Review of reviews: Art
Exhibit of the week
Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, through June 25
The Louis Kahn retrospective in Fort Worth begins well before you set foot in its first gallery, said Michael Hoinski in Texas Monthly. The approach to the Kimbell Art Museum is “like a walk in the park,” a progression through a grove of trees and past cascading water; it clears the mind. The Kimbell is inarguably one of Kahn’s architectural masterpieces, “a case study in symmetry” that creates a soothing interplay between landscape and building, sunlight and shade. Visiting the Kimbell has long been “a journey all architects feel compelled to make at least once in their lifetime,” and no time could be better than now to make that pilgrimage, said Gaile Robinson in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. For the next three months, the Kimbell is hosting a traveling Louis Kahn exhibition that’s “a lovely valentine” to a modernist genius, and the first major Kahn retrospective in 25 years.
Kahn “made architecture new in utterly distinctive ways,” said Julie Iovine in The WallStreet Journal. While many other modernists were distancing their work from “all that was old, massive, and portentous,” Kahn was mining the lessons of the classical world to create buildings of timeless monumentality. Born in 1901 Estonia and raised in Philadelphia, Kahn was trained in the Beaux Arts tradition before embracing modernism, and this exhibition shows how in his early 50s he finally found his path. During travels to Rome, Greece, and Egypt, he visited many ancient structures, and in the pastel sketches displayed in this show, “you can see the vigorous application of a purple pastel stick as he tried to capture exactly how light changes when it falls against a wall at dusk.” The play of light became a focus of his work, as did the simplest geometrical shapes. At La Jolla, Calif.’s Salk Institute, another of Kahn’s masterworks, monolithic concrete slabs frame the view west across a wide central plaza, and the vista at the far end is bisected by a horizontal ribbon of distant ocean, making the whole complex feel as eternal as nature.
A thorough assessment of Kahn’s work appears to be underway, said Christopher Hawthorne in Architect magazine. In the old view, reflected by this exhibition, Kahn was a singular creative force, “a man who stood apart from both other architects and the cultural zeitgeist.” But contemporaries showed a similar interest in classically inspired monumentality, and a new generation is turning away from the showy sculptural structures of Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry and finding inspiration in Kahn’s respect for history and its simpler forms. In a statement about the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial, that show’s curators promised to celebrate buildings that make history new and turn away from architecture that insists on being unprecedented. “Kahn would surely approve.”