Saturday, February 15, 2014


Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (Image (c) Mark Hertzberg via PrairieMod)

When the Archives of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation opened to scholars around 1980 a wealth of scholarship ensued as the 1980s and 90s saw an outpouring of excellent books by Neil Levine, Anthony Alofsin, David DeLong, Robert McCarter, Kathryn Smith and others that expanded and refined what had been pioneered by Grant Manson, Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Vincent Scully in the 1940s and 50s. 

Even as this proliferation of scholarship occurred there was a seismic shift in the academic world toward such new theoretical approaches as gender studies, post-colonial studies, semiotics and deconstruction, vernacular studies and Neo-Marxism with the result that  the cult of the Modern Master (Wright, Mies, Le Corbusier, Gropius, and Alvar Aalto) fell out of favor with graduate students and dissertations and scholarly books on Wright diminished dramatically, though the flow of populist picture books and Wright-related tchotchkes have never abated.  

Throughout these years Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Director of the Archives of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, since 1947, has organized, catalogued, and photographed Wright's vast legacy (said to include 22, 000 drawings and 198,000 letters, manuscripts and documents) in preparation for his own fiercely dedicated effort to disseminate Wright's ideas in the form of books of writings and books illustrated with Wright's drawings and photographs of his buildings. Mr. Pfeiffer has published something like 150 such books (some too big to carry)  and has mounted or collaborated on a continuous flow of exhibitions, keeping the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright ever present in the American psyche and the world's imagination. Recently Mr. Pfeiffer has had to withdraw from his relentless productivity for reasons of health and the archives have been turned over the the Avery Library at Columbia University with artifacts going to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

Wasting no time, Barry Bergdoll, Acting Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art together with Carole Ann Fabian, Director and Janet Parks, Curator of Drawings and Archives of the Avery Library and Phoebe Springstubb, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art have mounted an exhibition titled "Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs Dispersal" which is to run from February 1 to June 4, 2014. A more ambitious Wright exhibition is planned for 2016. What does this mean for the future of Frank Lloyd Wright scholarship? When I visited the Avery Library archive in December I was the fourth researcher present, all of us veterans of the 1980s and 90s, but the expectation is that graduate students from Columbia and other nearby northeastern schools will make good use of the archives and a second wave of major scholarship will eventuate. Wright's work is so extensive that much remains to be done.

About that other matter: Sandra Firmin, my wife, has taken a position as Director of the University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder and we will be moving there in early April. Since I believe that Eric Jackson-Forsberg's original intention was that "The Weekly Wright-Up" would be Darwin Martin House and Wright-in-Buffalo-centric I will be relinquishing my authorial role to Susana Tejada, Curator of the Martin House, except for occasional missives from the Rocky Mountains if I can fin anything Wrightian out there. I'll miss Buffalo and the close proximity to the Martin House and its wonderful staff and volunteers. Thanks for reading.



John Bachman said...

The best to you, enjoyed your posts.

Unknown said...

We will miss you, Jack. Good luck in your new life in Colorado.

Judith Van Nostrand said...

Colorado is lucky to get you! But we certainly will miss you and your entertaining and complete knowledge of Mr. Wright! We all hung on your every word!