Mies, Classical Modernist
by Michael J. Crosbie
In New York this summer, Mies van der Rohe seems to be everywhere, in addition to where you'll always find him, at his Seagram Building on Park Avenue.
The "Mies in Berlin" exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and "Mies in America" at the Whitney Museum of American Art bookend the work of one of the most celebrated Modern architects.
MoMA[BN1]'s Berlin exhibit, organized by Terence Riley, the museum's chief curator of the Department of Architecture and Design, and Barry Bergdoll, a professor of art at Columbia University, is presented with no discernable overt agenda, but Mies comes across as a restless but ultimately conservative architectural genius, who doesn't really find his "architectural voice" until his 40s.
The Whitney's America exhibit, organized by Phyllis Lambert, of the Canadian Center of Architecture, is more fun than MoMA's, with some intriguing riffs on Mies's work in the form of conceptual videos that punctuate the show.
There are also some wonderful images of Mies himself, through the lens of Irving Penn, that will make you smile. In one with Philip Johnson and a model of the Seagram Building, Mies barely suppresses a smile as his hand rests lovingly on his bronze icon.
Mies displays classicist garb for the better part of the MoMA exhibit. It covers his work from 1905, when he arrived in Berlin at the age of 19, until his flight from Germany in 1938.
Farnsworth House, 1945-1951, Plano, Illinois.
Photo: Guido Guidi
The Werner House, 1912, Berlin. Perspective view from the street.
Image: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
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