Frank Lloyd Wright used to say he'd been black and blue all his life from bumping into his own furniture. He once designed a typist's chair with three legs (for the Johnson Wax building) that would topple you over if you didn't sit straight. He designed rugs with patterns that looked like the fac,ades of buildings, and some would say, vice versa. Frank Lloyd Wright designed an almond-shaped house and almond-shaped furniture for his son, Robert Llewellyn Wright, in Bethesda. The Bethesda Wrights remember coming downstairs one morning to find the architect sawing off the back legs of a chair "which never sat just right."
But if Wright's furnishings didn't always sit very well, they work very well as sculpture and as art objects. One hundred pieces of his work can be seen through Jan. 15 at Lunn Gallery, 406 Seventh St. NW.
Three oak chairs from houses of his 1902-1904 period are straight-backed, severe, autocratic in form. With their high, spindle backs they are very close to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's wraith-like Scottish chairs of the same time.
Twenty-four graphics by Wright are on exhibit, including designs for furniture and fac,ades of the Sherman Booth House in Glencoe, Ill., and the Hardy House in Racine, Wis. The best, the colorful geometric design of stripes and circles for the cover of his Princeton lectures, "Architecture," 1930, show Wright as a first-class art moderne graphic artist.
Against all this hard-edge furniture, Cas Gilbert's wonderful curlicue rooftop ornaments -- including a fine gargoyle -- for the 1913 Woolworth Building in New York City are fantastic indeed.
The exhibit includes some furniture by other architects, including a 1946 rendition of Charles Eames' famous molded plywood potato chip chair and a Donald Deskey (designer of the Radio City Music Hall interiors) armchair. The most beautiful chair in the exhibit is by Charles Rohlfs, 1901. A pair of high spikes frame the curved back. You could only sit in it if you were being crowned.
An exhibition of Wright decorative designs was shown at the Renwick Gallery in 1977-78. A Wright music room, with furniture and drawings, is being installed as a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to open Dec. 1. Auction houses also are selling Wright furniture. His stained glass windows have been prized long after the buildings that housed them have been torn down. The curator of the Lunn show, Scott Elliott, is a longtime Wright collector with a gallery, Kelmscott, in Chicago.