Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (1895-1983) achieved superstar status in his lifetime, and the cultlike legend of his career in architecture, philosophy and sustainable design has only grown in the decades following his death. His innovative modes of thinking about pressing societal concerns of housing, transportation, communications, technology and resource allocation have become increasingly acknowledged as prescient as the world he envisioned has, for better and for worse, come into being at the dawn of the 21st century. But even amid all the accolades and hero worship, his parallel practice as an artist — sculptor, printmaker, graphic designer — has been rarely known or exhibited. Until now.
The exhibition "R. Buckminster Fuller: Inventions and Models" is the first of its kind in Los Angeles, where he spent the final years of his life, and includes a major print portfolio and a number of sculptural multiples he created during that time, most of which have been in private collections and rarely, if ever, shown. Culver City’s Edward Cella Art & Architecture is the best possible venue for a show like this; its program’s wide-ranging engagement with visual art that employs architectural forms, practices, materials and content is right there in its name.
The exhibition centers around the Inventions portfolio, a limited-edition print collection of Fuller’s key innovations, including the 4D House, the Dymaxion Car and the Geodesic Dome, representing just a few of the more than 30 patents he holds. Produced under the supervision of Buckminster Fuller by Colophon, Cincinnati, and published by Carl Solway Gallery, each print is actually a pair of two 30-inch by 40-inch screen-printed sheets, one of which is drawings for a patent invention, the other a full illustration. These two sheets may be presented side by side or as an overlay, and the gallery’s examples include versions of these views to great effect.
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Overall the installation is quite lively and colorful, and amazes with the sophistication and simplicity of its progressive, integrated scientific art. From vintage blueprints to intimately scaled geometrical forms, from colorful posters and a life-size rowing vessel to maps, videos and drawings, this is a side of Bucky, as his biggest fans call him still, that even many of those fans have never seen up close and personal.
Note: The gallery hosts a special conversation with Fuller's daughter, Allegra Fuller Snyder, and David McConville on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 3 p.m.
The exhibition continues at Edward Cella Art & Architecture in Culver City through Nov. 3.