The sultry heat of summer may be dragging us all down, but have no fear as cool new books continue to arrive in the library basement on a regular basis. On those rare occasions when your humble writer makes it up to the ground level and is allowed outside, he often spends his time visiting various exhibitions of art and architecture in the metropolitan area. Thus, I want to report on four new books on art and architecture topics that have caught my eye. Several of these books are commemorating significant anniversaries in the art world that are taking place this year.
Do yourself a favor and head into New York City to the Museum of Modern Art to view the special exhibition, Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. Its on view until October 1, so you have plenty of time, even though it seems like the Long Island Railroad may sometimes take until October to get you into Penn Station on an average day. The exhibition celebrates the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth. The complete archives of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Arizona were recently packed up and acquired by Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art and shipped to New York City. The Wright exhibition includes a small, but completely absorbing selection of the holdings and is divided into 12 sections, each investigating a particular structure or theme in Wright’s work. If you visit the museum, you’re in for a true multimedia feast, as the exhibit features photographs, sketches, drawings and plans, film, pieces of furniture and decorative art, 3D models and more to illustrate different aspects of Wright’s work. The models of Wright’s proposed St. Mark’s apartment tower in New York City and for the Guggenheim Museum are incredible. Our newly acquired book, Frank Lloyd Wright: Unpacking the Archive gives you a great overview of what you can see at the exhibition and some more details on Wright’s creative process.
In my opinion Frank Lloyd Wright probably was a genius, but he certainly had a big ego and was quite the showman. Late in life he spontaneously decided to call a news conference to propose an actual mile high skyscraper to be built in Chicago. Did anyone actually ask for such a building? Was there any way a building like that could have been built at the time? Did anyone have the money to pay for it? The answer to all these questions is no, but that didn’t stop Wright from showing off his vision of what he thought the world should need.
For the revitalization of downtown Pittsburgh he proposed a giant, spiral, ziggurat-like structure that would have included a football stadium, a basketball arena, an opera house and theater among other wonders. To access these attractions you would have driven up a giant spiral ramp on the outside of the ziggurat that would have totaled over 4.5 miles in length. If you got tired of driving you could stop at any one of a number of shops, restaurants, and even a hotel on the way to the top. Incredible!
You can see drawings and plans for both projects at the exhibit. As great as the current exhibition is, I hope that some day they build a museum in New York City just to show off more of Frank Lloyd Wright’s archive. It’s really an amazing glimpse into one of the most fascinating figures in American architectural history.
Here’s a few pictures I took at the exhibition…
100 Years, 100 Buildings is architecture critic John Hill’s choice of the most significant and consequential architectural work for each year from 1916 to 2015. One building is chosen per year. There has been a lot of good modern architecture built over the last century and there are many fascinating examples in this book. You will see many world-famous structures, as well as many lesser known works. Some are quite beautiful, others perhaps not, but that is probably a matter of individual taste. Take a look at some of the entries and judge for yourself. A timeline in the back of the book lists Hill’s other nominees for “building of the year.” Each entry includes at least one color photo and a full page description of the building.
You can see three of the profiled buildings right here in New York, including the Seagram Building (1958), the Guggenheim Museum (1959), and the Ford Foundation headquarters (1968). I have personally been able to see 15 of the author’s choices for myself. I hope to make it 16 , by taking a trip to see the 1938 choice, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, sometime later in the fall.
The Asia Society on Park Avenue in Manhattan is an educational institution dedicated to promoting partnerships and understanding between the United States and the people of Asia. The society includes a museum and exhibition space, but it is certainly not large enough to show off their vast collection of treasures from every corner of Asia. That’s why the book, Treasures of Asian Art: the Asia Society Museum Collection is so valuable. You can see images of priceless objects – sculpture, painting, pottery and porcelain – that are rarely on view at the museum. 2017 is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Asia Society. I always find it interesting to look at Asian art of all types. Many of the objects are of course beautiful in their own right, but I also find that I can often look at them with a more neutral and less judgmental eye than when I look at pieces of European and American art. This is because I just know so much less about Asian culture, history, and religion than I do about its western counterpart and I just come at the works with less prejudice. The Asia Society has great exhibitions, but also visit the Rubin Museum and the Metropolitan for other nice collections of Asian works.
Now I’ll admit that we usually don’t get many hippies visiting us in the basement of the library, but if they did show up they would probably get misty-eyed when looking at the new book, Summer of Love: Art, Fashion and Rock and Roll. This book is definitely full of memories for all the great times they must have had back then. That’s if they can remember them. The hippies can look at fashion objects, psychedelic posters, album cover art and more from their heyday fifty years ago during the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Do take a look at the book as it is indeed “far out” and a great trip. But, even if you’re not a hippie yourself, you can still capture some of the spirit of the Age of Aquarius by coming down to the main library and taking a look at our very own Summer of Love mural on the back wall facing the Terry Street parking lot. Don’t delay though, because it will only be here until September. Our understanding is that the mural has become quite the local tourist attraction. If you were an actual hippie you would definitely be tripping over to the library ASAP. Peace man!