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Wright, Roycroft, Stickley, and Rohlfs: Defining the Buffalo School Arts and Crafts Aesthetic

Wright, Roycroft, Stickley, and Rohlfs: Defining the Buffalo School Arts and Crafts Aesthetic

Posted: June 7, 2017

The late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries were times of remarkable growth and tremendous shifts in art, architecture, and design across the nation. The Arts and Crafts Movement was a crusade that began in Europe and rose up in response to the Machine Age and mass production. As it spread to America, Western New York emerged as its epicenter.

The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State is one of seven major cultural organizations in Western New York honoring the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth by celebrating the renowned architect’s influence on the region’s Arts and Crafts Movement. The Wright, Roycroft, Stickley, and Rohlfs: Defining the Buffalo School Arts and Crafts Aesthetic exhibition will explore and examine works from three leading studios—those of Charles Rohlfs, Gustav Stickley and The Roycrofters—and the work of groundbreaking architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright, and how geography and zeitgeist influenced their collective imagination. The installation opens Friday, June 9, and will be on view through Sunday, November 26.

Co-curated by Scott Propeack, associate director and chief curator, and Bill Menshon, facilities manager, the exhibition will chronicle designs by each maker showcasing the similarities and differences of each within this context. “The Burchfield Penney has a premier regional Arts and Crafts collections with an emphasis on Roycroft metalware, furniture, ephemera, and books, primarily donated from the Charles Rand Penney collection,” said Menshon. “Additionally we have works by Rohlfs, Stickley, Heinz Art Metal, and Buffalo Pottery. The focus of this exhibition is woodworking and will include furniture, candlesticks, frames, models, and images.”

In addition to works from the Burchfield Penney permanent collection, myriad of supporting archival material and objects by the artists from the collections of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, NY; the Roycroft Campus and George and Gladys Scheidemantel House in East Aurora, NY; the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff estate in Lakeview, NY; and the New York State Museum will provide a variety of comparisons.

The exhibition is presented as part of a four-month community-wide festival starting June 8, organized by the newly formed Buffalo Arts and Crafts Alliance celebrating Wright's work and Buffalo's undersung role in the Arts and Crafts Movement. The festival also features exhibitions and events at the Darwin Martin House, Roycroft Campus, and the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Design and will culminate in a conference slated for October 20–21.

In the wake of the collaborations between Wright and Buffalo’s Arts and Crafts industries, Western New York became home to the largest collection of acknowledged master artisans and masterpieces from the period, from the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora to the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, arguably Wright’s greatest residential design, according to Jonathan Katz, University at Buffalo associate professor of visual studies.

“But in addition to these great works, we have a rich history of figures like designer Rohlfs, a designer who, though not nearly as celebrated a name as Wright’s, is every bit as significant a figure in the realm of furniture design,” said Katz. “It’s an incredible history and that’s what this program is intended to evoke.” The University at Buffalo’s Wright’s Larkin: Arts and Crafts in Industry exhibition opened June 7 in Hayes Hall on the university’s South Campus.

About The New York State Arts Alliance
The Frank Lloyd Wright and the Buffalo School of Arts and Crafts is the maiden voyage of the New York State Arts and Crafts Alliance, The mission of the alliance is to strengthen and promote Buffalo and Western New York’s position as the historic leader of the American Arts and Crafts movement, and connect, leverage, and deepen the Arts and Crafts assets of the region. The alliance will also build recognition of the “Buffalo School” of artists/artisans, which began at this period, and extends to present day.

Pictured: Charles Rohlfs (1853-1936), Candlestick (Buffalo, NY), 1901; oak, copper, 10 x 9 x 7 1/4 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, purchased with support from Scott Goldman D.M.D., 2017

Media Contact:
Kathleen McMorrow Heyworth, Burchfield Penney Art Center Head of Marketing and Public Relations | (716) 878-4529 |
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