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Twelve Ways of Looking at Frank Lloyd Wright

 
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Paul Ringstrom



Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 3713
Location: Mason City, IA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 1:14 pm    Post subject: Twelve Ways of Looking at Frank Lloyd Wright Reply with quote

Twelve Ways of Looking at Frank Lloyd Wright, by Martin Filler
in the New York Review of Books
August 17, 2017 issue (subscription necessary)

excerpt: Few things are more satisfying in the arts than unjustly forgotten figures at last accorded a rightful place in the canon.
Then there are the perennially celebrated artists who are so important that they must be presented anew to each successive generation,
a daunting task for museums, especially encyclopedic ones that are expected to revisit the major masters over and over again while finding
fresh reasons for their relevance. Yet the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” was a more
hazardous proposition than its universally beloved subject might indicate.

Martin Filler is the 2017 recipient of the Stephen A. Kliment ­Oculus Award, given by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of
Architects, for his architecture criticism, which has appeared in these pages since 1985.

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Owner of the G. Curtis Yelland House (1910), by Wm. Drummond


Last edited by Paul Ringstrom on Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:22 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7483

PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I cannot tell from the excerpt where Mr. Fuller was going with this, but in general, I believe that architecture criticism, like all critique, is of very limited value, and Never objective. (We here certainly are not!) But he does have a point about digging up long-forgotten artists and reviewing their contributions to world culture.
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Rood



Joined: 30 Oct 2010
Posts: 891
Location: Goodyear, AZ 85338

PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/08/17/twelve-ways-of-looking-at-frank-lloyd-wright/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Frank%20Lloyd%20Wright%20Christians%20and%*&utm_content=NYR%20Frank%20Lloyd%20Wright%20Christians%20and%*+CID_747b6f6792cd93779974f09b6f4c4a21&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=Twelve%20Ways%20of%20Looking%20at%20Frank%20Lloyd%20Wright
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 14297
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been among the first, here, to throw cold water on architectural criticism -- even on some of what architects find to say about their own work.

But isn't it a bit large to suggest that "all critique . . . is of very limited value" ? I suppose it is "never objective"; opinion is not, by definition, objective, nor is it evidence of fact.

Hasn't critique been one of the means at hand -- from time immemorial, as they say -- by which understanding of fact has been achieved ?

SDR
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5587
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The responsible critic is an advocate, an advocate for the audience, for the consumer, and for values like integrity, honesty, truth, justice, beauty...

I think we need more critics, not fewer, and more people who value the improvement of their own critical thinking skills. We can surely agree that it's important to question the quality or objectivity of some criticism, but to dismiss it outright is to bury one's head in the sand.

Btw- The article is excellent and informative...
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 14297
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Should the critic not be neutral toward his subject ? Isn't critique a branch of journalism -- at its best, the unbiased eye of a disinterested observer, seeking truth as a does any scientist ?

To me, the advocate is always on the lookout for the best angle to a story; the defense attorney is an advocate, analogous to a PR man. That's not what I seek in critique of, for instance,
an art form or its practice. Critique of that sort is to be found in the coffee table book, not in the journal of letters ?

With the death of Olgivanna "Lloyd" Wright, Wrightians were free to speak their minds about Mr Wright and his work. To their credit, Edgar Tafel and Curtis Besinger wrote about Wright
without pandering or puffery; one has the feeling that there is no filter between the reader and the subject.

SDR
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5587
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neutrality is a lofty goal when critiquing any art form. But a set of values can help inform a perspective. This is what I mean by advocacy.

The layman can say he prefers a McMansion to Frank Lloyd Wright. The critic must carefully outline why that might not be the best choice. That is advocacy. Because to analyze merely from a "neutral, unbiased" point of view, it's easy and somewhat inevitable to argue and conclude that the two types are equal.

A critic by definition must have a perspective, otherwise he is a journalist. The journalist says, "a house of 2900 square feet with a series of gables, turrets and a three car garage was built at 3201 Pleasant Valley Drive...

So many ways to skin a cat; is neutrality possible?

http://home.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/spring97/litcrit.html
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SDR



Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 14297
Location: San Francisco

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps that is what Roderick means when he cites "opinion." And I guess to me that an ounce of journalism is worth a pound of critique -- of the type you describe.

The greatest value I've received from the reading of criticism is the set of facts which the informed professional critic brings to the table. It is those facts, of biography and other history, ancient or recent, which give the reader a place to
stand as he, along with the critic, observes the work at hand and arrives, sooner or later, at some judgement of his own.

To have a pre-digested opinion presented to the reader necessarily limits his own intellectual growth; it is not education as much as a short-cut to understanding, inevitably transmitting a bias from one person to another ?

SDR
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peterm



Joined: 13 Mar 2008
Posts: 5587
Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm not expressing this well. The advocacy to which I refer is for the audience, not the artist. In other words, as an example, not "Wright was a genius", rather "Why is Wright worthy of discussion, addressing both the positives and negatives?" By helping us understand, he or she becomes an advocate for the audience, not a cheerleader.

The art, music or architecture critic attempts to answer three basic questions: What is this? (Description and analysis) What does it mean? (Interpretation) What is its significance? (Evaluation or judgement). On the other hand, a journalist, (in the narrowest definition) asks only the first question, What is this?

Blair Kamin is an excellent architecture critic, in my opinion. He always offers a point of view, carefully researched reasons why, or why not, a work of architecture should be noticed, appreciated, why it has historical significance, or, at times, why it never should have been built in the first place. This doesn't mean that he doesn't also meticulously describe and help us to understand the nature of the thing.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dwell.com/amp/article/blair-kamin-on-criticism-95b161a5

It seems to me that if neutrality is the goal, then direct experience with and study of the architecture itself, models, photographs, the program or brief, correspondences between client and architect, and floor plans are the closest one can get to that. And yet, what each person concludes from those more direct experiences wil vary so wildly. This is why we sometimes choose to listen to someone's more informed observations and "opinion", if you will.

The layman: Wright's ceilings are too low! I nearly bumped my head. But what do I know? Everyone says he was a genius.

The fan or disciple: The low ceilings are brilliant, and he designed everything in his head before putting it onto paper!

The journalist: Wright often varied ceiling heights, and designed narrow corridors, which he called "galleries".

The critic: Wright's use of compression and release and varying ceiling heights accentuates human scale, while also creating the impression that spaces with the higher ceiling appear to be larger. The initial sensation of slight claustrophobia gives way to openness and airiness. The technique stands in contrast to some of his functionalist and International Style contemporaries who chose the simple glass box instead.

(A good critic or journalist would definitely write better than this!)
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Roderick Grant



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 7483

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As I put it, "critique is of limited value," not of no value. For me, to accept the critique of any art form, I need some familiarity with the critic. There was an article posted herein some time ago by a critic that basically lambasted FLW. I don't take such writing seriously. Many critics write to write. The content of their musings is less important than the readability of their writing.

Ada Louise Huxtable was a brilliant critic. The current Los Angeles Times architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, not so much. He's campaigning hard in favor of the Zumthor design for LACMA, an immense oil spill from the air. That sort of advocacy does not even qualify as critique.

For movie criticism, I favored the late Charles Champlin. Why? Probably because we seemed to like the same sort of movies. If he gave a thumbs up, I could assume I would also. Pauline Kael, on the other hand, was overrated in my (minority) view. She knew nothing about acting. Rex Reed got it just right: He stated bluntly that his critiques were completely personal. He gave good reviews to movies he liked and bad ones to movies he disliked. In the end, that's all there is to criticism. It's essential to know the critic in order to take the critique seriously.
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