Perf Collection

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toastedskin
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Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:12 am

Perf Collection

Post by toastedskin »

Does anyone else collect Usonian house perfs? I can't claim to be a major collector because I have only two. One that was recently auctioned from the Christie house in New Jersey (that folks on this board kindly helped me identify), and one from the Usonian built for the 1953 "60 Years of Living Architecture" Guggensheim exhibition. If anyone has a perf with which they are willing to part, I would be interested.
Last edited by toastedskin on Sun May 02, 2021 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Roderick Grant
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by Roderick Grant »

See post "Lost 1953 NYC Wright Exhibition House" above.

outside in
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by outside in »

Its bad enough that there exists a market for Art Glass taken from Wright buildings, but now there appears to be one for perfs as well. Leave the panels where they are, in the homes. If you want a "collection" buy a Usonian.

chen1947
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Joined: Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:09 pm

Re: Perf Collection

Post by chen1947 »

toastedskin,

I was the other person bidding against you for the Christie house in New Jersey perf. Im glad that it went to a great home! Would love to see you other perf and how you display them. I was thinking it might be nice to have a simple frame made for it with a mirror behind the perf so it would look like a window when placed on the wall. I don’t have any perf in my collection but I’m hopefully that another Christie house one will come to the market so I can add it to my collection.

I do agree the perf’s should stay in the Usonia homes but take the Christie house example it was removed by the homeowner a very long time ago. I think the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation could come out with reproduction perf and we could all get a chance to collect them all.

Would love to hear about your collection and I can share some of my collection.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: Perf Collection

Post by SDR »

Now that laser- or CNC-cutting of wood is routine, I can think of no better use for these techniques than to create a complete collection of Usonian perfs---at one scale or another.

In the meantime, owners of original and full-sized perf panels might think about how best to display their treasures. One wants to remember that Mr Wright did not intend for these designs to be seen individually but instead to be viewed in multiple: a row of perfs of identical design, almost universally "slip-matched" (repeated in identical orientation), though in a very few cases book-matched (each second perf flopped right for left). I for one would think it perfectly appropriate (if not actually preferable) to have duplicates of one's original perf made, so that a row of them---as long as one has room for---could be mounted.

The mirror backing should certainly be tried; I think it could be quite effective. Otherwise, mounted a few inches in front of a lighted wall---sunny yellow; azure; foliage green ?---to show the perf as it would look from inside a house in daylight, or from outside the house at night.

No one should expect these perfs to be examples of "fine woodworking"; they are usually cut from plywood, of one grade or another (usually knot-free, at least). Many will have minor chips at least to the cuts that run across the grain of the face veneers, and the edges of the plywood are revealed. Their effect was to present a repeated pattern through which light could pass, presenting a pleasingly complex figure in rhythm with the unit dimension of the structure. The design is everything, the material and workmanship secondary. The many finely-made sets of perfs are a delight when encountered, of course.

A frame, if employed, might best be fashioned to simulate the way the perf was presented as a part of the architecture, surrounded not by an identical molding mitered at the corners but rather bookended by a fin-like mullions of wood and capped top and bottom by a slightly deeper flat piece of stock, identically finished to match the perf. One looks to photos of the inside or the outside appearance of the perf as mounted in the house it belongs to.

No frame at all is probably the ideal, a default option . . .?

S
Last edited by SDR on Fri May 07, 2021 7:38 pm, edited 4 times in total.

toastedskin
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by toastedskin »

Thank you for your kind post. Although I am upset that you forced my bid so high. lol

I received the Christie perf today and was surprised. The perf I have from the 1953 Guggenheim 60 Years of Living Architecture show is a thin piece of maybe cypress wood. This is it:

https://www.christies.com/lot/lot-a-cyp ... 79d8f9f806

I was expecting to receive the same kind of single-wood perf from the Christie hosue. But it is not. Instead, it is a full window "sandwich" perf with two pieces of wood (heavily stained brown) holding a plate of glass. So it's the entire window -- two pieces of wood sandwiching the glass.

I opened up the original screws holding the two pieces of wood together to see if there was unstained wood on the inside, but even the inside of the two pieces was similarly stained. So I just cleaned the glass and reassembled the two pieces, completing the window sandwich.

I have simply mounted my two perfs naked above doorways in our apartment. In addition to these pieces, we have windows from the Hardy house in Wisconsin, the Oscar Steffens house in Chicago, and the Francis Little house in Minnesota. I also have nice wood feature pieces from the Francis Woolsey house (bootleg house) in Oak Park and the Heller house in Chicago. I also have textile blocks from the Freeman and Ennis houses in Los Angeles. I also have a picture frame that Wright designed and had built for the Coonley house.

I also collect Louis Sullivan and have a Chicago Stock Exchange clerestory window and grill from above an elevator, and a couple pieces of decorative iron work from a stairwell. I also have a window from the Auditorium Theater building. I also have a plaster frieze from the Schiller Theater in Chicago that Richard Nickle salvaged and gave to a friend who later gave it me.

All of my pieces are pieces either from buildings that were destroyed (some of my pieces were salvaged by Richard Nickle) or were thrown out or sold by owners who remodeled.

So thank you for being so gracious about the auction (although my wife may have preferred that you won). lol

SDR
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by SDR »

It is wonderful to hear from a collector of Wright's perfs and other artifacts. A collector who owns perfs from different houses will be in a position to observe first-hand the variations in their construction.

Usonian perfs were typically designed either to be separated by mullions (as I described above)or, alternately, made into continuous bands aligned with but covering and concealing, from the outside, the mullions.

Here is a perf from the Bazett house which is of this second type:

Image

Sometimes the perfs are made of solid wood (Buehler):

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Occasionally a perf is more like a work of sculpture (Greenberg):

Image

Hagan has the rare bookmatched perf array:

Image

Hoffman features two different perfs:

Image

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(Is that a perf ? Opinions may vary . . .)

Kundert, Bachman-Wilson:

Image

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New York Exhibition House:

Image

Peterson:

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Smith:

Image

Stevens:

Image

Weltzheimer:

Image

toastedskin
Posts: 20
Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:12 am

Re: Perf Collection

Post by toastedskin »

Thank you for posting those wonderful photographs. My Guggenheim perf is so different from the Christie perf.

The Guggenheim, with minimal outdoors exposure, is of nice cypress wood and has a nice light glow to the raw wood.

The Christie, on the other hand, appears to be heavily dark brown coated and roughly cut wood - maybe plywood (the stain is so heavy it's hard to tell). That is why I openned it up, hoping to find the raw wood on the interior. But the interior of the perf is just as heavily stained.

Your photos are amazing.

SDR
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Location: San Francisco

Re: Perf Collection

Post by SDR »

Thanks for the reply. I can't take credit for any of the photos posted above; they are all from printed or online sources. I really should credit each one; most of them are cropped detail from an original composition.

I'm surprised, looking at them today, how many of them are of the continuous type---that is, the ones overlaying the building framing and making a homogeneous patch on the exterior of the building.

If you're an occasional visitor you may be aware of the work of Palli Davis Holubar, who took on the task of collecting and cataloging the perf designs, and presenting that work to the community. Her graphic collages explicating a design or a group of related designs are noteworthy. You can search this site via her name to find the work and the conversations. The WC index is now sixteen years old; her name appeared here the following year . . .

S

DRN
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by DRN »

I’d think the best way to display the Christie perf would be to offer it to the current owner of the house so that it might be installed in the living room clerestory in place of one the current windows. That would enable the perf to cast shadows on the concrete floor or fireplace masonry as Wright intended.

That act might enable you feel the satisfaction that comes with playing a part in the restoration of a work of architecture.

SDR
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by SDR »

Early published photos of the Christie house with its perfs in place.


Image

Image

Image

toastedskin
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by toastedskin »

Responding to DNR:

You are absolutely right. I would love to be part of a restoration of the Christie House to its original perf condition and see my perf back in place where it belongs. This would give me immense satisfaction.

When the current owners decide to convert all the windows that have been converted from the perfs to clear glass windows back to the perfs, I will be happy to see that they get mine.

But because it would not be a "restoration" to merely replace one of the clear glass with the original perf - we know that Wright wanted the perfs to be part of an organic whole - I will wait til then. We can surmise that Wright would not want one lonely perf in the sea of clear glass and would not consider such a solitary perf in place to be in any sense "restoration."

Thank you for the wise suggestion.

chen1947
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:09 pm

Re: Perf Collection

Post by chen1947 »

WOW! Your collection sounds amazing! My collection is much smaller in comparison. I have a bench from the Unitarian Meeting House Madison, WI, signage from the entry to the Harold C. Price Sr. House in Scottsdale, a bowl from Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK and a set of Japanese wood block prints printed from wood blocks that FLW bought when in Japan. I suppose I'm a "young" collector and have only been really collecting for maybe that last 3 years.

I was doing some causal research on perf boards that have come up for auction and what they sold for. It looks like to me that only two of the 1953 Guggenheim 60 Years of Living Architecture perf have come to auction and then the Christie perf recently. Have you seen more perf that have come to auction?

I did notice on that there was glass in between the panels from Christie but thank you for explaining more on how it was constructed.

Heritage Auction house in Dallas, Texas where I’m from has been having some nice Louis Sullivan items this year.

SDR - Thank you for your comments about ways to display perf, your insight is always so wonderful

DRN
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Re: Perf Collection

Post by DRN »

toastedskin:

The Christie perf you just bought could very well be the last surviving of the original perfs made for the house. Having restored a Wright house, I’m acutely aware that what is shown on the drawings is often slightly altered during construction or fabrication. If the current owner wanted to restore the perfs, they would first need to know the drawings for the perfs in the historic photos are NOT with the Christie set they would access from the Wright archives, they would need to know any as built deviation from the perf as drawn, AND they would have no way of knowing an original still exists or how to contact its current owner.

If you are sincere about your desire to see the perfs restored at the Christie house, I’d suggest you reach out to John Waters with the FLW Conservancy to have him pass along your contact information and some good quality photos of the perf. John would share that information with the current owner and keep a copy of the data for the Conservancy’s file on the house for future owners. That contact might be the spark that gets the process going. If the current or a future owner wants to do the deed, it would be very helpful for you to offer your perf for 3D scanning ( I suspect replicas would likely be cut via a cnc machine).

I’m just suggesting that you recognize the importance of the object you now own and that you proactively share the historic information it contains with those who own the house so that they, or a future owner, might do an accurate restoration.

toastedskin
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Joined: Sat Apr 10, 2021 8:12 am

Re: Perf Collection

Post by toastedskin »

DRN:

That's a great idea. Since you seem to have a connection with John Waters,, if he is interested, feel free to have him contact me through this blog. I'd be happy to share any and all information with him and the Christie home owners.

Cheers

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