Brady Roberts, Milwaukee Art Museum's chief curator, greets me at the entrance to "Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century," which opens Feb. 12 and runs through May 15 in the Baker/Rowland Galleries of the Santiago Calatrava-designed MAM expansion.
"Let's start at this photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen," says Roberts, "(his) home and studio in Spring Green. He's at the draughting table, drawings in front of him, model behind him. This is sort of a synopsis of our exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Taliesen with drawings and models, photographs, video installations."
Sure, the exhibition honors a century of Taliesen, but it's also no coincidence that a landmark architecture show kicks off the year in which Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates the 10th birthday of Calatrava's distinctive addition to the city's landscape.
Both architects, of course, also draw heavily on organic forms in their work and feel linked in more than just their Wisconsin connection.
"The focus of our show," explains Roberts, "in addition to being a survey, we're looking at Wright's organic architecture through the lens of the 21st century. Thinking about what's still valuable about Wright's principles and designs today. There's actually a lot of interest."
As energy efficiency and constrained resources -- both natural and financial -- continue to push architects toward creating smaller spaces that don't feel constrained and dark and limiting, Wright's work -- especially when you think of his ground-breaking work in the area of pre-fabs -- feels as relevant as ever.
The fact that he seemed decades and decades ahead of his time and his peers doesn't hurt, either. Looking at what Wright was doing in the 1930s (and sometimes even earlier) in this show, we realize that we're finally catching up with him.
"What he said was organic architecture is appropriate to time, people and place," says Roberts. "And what he meant by time was technology. He actually loved what the rapid march of technology allowed him to do as an architect, to push the language of architecture.
"He was frequently borrowing new technologies to push his designs. And (his work was on a) very human scale. He always takes his cues from the local environment, he's always connecting with the local environment."
The exhibition is a treat for the eyes, with projected film footage showing Fallingwater in all seasons, there are great and expansive models and a really fascinating exploded view model on loan from the Guggenheim in New York.
There are many, many original drawings -- including a number of especially interesting ones of Milwaukee's Bogk House -- photographs and more. Among the loveliest is a tempera painting by a Wright assistant of an unbuilt factory building in California (see image above).
One of the real gems of the show is a loop of home movies -- from Milwaukee Art Museum's own collection -- edited from about an hour's worth of footage of Wright at Taliesen in the 1930s and perhaps into the '40s.
"This is the first time this has been exhibited," says Roberts.
"It shows Frank Lloyd Wright and his colleagues and friends and apprentices basically hanging out at Taliesen in the landscape. They're farming, they're swimming, they're picknicking, they're going to the horse races with watermelons. It's a slice of life at Taliesen."
The exhibit kicks off Friday night with the "MAM After Dark: Mr. Wright" event from 5 p.m. until midnight. Get a gallery walk-through with Roberts, check out the LEGO pit, hear crooner Ed Franks, say cheese in the photo booth and more. Free for MAM members, $12 at the door, $6 in advance at mam.org/afterdark.
The exhibit officially opens on Saturday.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published June 17, 2013
After years of seeing the historic Iron Block building on Water and Wisconsin clothed in stark white paint - and most recently - hidden behind scaffolding - it's nice to see a subtler tone and a copper brown on the storefront and mezzanine levels.
Published June 14, 2013
At the Haggerty Museum of Art on the Marquette University campus, which runs a number of shows concurrently, the exhibitions are digestible and varied. You can get your arms around them and really focus and imbibe. At the moment, there are four shows on view, three of which opened together last week and all of which close on July 28.
Published June 13, 2013
When Colyn Cameron and his band Wake Owl made their Milwaukee debut at the Cactus Club back in February, the debut EP, "Wild Country," had just been released. Now, the band is back for a $10 show in The Pabst Pub and we caught up with Cameron to see how things have changed for the band.
Published June 12, 2013
If you only visit Turner Hall, 1034 N. 4th St., for concerts, it's easy in the dark of night and the dimly lit concert experience to miss the beauty of the building itself. Built in 1882 and opened in 1883, the gorgeous romanesque revival Cream City brick clubhouse was designed by Henry C. Koch - who designed Milwaukee's City Hall - for the Milwaukee Turners.
Published June 11, 2013
As it nears its 130th birthday, Eighth Street School on the corner of 8th and Michigan in Downtown Milwaukee, is getting a makeover.
Published June 10, 2013
Milwaukee's iconic Iron Block Building, on the corner of Water and Wisconsin, will be re-christened on Monday, June 17.
Published June 9, 2013
One could expend a lot of verbiage on Gothic churches here, so to make sure this list of 10 great Gothic buildings in Milwaukee doesn't become a list of 10 Gothic churches in Milwaukee, I've limited myself to one house of worship. You may or may not agree about these buildings being the best examples of Gothic architecture in Milwaukee but you can't deny they are all landmarks and lovely ones at that.
Published June 6, 2013
Call it the worst-kept secret or the best-kept secret - depending on your point of view - but the American Geographical Society Library at UW-Milwaukee's Golda Meir Library is one of the best geography resources in the country. The collection holds more than a million items, ranging from maps and atlases to pamphlets and journals, globes and photographs of all kinds. Though it is housed in Milwaukee, the AGS collection has roots in New York and covers the entire planet.
Published June 5, 2013
The Miller Caves, which are a featured part of the Miller Brewery tours, were excavated in 1850, making them nearly as old as the city itself. This cool, historic subterranean space is alive again with beer dinners and, now, as a concert venue.
Published June 4, 2013
Many older Brew City neighborhoods - Walker's Point, Bay View, the East Side - have traces of the kind of row house culture that defines many East Coast cities. But row upon row of townhouses never really seemed to catch on here. Still, you can see hints of the row house trying to sprout up in Milwaukee.