Looking After Louis Sullivan: Photographs, Drawings, and Fragments | Art Institute of Chicago | Galleries | Chicago Reader
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Looking After Louis Sullivan: Photographs, Drawings, and Fragments 

When: June 19-Dec. 12 2010
In support of "Louis Sullivan's Idea," the Cultural Center's tribute to the legendary Chicago architect (through January 2, 78 E. Washington), the Art Institute has mounted this compelling show from its permanent collection, highlighting images by Richard Nickel, Aaron Siskind, and John Szarkowski--large-format black-and-white photographers with very different sensibilities who caught Sullivan's buildings at a time when they were threatened by urban renewal. Szarkowski, who would become an influential curator of photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art, launched his career with a book of his own photographs of Sullivan's works, The Idea of Louis Sullivan, in 1956. Selections from the book shown here are strong formal studies of people living with Sullivan's buildings: shoppers at the marvelously ornate entryway to the former Carson Pirie Scott store at State and Madison, air conditioners peeking out the windows of some of the world's first high-rises. In 1952, Siskind, an abstract expressionist with a camera, began photographing the organic motifs with which Sullivan adorned his early steel-frame buildings and encouraged his students at Chicago's Institute of Design to do the same. Nickel was the most committed of those students: documenting the crime of the ongoing destruction of Sullivan masterpieces became his consuming passion. The small last room of "Looking After Louis Sullivan" is dedicated to his pictures of the demolition of the Garrick building, which graced Randolph Street until 1961. A memorable image shows the proscenium arch in the Garrick Theater being knocked down; the stage opens onto a scene of bulldozers, reminding us how fragile even the most substantial constructions can be. Sometimes photographs last longer. --Stephen Longmire

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