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Crombie Taylor, Aaron Siskind, and the Adler & Sullivan Project collection, 2008

Identifier: 008.03.05

Exhibit panels showing reproductions of photographs from a 1954 Institute of Design exhibit. Includes photography by Aaron Siskind, along with photographs by Richard Nickel and other advanced photography students of Aaron Siskind who, in 1952, undertook a comprehensive photographic survey of Louis Sullivan's architecture. Panels were created by exhibit co-curators John Vinci (Illinois Institute of Technology) and Jeffrey Plank (University of Virginia) for exhibit titled "Crombie Taylor, Aaron Siskind and the Adler and Sullivan Project" which premiered in S. R. Crown Hall (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago), June 12-August 3, 2008. Note that only images numbered 19-171 in the itemized listing were received by the IIT Archives. Those numbered 19-148 are a recreation of the original Louis Sullivan exhibit created by Aaron Siskind in the 1950s. The exhibit panels in this collection were used in the re-created 2008 exhibit of the historic 1954 exhibit. The 2008 exhibit was supplemented with additional items documenting work by Crombie Taylor.


  • Creation: 2008


Language of Materials

Records are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Research

Collection Size

178 Images : There are only 173 numbers, but 6 panels have the number 153.


Per publicity information provided by the Mies van der Rohe Society re the exhibit "Crombie Taylor, Aaron Siskind, and the Adler and Sullivan Project," curated by John Vinci and Jeffrey Plank: "This exhibit documents and illustrates the important contributions in the early 1950s of architect Crombie Taylor, photographer Aaron Siskind, and IIT's Institute of Design (ID) to our understanding of Louis Sullivan, an architect of central importance to the history of American architecture and to the history of Chicago. These contributions affirm the power of the ID's innovative curriculum. "As ID's acting director, Taylor encouraged Siskind to undertake the complete photographic documentation of Sullivan's buildings as an advanced photography class project. Photographs by Siskind and his students set a new direction for the visual investigation of Sullivan's architecture and the 1954 exhibit of the class work attracted national attention. "As the Siskind project reached completion Crombie Taylor began his pioneering restorations of the banquet hall and ladies parlor in the Auditorium Building. Taylor went on to document and recreate polychromatic stencils from Auditorium Building spaces and from the Garrick Theater for a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit. "At the same time that Siskind was photographing Sullivan buildings with such sympathy he was refining the abstract technique for photographing piles of rocks, wall surfaces, and other "found" objects for which he won acclaim in the 1950s. At the same time that Taylor rediscovered the play of low-wattage carbon filament light bulbs on the gold leaf that Sullivan used in the banquet hall stencils he was designing spare, even severe, residences in the later modern style. "How is it that two quintessentially modern artists - Siskind and Taylor - come to document Sullivan with such fidelity? How do Taylor and Siskind - who were artists and teachers, not scholars - come to amass an unparalleled body of comprehensive and rigorous evidence for architectural history? "The answer to these questions lies with the Institute of Design and the roles of Taylor and Siskind as teachers. They believed that much of what Sullivan was doing in architecture was consistent with the Institute of Design philosophy and curriculum as set forth in Moholy-Nagy's Vision in Motion (1946): light, space, motion, color, materials, social function for design, commitment to teach art. "The exhibit will include a recreation of the original Siskind/Sullivan project exhibit, vintage photos of the Sullivan stencil recovery process, Taylor's recreation of Sullivan's 12 polychromatic stencils from the Auditorium Building and Garrick Theater at original scale (2 x 4 to 4 x 6 panels), plus examples of Taylor's very modern architecture from the 1950s and Siskind's very abstract photography from the 1950s." The exhibit was sponsored by The Mies Society and mounted in S. R. Crown Hall (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago), Summer 2008.

Arrangement of the Collection

Arranged numerically as identifed by the exhibit curators.


Panels were created by the co-curators in cooperation with the Mies van der Rohe Society (IIT, Chicago) for the exhibit which was mounted in S. R. Crown during the summer of 2008. The panels were subsequently transferred to the IIT Archives.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Formerly 2009.008


Highly important collection. While this is not the original exhibit as created by Aaron Siskind in the 1950s, this recreation fully documents that historic seminal photography exhibit.

Related Material

See book by Jeffrey Plank, "Aaron Siskind and Louis Sullivan: The Institute of Design Photo Section Project"; San Francisco, CA: William Stout Publishers, 2008


Catherine Bruck, University Archivist

Part of the Paul V. Galvin Library. University Archives and Special Collections Repository

35 West 33rd Street
Chicago IL 60616
(312) 567-5993

Paul V. Galvin Library

35 West 33rd Street | Chicago, IL | 60616