reviewed by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 11/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright
by Julie L. Sloan, with an introduction by David G. De Long
New York: Rizzoli
160 pages, 180 illustrations, many in color, $39.95.
Light Screens: The Complete Leaded-Glass Windows of Frank Lloyd Wright
by Julie L. Sloan
New York: Rizzoli
400 pages, 450 illustrations, many in color, $175 slipcased.
One of the most spectacular exhibitions of recent years, in both content and display technique, was one recently seen at New York's American Craft Museum and now on a nationwide tour. Sponsored by Steelcase, it is titled Light Screens: The Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright and shows dozens of Wright's windows designed between 1885 and 1923. They are installed in appropriate frames and sympathetic surrounds and subtly lighted from behind. Unusually informative labels, floor plans, and photographs of the original interiors are additional assets.
The exhibition has spawned two handsome books, both by the exhibition's curator, Julie L. Sloan. Naturally, there is considerable overlapping of both illustrations and information. The smaller book, a very handsome production, is the catalogue of the exhibition and is graced with a felicitous essay by architectural historian David G. De Long, putting the windows and their patterns into the context of Wright's philosophy and work. The larger book, even more handsome, moves beyond the exhibition and presents the whole body of Wright's production of decorative windows and window designs; appendices investigate Wright's dealings with—and designs for—the American Luxfer Prism Company and offer a 300-item checklist of all Wright's projects before 1924 with notes about their window types and the windows' current status, from "in situ" to "extant" to "destroyed." The exhibition and both books are valuable contributions to our knowledge of Wright's genius.
Weekend Utopia: Modern Living in the Hamptons
by Alastair Gordon
New York: Princeton Architectural Press
182 pages, 175 illustrations, 75 in color, $45.
The eastern end of Long Island, popularly known as the Hamptons, first became a popular and chic summer getaway in the years just after World War II. Earlier estates of the super-wealthy were joined then by humbler houses for a group of artists including Pollock, Kline, de Kooning, Motherwell, Stamos, Lipchitz, and Frankenthaler. Writers such as Capote, Steinbeck, and Albee soon followed, as did architects, some as residents, some as designers, some as both. The area was considerably less crowded then than it is now, the fashions simpler, and it was, then as now, vastly less crowded and simpler than Manhattan. "Out here," Ruth Nivola, wife of sculptor Costantino Nivola, is quoted as saying, "it became more playful and more joyous…. The artists had a real connection with the earth, with the beach, with the poetry of nature."
Alastair Gordon's fascinating book is part social history, part architectural history. We see the houses (and interiors) where all that playfulness and joy were sheltered. Among those featured are Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Andrew Geller, Julian and Barbara Neski, Carl Koch, Alfredo De Vido, Tony Smith, Pierre Chareau, Charles Gwathmey, and Richard Meier.
But the chief figure in the story turns out to be Peter Blake. Best known as an editor (Architectural Forum and Architecture Plus magazines), as an educator, as a Museum of Modern Art curator, and as a writer of books and articles (many of them for this magazine), he is also a brilliant designer. Six of his rigorous, highly conceptual residential designs are shown here, including the house on the book's dust jacket and another used as its frontispiece. There is also—stepping away from the Hamptons for a moment—a museum project designed by Blake in collaboration with Jackson Pollock.
"The history of the Hamptons," Gordon concludes, "has been an ebb and flow of affluence and assimilation" and, although "weekend utopia has been replaced by an empire of status," he still finds that "the place remains surprisingly unspoiled." Well, everything's relative. Whatever one's opinion of the Hamptons in 2001, it has had quite a history, and this book tells it well.