Friday, August 18, 2006

Look What Penn's Architectural Archives Have Brought Forth This Summer

Antonin and Noemi Raymond may be the most important architectural modernists you've never heard of. But that won't be for long. Bill Whitaker, the collections manager at Penn's Architectural Archives, has put together a thoroughly engrossing show about the two cultural itinerants, who wandered from Prague to New York to Taliesin to Tokyo to New Hope and then back to Tokyo, soaking up local design idioms, and filtering them through a modernist sensibility. The couple, who met, fittingly, aboard a transatlantic steamer, crossed paths with a who's who of great 20th Century architects and artists, including Cass Gilbert, Robert Henri, Frank Lloyd Wright, and George Nakashima. After moving to Tokyo to work on Wright's Imperial Hotel around 1916, Antonin, an architect, and Noemi, a graphic designer, decided to put down roots and set up their own practice. During the next decade, they turned out a rich assortment of buildings, textiles and furnishings that bundled together the rigor and traditions of Japanese craft with a Wrightian aesthetic and a Central European outlook. Because the Raymonds best work was mostly done in Japan, and because most of it has been demolished, their story has never been told before. It took the curators more than four years to piece the narrative together. The show, Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond, adds an important new chapter to the history of 20th Century modernism.
Because the curators amassed so many objects and images, Penn's School of Design agreed to make the ground-floor gallery at Meyerson Hall, 34th and Walnut, available for the show. This is where the Institute of Contemporary Art started out, and it's nice to see it put to use again for such a high-caliber exhibit. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, until Sept. 24.
If you make it over therein the next two weeks, be sure to stop next door at the archives' Kroiz Gallery to see a small, but interesting, exhibition honoring the lately departed Mitchell/Giurgola Liberty Bell Pavillion. Actually, the show, Housing the Bell: 150 Years of Exhibiting an American Icon, is really about much more than that. It traces the ideologies that have influenced how our culture displays that venerated historical object. We've gone from believing that the bell should be kept behind glass, to demanding that people ought to be able to touch it, back to a zone of high security. The exhibit, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., was supposed to close Aug. 18, but for various reasons, the drawings will be left on the walls until Aug. 31. Hurry over. Posted by Picasa


Post a Comment

<< Home