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Wright Stuff This Weekend

Water Wrights: Paintings by Rita Argen Auerbach @ Fontana Boathouse

With each passing year it is becoming harder to claim that Buffalo’s architectural treasury of works by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright is a well-kept secret. That secret will become considerably more public this coming week when more than 200 FLW scholars, site administrators, homeowners, and aficionados come to Buffalo from across the United States and abroad for the annual conference of the Chicago-based FLW Building Conservancy. The conservancy is an international preservation organization dedicated since its founding in 1989 to facilitating preservation and maintenance of existing Wright structures through education, advocacy and other means.

The idea for the conservancy was actually conceived in Buffalo at a time when our Darwin Martin House was facing major restoration challenges, so it is appropriate that the conservancy celebrate its 20th year by witnessing the extraordinary strides made with the restorations of the Martin House Complex—widely acknowledged as one of Wright’s most masterful domestic commissions—and Graycliffe, the Martin’s summer residence in Derby. If that weren’t enough, attendees will also see the realization in our city of two of Wright’s unbuilt projects: a rowing boathouse adjacent to the Niagara River and Blue Sky Mausoleum in Forest Lawn Cemetery, as well as the stellar exhibition, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture: from the Larkin Administration Building to Broadacre City, currently on view at the UB Anderson Gallery.

This confluence of FLW events and visitors provided Buffalo’s well-recognized watercolorist Rita Argen Auerbach with an opportunity to debut her most recent architectural series—a suite of 12 works that chronicle (some with multiple views) all of the Wright-designed structures in Western New York. Six years in the making and the result of numerous visits to the sites to “capture each in the right light,” the series continues Auerbach’s dynamic color- and shadow-rich approach to architectural structures she has applied in previous series. In this body of work, her approach finds unique kinship with Wright’s own sensitivity to coloration in building material expressed, for example, through the golden tones of Roman brick and ruddy clay tiles of the Martin Complex.

The paintings represent Auerbach’s celebratory interpretation of Wright’s vision over several decades and they equally document and idealize the buildings. Collectively a visual tour, the structures are isolated for their own individual dappled-light-infused “beauty shots.” Interestingly, watercolor has historically been the media of choice for architectural renderings—romanticized views of proposed buildings. The inventive titles Auerbach gives the paintings, literary puns utilizing the word “Wright,” are the artist’s attempt to whimsically link the structures through language. She is pleased that the entire series has been acquired by local collectors Richard E. and Nancy R. Morrison, thus keeping it intact and in the region, and she is grateful that they have consented to lend the works for public display.

If you have not yet seen the inside of the Fontana Boathouse (a structure designed by Wright for the University of Wisconsin in 1905 that was never built) where Auerbach’s paintings will be on view this weekend, this is an ideal opportunity to visit this $5.5 million dollar building that was built as close to Wright’s specifications as possible and opened as part of the West Side Rowing Club in 2007.

The exhibition schedule for the “Wright Watercolors Weekend” is October 9—reception, 5-7pm; October 10—conservancy conference reception, 2-4:30pm and artist’s reception/wine tasting, 5-7pm; and October 11: open house, 12-4pm with an artist talk at 2pm.

gerald mead

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