"Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works of Sullivan and Wright" opens at Wrightwood 659

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"Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works of Sullivan and Wright" opens at Wrightwood 659
Richard Nickel, Interior Garrick Theatre during demolition, 1952 Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago.

CHICAGO, IL.- Wrightwood 659 presents Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works of Sullivan and Wright, a dual exhibition exploring two of these architects’ long-demolished masterpieces: Louis H. Sullivan’s innovative Garrick Theater, in Chicago, which stood for only sixty-nine years, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s unprecedented Larkin Building, in Buffalo, NY, which stood for just forty-four. The exhibition comprises two distinct presentations—Reconstructing the Garrick: Adler & Sullivan’s Lost Masterpiece and Reimagining the Larkin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Modern Icon—bringing the essence of these two titans of modern American architecture to life. Comprising 3D models and digital re-creations of the original edifices; salvaged architectural ornaments and artifacts; original furniture; historical documentation of the design, construction, and demise of the buildings; archival photographs taken by noted preservationist and photographer Richard Nickel; drawings, and historical ephemera, Romanticism to Ruin demonstrates how these iconic designs continue to resonate and remain relevant.

Reconstructing the Garrick: Adler & Sullivan’s Lost Masterpiece

The Garrick Theater opened in 1892, a year before Chicago hosted the World’s Fair, and was considered a technological marvel at the time. Housing a 1,300-seat theater—a balconied space that included a proscenium with a series of magnificent arches that were embellished with Sullivan’s trademark “star-pod” ornamentation—the Garrick melded technology and creative architectural practice in completely new ways. It also included a club and rehearsal space, as well as a lavishly decorated exterior with a second-floor loggia adorned with terracotta busts of 12 poets and composers.

Curated by a Chicago-based team led by architect and preservationist John Vinci, with cultural historian emeritus Tim Samuelson, graphic artist Chris Ware, and Urban Remains founder

Eric Nordstrom, Reconstructing the Garrick explores Sullivan’s technological innovations, including their impact on the building’s use. The presentation grew out of a drawing project of Vinci’s that was intended to gain better understanding of how the building’s interior circulation worked, and to piece together unknown aspects of its construction. The exhibition presents these drawings, along with recent archival discoveries and a sampling of architectural ornament and fragments salvaged from the building during its demolition, as well as ephemera and other documentation that shed light on the social history of the theater and the then nascent preservation movement.

Reimagining the Larkin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Modern Icon

Founded in 1875 as a small soap company in Buffalo, NY, by the early 1900s, the Larkin Company had grown into an extremely prosperous mail-order conglomerate. This success enabled it to commission the forward-thinking Wright to design the now-iconic Larkin Headquarters building in 1906.

Curated by Jonathan D. Katz, Associate Professor of Practice, History of Art and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, University of Pennsylvania, and former Director, Doctoral Program in Visual Studies, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Reimagining the Larkin explores the marriage between Arts-and-Crafts ideologies and new technologies during a time of increasing industrialization. Wright understood technology as a tool for the expression of beauty, and architecture as a means of bettering the lives of those it serves. His utopian architectural ideals were matched by Larkin’s views on how factories should be run. Highly progressive for its time, the Larkin Company established employee benefits, improved working conditions, and included a large percentage of women within its workforce. Reimagining the Larkin features original objects from the Larkin Building, including Wright-designed desks and his early modular filing systems, along with historical documentation of the design, construction, and demise of the Company Headquarters. These artifacts will be juxtaposed with original Larkin Company products, including examples of Deldare and Buffalo Pottery, along with other historical materials.

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