The Chair Man

By GREG COOK  |  April 27, 2009

Arriving in the United States in 1937, Breuer turned increasingly to architecture. He favored rectangles, grids, right angles. He moved horizontally, favoring massive rectangular boxes and flat roof slabs. (He built just one skyscraper.) His structures — like the house he built for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, beginning in 1937 — often were a series of various sized abutting boxes.

When Breuer's furniture didn't hit the sweet spot between less is more and less is less, his designs turned awkward, uncomfortable, cold. When his architecture goes wrong it's harsh, oppressive, affected — like New York's Whitney Museum of American Art ('64-'66). The Brutalist design of boxes stacked one atop the next like an upside-down pyramid resembles a fortress.

Better are buildings begun in the late '50s, like Begrisch Hall at New York University or St. John's Abby Church in Minnesota, which channel Space Age optimism and atomic angst. The hall looks like a spaceship perched on three legs. The church features a "bell tower" consisting of a flat stone slab on four legs that resembles a Stone Age radar array. They're weirder and warmer. Like his landmark chairs, they break away from ruthless rectangularity by way of soaring curves.

< prev  1  |  2  | 
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Harvard University, New York University, Whitney Museum of American Art,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY GREG COOK
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   OUTSIDE THE LINES  |  September 17, 2014
    It’s hot, sweaty, satirical, messy, manic, Technicolor, cartoony, psychedelic stuff.
  •   FALL ARTS PREVIEW | ART: BODIES OF WORK  |  September 10, 2014
    Plus candy that you can actually eat!
  •   DIGGING IN THE DUST  |  September 03, 2014
    What do we preserve? And why?
  •   LIFE IS A CARNIVAL  |  August 27, 2014
    To run away with the circus — it’s a glamorous metaphor for “leaving a dull life for a colorful one.”
  •   A WORLD GONE WRONG  |  August 20, 2014
    The skies always seem threatening in Jennifer Hrabota Lesser’s paintings.

 See all articles by: GREG COOK