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 Jan. 24, 2015
When Milwaukee's Italian community read the news that a group of Americans - including many prominent city residents - would protest Italian intervention in Spain outside the Italian Consulate in June 1937, it must have awaited the event with at least some trepidation. When the protests took place, everyone - including the picketers themselves - were surprised by what occurred and by the reaction of Milwaukeeans.
Published Jan. 22, 2015
By the 1970s, an ugly addition and the gutting of the deco charm inside left The Edgewater a mere shadow of its original glory on the shores of Lake Mendota. But now, with a new owner, a completely new renovation and a brand new sister building across an inviting plaza, The Edgewater is clearly atop the world of Madison hotels once again.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
If you want to hear more about Dermond Property Investments LLC's plan to develop the site long occupied by Faust Drum Center, 2204 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and weigh in on it, Ald. Tony Zielinski hosts a town hall meeting on the proposed development on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Bay View Post 180, 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
The Williams House, 606 E. Homer St., holds special significance - both tragic and joyful - for Beau Walter's pioneering Bay View family.
Published Jan. 19, 2015
Much like a traveling tent show, the Wisconsin Historical Society is moving its new exhibition around the state and this month it's in Milwaukee. "The Wisconsin History Tour: Sharing Wisconsin's Stories One Community at a Time" is on view on the first floor of the Central Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., through Jan. 29.
Published Jan. 19, 2015
Driving down Greenfield Avenue last week I spied the sign outside Paulie's Pub and Eatery, 8031 W. Greenfield Ave., in West Allis, and was reminded that trying the wings there was on my Milwaukee to-do list. Despite that salad in the fridge back at the office, I called an audible and pulled into the parking lot. Only when I sat down did I realize that it was Friday, which, of course, means fish fry. What to do? Well, improvise!
Published Jan. 16, 2015
When I lived in Bay View for about seven years in the 1990s and early 2000s, I spent a lot of time walking. So, as you might expect, I have way more than seven, but here is one for each year I loved in the Oh-Seven.
Published Jan. 15, 2015
When the Milwaukee Art Museum reopens its reinstalled collection in revamped galleries something will be missing, but many won't likely even notice. What have been called the "Bradley Rooms" or the "Bradley Apartment" will have vanished.
Published Jan. 15, 2015
Like baking or winemaking, roasting coffee is both science and art. A ham-fisted roaster can easily mess up the science and destroy the coffee. But learning how to not ruin good beans is not enough to create amazing coffee. The art dances around the edges; that is where a real artist - using time and heat and other factors - can create sublime roasts that result in a stellar cup of java. This I learned when I recently spent a day with the good folks at Valentine Coffee Roasters, 5918 W. Vliet St.
Published Jan. 14, 2015
For the third straight year, Milwaukee Public Schools' Montessori community has organized a free event for parents, students, teachers and supporters of public Montessori programs. The summit, which takes place Saturday, Jan. 24 from noon until 4:30 p.m. at MacDowell Montessori, 6415 W. Mount Vernon Ave.