Monday, June 25, 2012

Venturi-Klee-Fuller (25 June - 1 July)

Robert Venturi, American architect, birthday 25 June 1925
Paul Klee, Swiss-German painter, death 29 June 1940
Buckminster Fuller, American systems theorist, architect, engineer & inventor, death 1 July 1983

If it were not for Vincent Scully, Robert Venturi might never have been as prolific and post-modernist architecture might not have developed as fully as it needed to.  Scully almost single handedly championed Venturi theories to an unsympathetic functionalist architectural community.  With his manifesto “Complexity & Contradiction in Architecture” Venturi established theories which drew from both the vernacular and high-style resulting in “the difficult whole” (illustrating the richness of architectural composition) unlike what modernism had grown into at the time which was singularly stylistic.  In “Learning from Las Vegas”, he along with Steven Izenour, Denise Scott Brown and their students from Yale in the 1960s, took yet another biting jab at the elitist modernist movement quoining the term “decorated shed”; a notion which compressed the complexity of architectural design practically into two dimensions adorning a simple structure.  In 1991, Robert Venturi finally received the recognition he deserved when he was awarded the Pritzker Prize (the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in architecture) and is credited with saving modernism from itself.  The lesson here, stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to go against grain in order for your voice to be heard.       

Paul Klee was an artist who was encouraged by the multitude of conflicting theories which were circulating at the Bauhaus during the time he taught here.  As a result, his work was influenced by multiple movements such as expressionism, surrealism and cubism after greatly admiring the work of Picasso.  His dry wit and humor is illustrated in much of work yet toward the end of his life as he suffered from a painful and long illness.  That, too, was reflected in the paintings of this time.  This connection between the work and mood in conjunction with responding application methods and mediums makes Klee’s work hard to categorize but his influence is widespread.  I don’t believe the work of future abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock would have been as embraced if it were not for Klee leading the way.   

To go against social convention most of the time would have one considered a bit odd.  Buckminster Fuller would speak and write in his own unique style using long run-on sentences and terminology he would invent.  He would wear three different watches and for a time only sleep two hours a day which he believed was more efficient.  But for Buckminster Fuller this eccentricity is far more reaching than these quirks and the geodesic dome for which is most known.  Bucky was an early forerunner of the environmental movement and it is toward that goal of efficiency, to “do more with less” so people could have more was what his work was to accomplish.  He was devoted to “applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity.”  These principles lead to the Dymaxion House which he determined to be energy efficient and inexpensive but a complete failure commercially.  One term he’s credited with inventing is synergetics which is the empirical study of systems in transformation with an emphasis on total system behavior.  For a guy that was expelled from Harvard twice, he received 47 honorary degrees for his contribution to and influence on design.  It says something to his character that Harvard would allow him back after kicking him out the first time.     

Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates
The Pritsker Prize website
The Paul Klee Museum, Bern, Switzerland
Paul Klee work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Paul Klee work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Paul Klee work at the Guggenheim, New York
The Buckminster Fuller Institute
The R. Buckminster Fuller Archive at Stanford University
to learn more about the images shown here 

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