Frederick Kiesler is primarily known for his work as an architect and stage designer, while less is known about his work in industrial design and his influential role in modern art movements. Kiesler started the experimental Design Laboratory at Columbia University School of Architecture and became director of the Juilliard School of Music, a post he held until 1957. In 1942 Peggy Guggenheim commissioned Kiesler to transform a tailor's shop into the Art of This Century Gallery. The result was the legendary, fantastic surrealist environment with curved walls and unusual mounted devices such as baseball bats. During the 1950s Kiesler devoted a great deal of time to sculpture and painting that anticipated conceptual and environmental art. This volume examines Kiesler's work and theory and defines its importance within the broader context of 20th century art and the dissolving boundaries between media.
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Romanian-born Kiesler, who died in 1965, was a versatile and imaginative designer, artist and architect whose work included designs for lipstick tubes, stage sets (e.g., the American premiere of Sartre's No Exit in 1946), galleries, an "endless" house, "Galaxial" portraits composed of configured painted pieces of cardboard, and a prize-winning shoe store in Buffalo, N.Y. Illustrated by more than 200 photographs of his work, six essays by various art historians (including Phillips) ponder Kiesler's avant-garde multi-media oeuvre for the first time in book form in English, in conjunction with an exhibit at New York's Whitney Museum. Altogether, words and pictures make a convincing case for Kiesler's fruitful heterodoxy ("Form does not follow function, function follows vision," he wrote, and, "Whatever your course when choosing the proportions for a window, avoid one thing--the normal"), though documentation of the influences, range and reception of Kiesler's humane experimentalism is somewhat repetitious.
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