware and art glass are displayed in their original settings, providing a glimpse of Wright’s unified vision of a total work of art.

Frank Lloyd Wright Inside The Walls runs through January 8, 2023 at the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art in Denver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.