Receptions for Lautner Exhibits Sept. 2

NMU alumnus John Lautner (1911-1994), considered one of the most visionary architects of the 20th century, is the subject of two exhibits in his hometown of Marquette. The DeVos Art Museum is focusing on his creative process and professional contributions. The Marquette Regional History Center will explore the impact of family, art and the Upper Peninsula environment on his life and work. Both will hold opening receptions on Friday, Sept. 2.

Lautner received a liberal arts degree from NMU before leaving to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin in Wisconsin. He settled in Los Angeles and became well-known for designing innovative structures, particularly residential buildings that demonstrated a true sensitivity to location, space, structure and the wishes and needs of his clients. He received the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 1993. The DeVos Art Museum exhibition, “John Lautner: A Life in Architecture,” runs through Nov. 13. It highlights a range of residential architectural styles throughout his career through drawings, floor plans, models, photography and video.

A concurrent exhibition on the Lautner family will run at the Marquette Regional History Center through Jan. 7, 2012. It will combine in-house archival material with items on loan from Karol Lautner Peterson, one of four children from Lautner’s first marriage, that relate to her father’s Marquette roots. These include furnishings and décor from Midgaard, the family’s chalet-style retreat on Lake Superior that Lautner helped build at age 12 with his father (an NMU professor), along with documents, photographs, personal artifacts and models of a home he designed for Marquette clients that was never completed.

Melissa Matuscak (Art and Design) traveled twice to Los Angeles to conduct research for the show and tour several residences.

“Until you stand in one of his houses and look out toward the horizon, you can’t fully appreciate how he was able to meld the interior and exterior,” said Matuscak. “They were amazing; the photos and written descriptions don’t do them justice. Anyone can put pencil to paper, but Lautner worked so closely with his clients to get to know their interests, needs and desires. Each house has its own narrative. He also understood all of the components and materials that went into each project because he had personally worked with them. I couldn’t believe the engineering and problem-solving skills required to build some of these homes where they’re situated.”

Here is the full schedule of events (at NMU unless otherwise noted):

Friday, Sept. 2: Frank Escher presentation, 5 p.m. in Art and Design room 165 (preceding the opening reception). Escher is principal in the firm Escher GuneWardena Architecture, which oversaw the restoration of one of Lautner's most famous residential buildings, the Chemosphere (pictured). From 1991-94, Escher worked with Lautner as editor of the first monograph on the architect, John Lautner, Architect. He currently serves on the board of directors of the John Lautner Foundation and has lectured extensively on Lautner's work.

Friday, Sept. 2: Exhibition receptions. Following Escher's lecture, there will be receptions at the DeVos Art Museum (6-8 p.m.) and the Marquette Regional History Center (7-9 p.m.) celebrating the John Lautner exhibitions being held at both museums. The receptions are supported by American Institute of Architects (AIA) Upper Peninsula.

Sunday, Sept. 18: Tycho Saariste and Jan-Richard Kikkert presentation, 3 p.m. in the NMU University Center, with a reception to follow at the museum. Saariste and Kikkert are practicing architects based in the Netherlands. Since 2007, they have researched Lautner's buildings and developed a course about the architect at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts at Arnhem. The course included a research trip to Los Angeles with students to view more than 80 Lautner buildings in 10 days. Saariste and Kikkert will give a talk on their research and travels as part of the UNITED Conference.

Friday, Sept. 30: The Spirit in Architecture: John Lautner film screening and discussion with film director Bette Cohen, 7 p.m. in Art and Design room 165. Cohen is an award-winning filmmaker and film editor. She produced and directed this film portraying the life and work of Lautner. She also serves as an advisory board member for the John Lautner Foundation.

Saturday, Oct. 22: Film screening of Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman at 2 p.m. in Art and Design room 165. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Visual Acoustics celebrates the life and career of the world's greatest architectural photographer, whose images brought modern architecture to the American mainstream. Shulman, who passed away this year, captured the work of nearly every modern and progressive architect since the 1930s, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Frank Gehry.

Thursday, Nov. 3: Film screening of Infinite Space, 7 p.m. at the Marquette Regional History Center. Renowned architectural filmmaker Murray Grigor explores Lautner's dramatic spaces with choreographed camera moves, as Lautner himself provides the commentary, speaking with insight and wit in recordings culled from archival sources. Other voices join him: comments from Frank Gehry and his peers who were influenced by Lautner; the emotional memories of original clients, owners and builders; the remarks of Frank Escher, the architect who restored the Chemosphere house; and Julius Shulman, who famously photographed all the great modernists. Original drawings and historical photographs from the John Lautner Archives at the Getty Museum are layered with the artistic photography of seminal buildings, bringing to life Lautner's quest to create timeless space.

Support for the NMU exhibition and related programs is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs; American Institute of Architects, Upper Peninsula Chapter; Michigan Architecture Foundation; the John X. and June A. Jamrich Endowment; and the Friends of the DeVos Art Museum.

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Updated: August 25, 2011

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