We Deserve a Pink Guggenheim, and Other News


On the Shelf

What might have been. Image via the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).


  • Name a building that’s whiter than the Guggenheim. I’ll bet you can’t—no matter which sense of white you’re using. But let’s go with the most literal one. The museum used to be a beige, inoffensive, neutral color that probably everyone was fine with except for Robert Moses, who compared it to “jaundiced skin.” And so it was whitewashed. But Frank Lloyd Wright, as Michael Kimmelman notes in a new piece, had toyed with the idea of making it pink or even magenta—one way to make it pop off the sidewalk amid the drab skyline of a city he hated. Kimmelman writes, “In 1957, Frank Lloyd Wright, ninety and still tirelessly hawking himself as America’s greatest architect, sat for a television interview with a young, chain-smoking Mike Wallace. Does New York’s skyline excite him, Wallace asks. ‘It does not,’ Wright says. ‘Because it never was planned—it’s all a race for rent, and it is a great monument I think to the power of money and greed’ … Wright is still, sixty years after his death, a man for our times, image savvy, fighting to stay on top of the architectural heap by mastering a swiftly evolving media landscape … New York was never Wright’s idea of America. Elizabeth Hawley, from City University of New York, digs into archival drawings for Nakoma Country Club, a golf resort in Wisconsin, where Wright appropriated Native American art and artifacts for a decorative scheme as part of his larger project to define and own ‘Americanness’ … Wright was also a man of his own times, in other words, a bundle of competing ideas.”
  • Emily Bloom looks at the influence of BBC Radio on Irish writers, especially Seamus Heaney, who credited the sounds of the radio for launching “his journey into the wideness of the world beyond”: “The ‘gutturals and sibilants’ of the foreign broadcasters initiate Heaney into the diversity and complexity of the spoken word … Earlier generations of Irish writers, including W. B. Yeats, Elizabeth Bowen, Louis MacNeice, and Samuel Beckett, describe similar experiences beginning in the 1930s. For these writers, radio was an important influence, offering a powerful mass medium for the spoken word. For the first time, people could listen to a distant speaker in the privacy of their homes. Writers were especially drawn to the new medium because it created a platform for the spoken word at a time when print culture had all but erased the last vestiges of oral traditions on the British Isles … When I began researching in the BBC archives I was surprised both by the number of Irish writers who turn up and at the ways they credit the radio medium with shaping not only what they write, but how they write.”

  • Jeff Dolven took fourteen poets to the Whitney, where they did their poetic thing en masse. You weren’t there? Well, in his words, “It happens like this: You enter the bright room on the west side of the sixth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art. You are among young trees, twenty-six of them, growing from wooden boxes raised on casters, spaced out around the room; the floor is red carpet, the light a mix of sun from the windows and a magenta glow from the bulbs on the ceiling. You may have a moment to look around, or you may be approached right away by someone who says: Find a furrow in your sleep. Or, The ridge. A ladder asleep against a house. Or, That went, This was our planet, a past tense. Then the speaker moves right on, and someone else catches you by the elbow: all night in when down when joy down oh when. Or, Given the recent turn of events, it might have resisted blooming. You might start to seek these people out, to gather more lines, but before long a chime sounds and the readers, who have been circulating freely, form a circle in the center of the room.”
  • Max Nelson reappraises the work of Stan Brakhage, who loved light more faithfully than you or I do: “To describe the thinking behind his films, Stan Brakhage often quoted a saying attributed to the ninth-century Irish theologian John Scotus Eriugena: ‘All things that are, are light.’ He got the line from Ezra Pound, and his attachment to it was one of the few constant principles connecting the hundreds of experimental films he made between 1952 and 2003 … What his films shared was an obsession with light—the patterns it makes, its effects on the eye and the brain, how different shooting methods and editing strategies could make it behave. Many of Brakhage’s movies skip from shot to shot so quickly that it can be almost impossible to keep track of what they show. Each image lasts just long enough to register as a pattern of light and color before another hits the eye in its place … His mission, which he pursued with a zealous intensity, was to liberate the eye from such ‘prescribed’ ways of seeing.”