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Major Retrospective of Architect Max Abramovitz to Open at Wallach Gallery
Among Abramovitz's works is the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Building in Hartford, Conn.
Credit: Joseph W. Molitor

In the first major retrospective devoted to modernist architect Max Abramovitz, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery will explore his life and work in an exhibition titled "The Troubled Search: The Work of Max Abramovitz." The show will be on view Sept. 15 to Dec. 11.

His work in cludes major urban, postwar projects such as Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and U.N. Headquarters. For much of his career, Abramovitz was one-half of the noted architectural firm Harrison & Abramovitz. Although Wallace Harrison has received much critical attention, "The Troubled Search" will be the first in-depth study of Abramovitz and his work in modernist architecture, a dominant movement in the 20 th century embodied best by the international style of the 1920s and 1930s and characterized by functionally efficient, lean, geometric forms.

"Equally skilled in design and engineering, Abramovitz took a problem-solving approach to the demands of postwar architecture," said Janet Parks, co-curator of the exhibition and curator of drawings and archives at Columbia's Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. "In this day of complex building programs, his example is particularly valuable and instructive."

Abramovitz, born in 1908 in Chicago, has had a long, prolific and varied career. His work encompasses the corporate and the religious, the cultural and the military, architecture and urban planning. The exhibition, comprising more than 300 works, provides a thorough overview of his major architectural works, including the U.S. Steel Building (Pittsburgh), Phoenix Mutual Headquarters (Hartford, Conn.), Brandeis University (Waltham , Mass.), and the Krannert Center and Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). It also covers his student work and travels, military and teaching careers, and professional activities.

John Harwood, a doctoral candidate in architectural history and currently a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art, co-curated the exhibition with Parks. The Abramovitz archives, housed in Avery Library, are the foundation for the exhibition.

A gallery talk/tour by Harwood will be offered at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 28. A guided walking tour of Abramovitz's major New York projects is planned for 1 p.m. on Oct. 16. Both events are free and open to the general public. A 164-page, illustrated catalog will accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition coincides with the biannual conference of the international organization DOCOMOMO (Documentation and Conservation of the Modern Movement), which will be held Sept. 26 to 29 at Columbia University.

The Wallach Art Gallery is located on the 8 th floor of Schermerhorn Hall on the Columbia University campus (116th Street and Broadway). Gallery hours are 1p.m. to 5p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The gallery will be closed the week of Thanksgiving.

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Published: Sep 09, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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