Kandinsky was always acclaimed as the foremost originator of the new idea in modern art, non-objective art.Frank Lloyd Wright claimed he was doing these paintings in 1898, even before the twentieth-century started claiming the origin of the new ideas in modern art and architecture to be American in origin and not European…
Frank Lloyd Wright never claimed for Oriental art any unique mastery of the simplified , the distilled essential, the truly abstracted. He was quite aware that these properties reside in all great art, of West and East alike. What he argued was that they could be studied by the artist and designer with more clarity and detachment in Oriental than in Western examples. Just because it is so eccentric to the orbit of prejudices, Oriental art can be studied without critical entanglements, with an objectivity which the individual could simply not bring to bear on their own artistic tradition.
It is a matter of sad record that few architects or artists in 1906, were willing or able to follow Wright’s advice. Yet as if to prove to the world that these principles would work, in sculpture and mural as well as in architecture, he produced the Midway Gardens in 1913. Here, in this most festive of all his projects, he made a wider and bolder use of independent art forms than he ever had before or ever would again. He was determined to solve the problem, even if it meant doing sculpture and mural with his own bare hands.
“I clearly saw my trusty T-square and aspiring triangle as a means to the end I had in mind,” Wright said. There was a young sculptor named Ianelli on the Midway job, and Wright is vague, if amiable about his exact contributions. But the great interior mural is so reminiscent of Kandinsky and the smaller geometric bas-reliefs in cast concrete, the caryatids around the garden wall; all bear the indelible mark of Wright’s own genius.
It was not, perhaps, great art. Wright certainly never claimed it was, but it was happy for its purpose, and this context it stands up very well. It would mark Wright’s last effort to establish a working relationship with the other arts. It was the last building, the Midway, in which the explicit statement of art was to occupy a position of such importance. From then on, art, ornament, and decoration become increasingly subdued, abstracted, and oblique in statement or meaning. That is, in Wright’s words, they become “organic to the structure.”
History has proven that Wright’s standards to have been correct. However, this failure to establish contact with the fine arts such as in his strong-willed and arrogant approach to design of the Guggenheim Museum later, resulted in a sort of contemptuous isolation. Architecture, always the most important, was destined to become the only art. Wright proceeded to hew out for himself a beautiful, strong, and complete aesthetic. Yet, it was at the same time, a uniquely private system. Just as their was little room for collaboration with other artists when he was alive, there is little and has been little related progeny since his death.
The Guggenheim expresses that tragic fact; yet still Wright’s policy was a wise one, and the constellation of beautiful structures he produced between 1887 and 1913 can attest to that from the Larkin building, Robie Houses up to the Midway Gardens. No other architect in America, or the whole world could match his creativity during those years.