Friday morning I attended a preview of Starting With The Universe, the MCA’s fascinating retrospective of the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. Inspired by the many sketches and studies the show includes (as well as this week’s analog LT), I’m forming this review around scans I made of the notebook I carried through the exhibition tour led by the museum’s James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Elizabeth Smith, Fuller’s loveable daughter Allegra Fuller Snyder and her son, Jaime Snyder.
Madeleine Grynsztejn‘s podium was decorated with Bucky-inspired models from the MCA store. As Blair Kamin has noted, the exhibit is highly-Illinois-centric, massaged from its original form at the Whitney to underline his multiple returns to Chicago and the midwest, his affiliations with IIT and SIU, and surprising marketing collaborations with Marshall Field. I’ve never attended a formal opening at the MCA, but in her introduction of Smith and the Snyders Grynstztejn made the comment that Friday’s was to be fully open to the public, in contrast with the museum’s standard method of staging separate functions on each floor of the museum “digressively exclusive” in that the top floor is most VIP, each floor down filled with P increasingly less I. Not really surprising, I suppose, but interesting one would bring up the fact that one’s parties are designed to limit interaction between not just two, but multiple classes of people. I also had to write out the correct pronunciation of Olafur Eliasson, whose name I’ve been saying oh-LA-fur ELLIE-a-son.
There’s a terrifically strange drawing from 1928 entitled “Watching A Tropical Hurricane From A 4D Tower,” expressive charcoal showing debris and rain swirling all around from the perspective of someone high inside an, uh, lightweight, central-mast-supported highrise structure like the one below.
Fuller referred to Henry Ford as “the greatest artist of the twentieth century.” A touching moment came when Allegra Fuller Snyder described 1920s footage of her father (included in the show) as allowing one to see him “as the tentative young man daring to dream,” in contrast to his later confidence and, according to some, insufferable bombast. A photograph of Noguchi’s chrome bust of Fuller is in the gallery below. Romany Marie came up in reference to her tavern, where Fuller and his contemporaries would meet in Greenwich Village. I’d never heard of the place so I wrote it down in order to look it up later–turns out she was quite the lady indeed.
There’s an incredible telegram on the wall in the exhibit: Dated 1936, Fuller wrote Isamu Noguchi an answer to his request for Fuller to explain Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity. I was hoping I could find it online and, lucky you, it’s imaged and transcribed here. I wasn’t so lucky finding the article “They’re Playing the World Game” by Susan Croce Kelly from the December 25, 1971 issue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat–if you can track it down, let me know.
Found this one too–Wikipedia has a dedicated entry for it. Oh, Wikipedia: You’re so good to me.
The reviews of this show have been mixed–Martin Filler boldly labeled it “nonsense”–but I say go. Below is a gallery of images I took with my phone and various other scanned materials; like she said, just click to enlarge.