Wright and Indiana in Oklahoma

An added bonus to seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s only realized skyscraper, Price Tower, in person was seeing Robert Indiana’s 66, which sits across the street from the tower.

I know there are a lot of Wright fans out there, but while there are attractive aspects to some of his designs and I find the recorded conversations with him engrossing, I am not generally fond of Wright’s work or ideas. Primarily this stems from his rejection of the city.

Peter Blume, The Rock, 1944-48, Art Institute of Chicago

That’s primarily what brought me and Wright’s building to Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Indeed this small town is an odd place for a skyscraper. That said it isn’t much of a skyscraper and more closely resembles a railroad signal tower that received too much miracle grow.

To be sure, Fallingwater has its charms. Even there, however I think it’s a dishonesty with oneself that man can live in complete harmony, not just with, but in nature. If you’ve ever been to the Art Institute of Chicago you might have noticed Peter Blume’s critique of Fallingwater, oddly commissioned by the home’s builders. Not only that, but nothing would seem in accord with anything should it be in the home itself. The museum label reads:

The Rock was commissioned in 1939 by the Edgar Kaufmann family and intended for their Frank Lloyd Wright–designed home, Falling Water, in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. Peter Blume labored for years to complete the work. The construction of Falling Water can be seen on the left side of the composition; conversely, the right side depicts a building being destroyed, possibly referring to the demolition of an existing house in order to build Falling Water. The rock sits elevated in the center of the picture, while beneath it the earth has been dug away, leaving the boulder in a precarious position. Although Falling Water may symbolize man and nature existing in harmony, The Rock might possibly suggest man’s destruction of nature for his own gain.

I think the same kind of dishonesty exists with the desire to place a purely urban form, a skyscraper, in a place where it’s alone visible and surrounded by miles of land. The skyscraper can’t exist without the city just as Wright couldn’t survive without urban clients. Here in Bartlesville it seems a grain silo of sorts for storing art.

Across the street to Robert Indiana, creator of the more noted Love near City Hall in Philadelphia and we have a colorful, somewhat animated 66, reminiscent of the neon-laden signs that marked the famed route which cuts through Oklahoma.

Together they make for a strange contrast, yet are somehow tied together not only in proximity, but as two strong energetic, but unrelated, pulses from the past.

About Eric Miller

Eric Miller is co-founder and contributor to Urban Art & Antiques. His website is ericmiller.me

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