G U E R R E R O O N W R I G H T
Frank Lloyd Wright
called Pedro E.
Guerrero, “Pete.” Pedro E. Guerrero called Frank Lloyd
Wright, “Mr. Wright.” One was the world’s foremost living
architect. The other was a former art student, age twentytwo,
from nearby Mesa, Arizona, who had arrived on The
Master’s doorstep at Taliesin West, just outside Scottsdale,
bearing a portfolio of photographs of semi-nudes, eggs fried
sunny side up and little girls with lovable dogs. From the
start the two got along famously.
The year was 1939. Wright was seventy-two, just fifty
years older than this latest recruit to the cause. But he saw
potential in Pedro Guerrero’s portfolio, promise in his
sensitivity to architecture and his ardent desire to make
pictures. Over the twenty years that followed, Pete was
given unparalleled access to Wright’s finished works and to
Pedro Guerrero’s classic photographs
are simultaneously documentary and evocative...Wright
himself appears in many guises
– guru, grand signeur, gadabout, good old
boy, grandpa – and yet whether he was on
guard for Guerrero’s portrait lens or taken
by surprise, he always seems conscious of
his role of great man and is playing it
(and relishing it) to the hilt.
architecture critic House Beautiful
his private life, as the focal point of the Taliesin Fellowship.
In return Pete documented both the works and the life with
charm, modesty and fidelity. He became Wright’s shadow.
Inevitably, there were conflicts. Pete signed up to
fight in World War II knowing that Wright, who was an isolationist
and pacifist, was bound to disapprove. And periodically,
during their long, eventful collaboration, the two
men differed over aesthetic issues, ranging from the positioning
of the camera to the cropping of the finished prints.
Generally, Mr. Wright prevailed. But to the end they
remained committed friends, mentor and student, patron
and artist, subject and adroit portraitist.
Wright and his third wife, Olgivanna, had many gifts,
not the least of which was an ability to see beyond the
youthful facade, to see what might emerge out of the often
unformed human clay that sought entry into the Taliesin
Fellowship. For his part, as he matured, Pete Guerrero
arrived at an appreciation of the man behind the public
persona, the warm, very human, kind and,
yes, generous personage who drove a Lincoln
Zephyr, carried a cane and always had a quip
for the TV cameras.
If there is such a thing as organic photography,
then Guerrero practices it in these
historically invaluable images. The compositions
grow naturally out of their circumstances.
They have a simple elegance that belies the skill
that went into their making. The relationship between
Wright and his Rolleiflex-bearing Boswell is sophisticated
and knowing laced with wit, enhanced by self-knowledge.
If, as some art historians have suggested,
Frank Lloyd Wright was the last surviving exemplar of
the late nineteenth-century aesthetic movement,
then Pedro E. Guerrero was – and remains –
his faithful acolyte. At once willful and
subservient, independent and co-operative,
individually gifted and deferential to Wright’s
genius, he played an invaluable role in the reemergence
of Frank Lloyd Wright’s energy,
reputation and talent during the glorious final
act of his unparalleled architectural career.
art critic Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
ON EXHIBIT AT MONONA TERRACE
The Monona Terrace project began nearly sixty years
ago when Frank Lloyd Wright first proposed plans for a
dream civic center in downtown Madison. His “longawaited
dream of a wedding between the city and beautiful
Lake Monona” was finally realized when Monona
Terrace Community and Convention Center opened in 1997.
The facility serves as a community gathering place,
tourism destination, and a catalyst for economic activity
for the city, county and state. Monona Terrace is proud
to present this permanent exhibition of the photography
of Pedro E. Guerrero.
“This view over the reflecting pool is one of
the most widely used of my images of Taliesin
West. It was the welcoming mural for the
Museum of Modern Art retrospective of
Mr. Wright’s work in 1941.” (#36)
PHOTO: PASKUS STUDIO
“I composed this photograph while
waiting for Mr. Wright to decide
whether or not he was going to pose
for a portrait. I was intrigued by
the light and different patterns
and textures. I wanted to capture
the atmosphere that Mr. Wright sur-
rounded himself with when he was
– Pedro E. Guerrero (#6)
“Shortly after Mr. Wright died in 1959 the architec-
ture magazines feverishly began publishing stories on
his work. Architectural Forum used a number of my
photographs to accompany articles on Mr. Wright and
sent me to Bethesda, Maryland, to photograph the
house of Robert Llewelyn Wright, his son.” (#47)
Exhibition photographs copyright ©1985 Pedro E. Guerrero.
“This has always been my favorite room in all the world.
Mr. Wright conceived of this room as being experienced
in a sitting position, so my photograph had to reflect
that. And I tried to light the room with indirect lighting to
simulate natural light. Mr. Wright said he could always
recognize my photographs because of this.” (#9)
“Mr. Wright asked me to come along to visit the Reisley
House under construction in Westchester County, New York.
He said he didn’t always design a fireplace grate at the same
time as the house, because he didn’t want it to appear too
costly for the client. So when he visited the Reisley’s he sat
down on the spot and designed the grate.” (#25)
“It snowed all night and when I woke up on this
November morning in 1940, the entire countryside was
blanketed in white. Being an Arizona native, this was
the first snow I had ever experienced. I was so excited
that I just threw my coat over my pajamas, grabbed
my camera and began taking photographs.” (#11)
“This is a view of Taliesin West that is no longer
possible to photograph. The canvas flaps which were
lowered to allow the desert breezes to pass through
have been eliminated and replaced with glass and
plastic which can not be opened.” (#35)
This exhibition was organized by the
Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
and has been generously supported by:
The Overture Foundation
ONE JOHN NOLEN DRIVE • MADISON, WI 53703
(608) 261-4000 • TTY (608) 261-4150
BROCHURE DESIGN: MADDOX DESIGN WORKS