Checking out Buckminster Fuller at the Whitney

Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe

Over the weekend I finally went to the Whitney to check out Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe. Sure I knew about him but I really didn’t have a full grasp nor experience seeing any of his work or ideas in person. My first reaction as I started walking through everything was that I wish I could have taken some images for my own personal use. There were so many cool things that I would have liked to have been able to refer to in this post that I can’t. I wish more institutions would take MoMA’s smart photo policy. The other thing that I thought about almost instantly was that this exhibition was going to be as interesting for me as Brooklyn Museum of Art’s © MURAKAMI and MoMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind.

One of the more amusing images was the idea of putting a Dome over Manhattan where in ten years the savings of resources and energy would pay for itself. For a floating community, there was a number of tennis and basketball courts which I found interesting. Probably b/c they’re essentially on a ship and not land locked but taking some of the amenities with them. I luved all the drafting plans that he had. For anyone looking how to document interface work, you couldn’t do a lot better to see how he created his plans. He turned functional plans into pieces of art which isn’t ironic since I was looking at them on the walls of the Whitney. I did find it slightly disconcerting that the “real posters” that were also on exhibition didn’t nearly stand up to the visual impact that the hand draftings did.

Video projections seem like all the rage now though rarely deliver any kind of impact for me. There tends to be a level of separation between the work and myself that hasn’t really been emotionally resolved yet. However for this show there was an animation of geometric explorations that I found quite mesmerizing. I didn’t spend a lot of time with it, but seeing some of Fuller’s patterns in movement really opened things up to a new level. That shouldn’t be surprising as he did consider time in his work but that is pretty had to convey in print or a static wall.

How this show will compare w/ others that look at his work his hard for me to know as I’ve never seen anything put into that context before. But as a starting point to consider as I do my own design it’s hard not to put on a smile. Whether you’re an architect, industrial designer, graphic designer or some digital combination, it would be hard not to push your own ideas a bit further after seeing the show. While there’s a lot of books out there on Fuller, it’s too bad that the catalogue was sold out.

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