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Review: Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe/Museum of Contemporary Art

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Among the more than 300 objects in “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe,” visions of dome-covered, climate-controlled cities, three-wheeled, bullet-shaped cars and hexagonal housing models might seem more like manna for sci-fi nerds than part of a blueprint for sustainability. The traveling exposition details the legacy of R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller from simplistic pencil sketches of futuristic, towering “lightful” houses designed for a rapidly growing population to Fuller’s geodesic dome from the 1967 Montreal Expo. A self-described “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist,” Fuller blended disciplines including geometry, engineering and architecture to design housing and machines that create more with less. In this vein, it isn’t surprising that Fuller once declared automobile industrialist Henry Ford one of the greatest contemporary artists. Fuller emulated Ford’s scientific mass-production technique, but used it to plan mass housing, economical distribution of resources and raising the standard of living. He thus became a bit of a counterculture icon, forming lifelong partnerships with Greenwich Village artists like Isamu Noguchi. In many displays of Fuller’s architecture, function is enhanced by the beauty of design. Hundreds of triangles are linked to form Fuller’s geodesic dome, creating a striking display but also a structure that is self-sustained by equal distribution of weight and pressure. A model of Fuller’s 1927 Dymaxion house shows a six-sided, shiny aluminum elevated house that looks like something out of the Jetsons. Fuller’s inventions were born out of a recognition, following several crises in the last century, that humanity’s resources are limited. As stocks crash, oil wells dry up and the threat of global warming looms, current viewers will likely see that Bucky Fuller solved problems well ahead of their time. (Ben Broeren)

Through June 21 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago.

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