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Exhibition Explores Chicago Architecture and the Modern City

Block also exhibits 50 rarely exhibited lithographs by blacklisted artist William Gropper

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “Drawing the Future: Chicago Architecture on the International Stage, 1900–1925,” the main gallery exhibition at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art this spring, examines the role Chicago architects played in shaping ideas about the modern city in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Free and open to the public, “Drawing the Future” will run from April 19 to Aug. 11, at the Block Museum, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. The exhibition highlights the scope, ambition and reach of Chicago’s early 20th-century architects. In addition to an April 20 opening reception and panel discussion, other related events include a May 15 gallery talk and guided tours of the exhibitions from April 27 through June 23.

Curated by Northwestern’s David Van Zanten, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, “Drawing the Future” explores the dialogue between Chicago-based architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony Griffin and their European counterparts through more than 50 drawings, large-scale architectural renderings, plans, sketches and rare books. Some of the items have never been on display before.

At the time, architects were engaged in international conversations about building the modern city. New practices and designs reflected their emerging ideas about conceiving cities holistically and integrating them into their natural surroundings. “Drawing the Future” provides new perspectives on this critical juncture in architectural history and highlights Chicago’s leadership in these architectural and design innovations. The exhibition includes works from the holdings of Northwestern University’s Block Museum and the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections as well as from the Art, Design and Architecture Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago History Museum.

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art on behalf of William Osborn and David Kabiller; John K. Notz Jr.; Myers Foundations; Alumnae of Northwestern University; Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Graduate School, Northwestern University; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Norton S. Walbridge Fund; Carlyle Anderson Endowment; Kessel Fund at the Block Museum; and Walter Burley Griffin Society of America.

Block’s second spring exhibition, “Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios,” April 19 to Aug. 11, in the Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Gallery, looks at a portfolio of 50 lithographs that have not been shown together since their creation in the 1950s. Through the work of one artist, William Gropper who was blacklisted and called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 1950s, the exhibition shows the hypocrisy and folly of mid-20th-century society and politics in much the same way that Goya’s series of etchings, “Los Caprichos,” revealed the culture of Spain in the late 18th-century. Gropper’s “Capriccios” will be displayed in their entirety for the first time in nearly 60 years. “Blacklisted” is curated by John Murphy, Block Museum Graduate Fellow 2012-13.  Support is provided by the Ellen Philips Katz and Howard C. Katz Endowment, Norton S. Walbridge Fund, Louise E. Drangsholt Fund, and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Block Museum is grateful to Evelyn Salk for her gift of the Gropper portfolio in memory of her husband, Erwin A. Salk.

Block’s ongoing exhibition, “Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art,” in the Theo Leffmann Gallery, re-opens from April 19 through Aug. 11. For more information, visit the Block website at or call (847) 491-4000.

The following programs are organized and co-presented by the Block to complement the spring exhibitions. All are free and open to the public:

The Modern Capital: City, Utopia, or Spectacle?” 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 20, Block Museum. Following a 2 p.m. opening reception, the Block will host a 3 p.m. panel discussion that will examine the grand utopic visions that inspired the design of cities from Chicago to Panama City to Marrakesh. Speakers will include Marshall Brown, architect and professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology; Aziza Chaouni, architect and assistant professor at the University of Toronto; panel moderator Alison Fisher, assistant curator, department of architecture and design, The Art Institute of Chicago; Thomas Hussey, associate director, Skidmore Owings & Merrill; and David Van Zanten, “Drawing the Future” curator and professor of art history, Northwestern University.

Free guided weekend tours of the Block Museum’s spring exhibitions, 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from April 27 to June 23. To arrange a group tour, email

Gallery Talk, 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, Block Museum. Join “Drawing the Future” curator David Van Zanten, Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, and catalogue contributors Ashley Dunn, doctoral candidate in art history at Northwestern University, and Leslie Coburn, doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, for a close-up discussion of the exhibition.


A long-term construction project on Northwestern University’s south campus has limited access to the Block Museum and Arts Circle Drive. Free parking is available in the lot directly south of the museum. For directions and parking information, visit

For more information, visit or call (847) 491-4000.

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