Arts & Culture » Arts

In the Galleries - Modernism of the Mid-Century CLOSES October 28 at the Frank Lloyd Wright House



[Editor’s note: A correction ran concerning this paragraph; please see end of article.]
This exhibit of Mid-Century Modern objects — from a Malevich teapot to a Charles Eames house of cards — bears the unique distinction (and formidable challenge) of having been installed in a 1955 home designed by the consummate Modernist architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Clearly undaunted by these atypical exhibition conditions, curator Peter Shank has arranged an impeccably and truly magical experience. Usonian homes — the term Wright used to describe his series of middle-income homes, of which this is one — share the unusual trait of being designed around a basic geometric shape; in the case of the Ebsworth house, that shape is the equilateral parallelogram. Angles abound in this peculiar and intimate one-story home — articulated with inset wrap-around wood shelving, stained glass and nearly all of the original furnishings and textiles Wright designed for the house. To this canvas Shank has applied gemlike period objects that suggest a lived life frozen in time: a full clay-color dinner set by Russell Wright on the kitchen prep counter; a hand-stitched baby blanket designed by Ilse Shank (the noted illustrator and, incidentally, the curator's mother) laid across the guest bed; a row of 1950s New Directions hardback books, from Albert Camus to Djuna Barnes, showcasing their appropriately angular cover art. Every room, as Wright so scrupulously plotted it, speaks to its specific purpose, and the items placed within them serve as further enhancement. The studio, where the original owner once drafted his stained-glass designs, contains a fire-engine-red Olivetti Valentine typewriter, poised for use; the hallway connecting bedroom to living room is dotted with games — including a chess set by Isadore Shank (the curator's father) and an Ernest Trova kaleidoscope. Urban cityscapes by the late St. Louis-based painter Arthur Osver, ranging in style from the De Chirico-esque to the nearly abstract hang throughout the home. In all, it's an immersive experience wrought in thoughtful, subtle details, connecting local history to a broader tradition. Through October 28 at the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park, 120 North Ballas Road, Kirkwood; 314-822-8359 or Hours: Docent-led house tours scheduled by appointment.

Correction published 8/23/12: In the original version of this story, Peter Shank's name was misspelled. The above version reflects this correction.

Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.