The big fat full-color investor’s report that has been kicking around my house since October has gone through some changes in the past few weeks. At first I thought Buckminster Fuller on Artforum’s cover could only mean that the economy’s screwed. His big fat face peering out from the corner of a black-and-white arial photograph said "There’s no money to be made anymore." And, truly, that might be what his work means to the artworld, but the mag is still it’s monstrously large self, packed with ads for art. Maybe next month there’ll be a skinny one, like the late 90s.
It was nice to see Chantal Ackerman get the nod (her current travelling exhibition started at the University of Houston’s Blaffer Gallery last winter), Ed Albee (he works at the same school) collaborating at Peter Strum in Soho, Jeff Shore and Jon Fisher (their piece at McClain’s Bloodline really stole the show) at the Kemper in Kansas City and Project Row Houses’ founder Rick Lowe garnering some credit for work done in Los Angeles on the Watts House Project. The Menil Collection’s Neohoodoo show ended up as #8 on artist Nicole Cherubini’s Top Ten. There was a lot of good stuff to like even before getting to dissecting R. Buckminster Fuller. It felt so depressing, it all seemed like a prognosis for slow, entropic death, the artworld chasing ephemerality until exhausted.
Now in November, the Southeby’s and Christie’s auctions starting today loom over gallerists heads. In just happy things, 80s rock stars A.R. Penck, Cindy Sherman and Keith Haring all warrented big ‘ol advertising dollars for new shows. Well, maybe Penck isn’t a rock star. In just sad things, there was a lot of money spent on promoting Miami’s various December festivals and fairs- the events that have thrived in the pastdecade seem poised to be the canary in the mine for the artworld bubble. Neohoodoo is out there if you’ll be in South Florida this winter. Even more peculiar- the spotlight on Fuller, once shallow and subjective, has changed in the light of an American election.
OK, the guy invented the geodesic dome and has an exciting techological breakthough named after him ("Buckyballs"; buckminsterfullerene) He rabbited on endlessly somewhere between Cy Twombly and Le Corbusier. He designed all sorts of shit that was never built. He didn’t pick sides, he made decisions. From ‘who cares’ to ‘I care’ is not to be taken out of context; but it is a lovely repudiation of culture war values, identity politics and unilateralism. In the context of a presidential campaign extolling the same virtues the practical applications of Fuller’s societal reconfiguration come alive in grassroots organization, integration of disciplines and the proliferation of images and meanings.
Whatever was gained in leaving art’s essential commerce in a patronage system throughout Modernism, Fuller points to what we lost. Art was beholden to leftist politics as soon as the non-profit system was realized, and in the end the capitalism that took the place of the government after 1995 left the academic system in place that had bred the identity politics of postmodernism. Perhaps if a few decades we can throw another label onto the latter half of the 20th century in art, but for now it is defined as the answer to Modernism’s big questions and big statements. Fuller was experimenting as a "comprehensive anticipatory design scientist" in the heart of the Modern world, in the 1930s and 40s. Hexagons and triangles and spheres amounted to an extension of the Bauhaus until you started to play with them. Sounding like a William Burroughs inflection of Thomas Friedman the artist points in the same direction as Nikola Tesla and John Cage. As autocratic as conservatism, liberalism is a wedge between the artworld and the public- but it is breaking down. As capital flees auction houses the shape of the artworld will change dramatically, and might effect me personally. I really wonder what it’ll look like.
also by Sean Carroll
- Top Ten Old Things Its Good To Have Around 2008 - December 31st, 2008
- Top Ten New Things of 2008 - December 30th, 2008
- Top Ten Losses of 2008 - December 30th, 2008
- Top Ten Sculptures, Intallations and Giveaways in 2008 - December 30th, 2008
- Top Ten Paintings, Drawings and Performances in 2008 - December 26th, 2008