The Wright stuff at the Dorsky

Russel Wright, Exterior view of Manitoga. (photo by Rob Penner)

Russel Wright’s home in Garrison is becoming one of the region’s leading cultural destinations, and his reputation as a key 20th-century American designer is fast morphing into one of our nation’s top artists of any category.

This Saturday, September 8, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art will host a public reception for “Russel Wright: The Nature of Design,” curated by Donald Albrecht and Dianne Pierce, in addition to “Shinohara Pops! The Avant-Garde Road, Tokyo/New York,” curated by Hiroko Ikegami and Reiko Tomii. Both exhibitions will be on display through December 16.

The Wright show, which will fill the Dorsky’s Morgan Anderson, Howard Greenberg Family and Corridor Galleries, explores the former Woodstocker’s wide career as the man who took fine design to the masses via his Modernist dinnerware, furniture and best-selling 1950 Guide to Easier Living, his pioneering preoccupation with mankind’s relationship to nature and some of the less-known experimental work of his later years. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and coming series of special events.

Wright believed that the dining or kitchen table – whichever centered a household – was the keystone of the home as well as all design choices, and that all style should come easily and not be a personal stretch. “The beauty of an 18th-century drawing room was the perfect expression of its time, but it is not a perfect expression of ours. A home carefully planned around the requirements of your own family will provide much richer satisfactions. Imitation of other people’s ways holds pale pleasure at best beside that of creating one’s own,” wrote Wright with his wife Mary. “Once you’ve shaken free of traditionalism, don’t, for heaven’s sake, go looking for a new type of Dream House, or for a new Emily Post to put yourself in bondage to.”

It was through Wright that we came, eventually, to the idea of the home dinner buffet and family room, as well as the naturally landscaped garden – and so much more. His company, Russel Wright Studios, with offices in Garrison and California, continues to work with corporate and public clients in the licensing and manufacturing of the artist’s visionary designs and products to this day.

“Russel Wright: The Nature of Design,” along with “Shinohara Pops! The Avant-Garde Road, Tokyo/New York,” focusing on the 50-year career of the former enfant terrible of the Tokyo avant-garde art scene in the late 1950s and his idea of “action art,” opens this week and celebrates itself with a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 8 at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, located on the SUNY-New Paltz campus. For more information call (845) 257-3844 or visit www.newpaltz.edu/museum.

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