Homage to Kiesler (1968)

Laffoley_1968_HOMAGE TO KIESLER.jpg
Laffoley_1968_HOMAGE TO KIESLER.jpg

Homage to Kiesler (1968)


Oil, acrylic, ink, and hand applied vinyl letters on canvas.
37 1/2 × 37 1/2 in./95.3 × 95.3 cm.



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Subject: Frederick Kiesler, Sculptor, Painter and Visionary Architect.

Symbol Evocation: The Search for Continuity in Nature.



In the early 1960s, right after my dismissal from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, I was compensated by fate in the form of a year’s apprenticeship with Kiesler. Born in 1890 in Cernavti, Romania, he nevertheless claimed Vienna as his birthplace. He became the youngest member of the De Stijl Group in 1923. Arriving in America in 1926, he was quickly absorbed into the permanent avant-garde of New York City until his death in 1965. Known affectionately as the “Space” or “Egg Man”—because he advocated curved shell over post-and-beam construction—his major architectural work that was built is the Shrine of the Book or the Dead Sea Scrolls Museum in Jerusalem. The architect Philip Johnson always referred to Kiesler as the “greatest unbuilt architect of the 20th century,” but upon the occasion of Johnson’s ninetieth birthday celebration, which was held in 1996 at the Department of Architecture, Columbia University, Johnson rose before the assembled architects to declare that the thinking and visual forms of Kiesler would soon be entering the general practice of architecture. Johnson’s remarks were actually briefer than my description. He got up and said, “Kiesler is next,” and sat down—this to an audience already stunned by the energy of a man entering his tenth decade.

I have always thought of Kiesler as the prototype of the Bauharoque man, surviving by always throwing hooks and lines into the future. During the year I spent in his public sculpture studio in Union Square, I worked on many of his important pieces in terms of final presentation for exhibitions. One day he called me “a dreamer.” To this day, I have not been able to decide whether I had received a compliment or an insult.



Architectonic Thought-Forms: A Survey of the Art of Paul Laffoley. Austin Museum of Art and Design, Austin, TX, 1999. Curated by Elizabeth Ferrer.

The Force Structure of the Mystical Experience. Kent Fine Art, New York, 2015.