American Art and Visual Culture Seminar: Michael H. Carriere, Milwaukee School of Engineering, and Sarah M. Dreller, University of Illinois at Chicago

Friday, November 12, 2010

2 pm to 5 pm

American Art and Visual Culture Seminar

“Building the Liberal Imagination: Paul Rudolph, Yale University, and the Postwar American City”
Michael H. Carriere, Milwaukee School of Engineering

Architectural historians such as Timothy Rohan and Vincent Scully, Jr. have highlighted how the architecture of Paul Rudolph provided a sort of aesthetic for liberal anti-communism. To such scholars, these architectural depictions of manliness, strength, and even outright violence – as seen in structures like Yale’s Art and Architecture Building – spoke directly to Cold War-era tensions and anxieties.  Yet such buildings existed in realms other than the rather abstract struggle against global communism. Rather than placing these structures solely in the context of the Cold War, it may make sense to view their displays of strength with regards to their relationship with urban renewal efforts in New Haven. Here, a form of “brute force” was also needed: one to tame the perceived disorder of the postwar American city.

“Curtained Walls: Architectural Photography, the Farnsworth House, and the Opaque Mythology of Transparency
Sarah M. Dreller, University of Illinois at Chicago

This paper explores the creation, circulation and reception of two groups of photographs of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House. The first set, produced for a 1951 magazine cover story, features curtains carefully arranged according to the architect’s preferences while the second was commissioned in 1985 specifically because a MoMA curator believed the curtains obscured Mies’ so-called “glass box” design. Both sets are found to be highly contextualized quasi-fictional portraits, valuable for how they engage various Modernist concerns rather than as reliable architectural representations. Ultimately, “Curtained Walls” complicates the history of a building famous for being minimal—and questions whether these photographs helped direct Farnsworth House discourse toward a transparency-focused narrative and away from other potential interpretations.

Commentator: Joseph Rosa, University of Michigan Museum of Art

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.