The Susan Lawrence Dana House (1902 – 1904), one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest projects, afforded him the opportunity to experiment with design and construction techniques that would become emblematic of his Prairie Style architecture.
Cast of The Frieze
Though many European modernists shunned exterior ornament, American practitioners like Wright used it liberally to accentuate structure, with a proclivity toward geometric abstractions of nature. Applied on the upper portions of the exterior, the decorative frieze wraps around the house, forming a richly-patterned skin derived from the shape of sumac leaves — a motif applied throughout the house on windows, lamps, and decorative objects. This project is also known and the Dana-Thomas House.
An iconic and dramatic lounge chair created by Hans Wegner in 1950, the Flag Halyard Armchair has a sculptural and engineered stainless steel frame with a seat and back made of plaited flag halyard. Comfort is added with a longhaired sheepskin throw and an adjustable leather headrest.
The story goes that Wegner conceived this design while on the beach towards the end of the 1940s. He supposedly modeled the grid-like seat in a sand dune, presumably with some old rope that lay close by (a halyard is a line that hoists or covers a sail). The chair went into production in the 1950s and its unlikely combination of rope, painted and chrome-plated steel, sheepskin and linen are still unprecedented in furniture manufacture. Wegner’s motivation in using such contrasting materials was apparently not to exploit their textural interplay but more simply to demonstrate his ability to design innovative, practical and comfortable furniture – in any material.
As Hans Wegner conceived the idea for this chair while at the beach, the wide-set and low frame is naturally perfect for an afternoon rest, especially when matched with the cozy comfort of a sheepskin throw and down feather filled headrest. Reproductions of this chair, perfectly balanced and built with a solid stainless steel frame and 240 meters of textured flag line, create a modern industrial beauty that upholds the iconic style of the original Danish design, and can be found for as little as $1,650. An original will set you back about $14,000.
On his second stay in New York, Jose Clemente Orozco (1883 – 1959) made many works reflecting the city’s urban expansion and social dimension. The Subway (1928) presents several commuters on New York’s emblematic public transportation system, which first opened in 1904. The shadowy, stone-faced passengers impart a sense of melancholy to the scene, contrasting with the shiny train poles. A highly regarded artist in Mexico, Orozco struggled to find recognition in New York despite showing at several local galleries and completing a five-panel mural cycle at the New School in 1931.
Hermann Finsterlin (German, 1887 – 1973) a painter, toy designer and architectural theorist, is associated with German Expressionist architecture of the 1920s. Molded or cast models such as Study For a House of Sociability (c. 1920) played an important part in Finsterlin’s design process.
When this exhuberantly colorful model was acquired in 1968, MoMA curator Arthur Drexler observed that Finsterlin proposed an architecture that would essentially be hollow sculpture, free of functional considerations.
Finsterlin had a habit of retroactively dating his postwar pieces to the 1920s; the indefinite completion date here reflect this ambiguity.
Cubist Landscape (1912) was inspired by a trip that Diego Rivera made to Spain on 1911, where he encountered the olive trees of Catalonia. The serrated blue ridge in the painting evokes Montserrat, a mountain in the region. The work exemplifies the idiosyncratic approach to Cubism that Rivera developed in the 1910s, when he lived in Paris. He saw these early works, which combine a sun-drenched palette with kaleidoscopic planes and abstract patterning, as a way of beginning to forge a specifically Mexican modernism. “My Cubist paintings,” he said, “are my most Mexican.”
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In works such as Relief No. 30 (1946), Raúl Lozza fragmented the surface of painting into discrete parts — usually, irregular geometric shapes — that he fixed in a particular configuration with connecting rods. Known as Coplanals, these constructions are placed directly onto the wall without any framing mechanism. The empty space in between their shapes thus becomes a part of the work.
Lozza investigated the possibilities of the coplanal for years, founding the Perceptismo group with his brothers. They developed a mathematical approach to painting that focused on the relationship between the wall and the coplanal’s dimensions and colors.
Known for his meticulous dress and unusual goatee, French art critic Félix Fénéon gained a reputation as a dandy among his peers. In this painting, whose full title is Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones and Tinits, Portrait of M Félix Fénéon in 1890, Paul Signac set the critic’s static profile against a swirling background– a kaleidoscopic reference to optical theorist Charles Henry’s recently published color wheel. The wordy title is a spoof on the exceedingly long titles that Henry and his fellow scientists gave to their studies. Though Fénéon professed to dislike it, he kept the portrait for the rest of his life.