Thursday, August 5, 2004

'Artist' sums up the man

Carl Solway pays tribute to friend
Buckminster Fuller - inventor,
philosopher, mathematician and more

By Marilyn Bauer / Enquirer staff writer

Art dealer Carl Solway spent a lot of time hanging out with architect/philosopher/futurist Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). Their friendship was motivation enough to launch a show on Fuller's work at Solway's gallery in the West End, but the exhibit was also timed to the July 12 release of a postage stamp honoring the inventor.

What: Prints and Sculpture by Buckminster Fuller (through Aug. 15)

Where: Carl Solway Gallery, 424 Findlay St., West End

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon-5 p.m. Saturday

Information: (513) 621-0069 or

If you look closely at the stamp, you'll see some of Fuller's most forward-thinking ideas, from housing that can be moved by plane, to a fuel-efficient car that seats 11, to his famed geodesic dome.

But a real understanding of the man is best found in the stories Solway tells.

"He was abrupt because he was always busy and completely self-absorbed. But he was also a very sweet, kind of warm person," Solway says. "He was tireless, ... always on the go. I published his portfolio (in 1981) with his 13 most famous inventions."

In the foreword to the portfolio, art critic Calvin Tomkins writes: "One of the great things about Bucky Fuller is that no professional category can hold him. Architect, engineer, inventor, mathematician, cartographer, philosopher, poet, teacher, cosmologist - he is all of these and something beyond them. ... We could make life easier for ourselves and call him an artist."

Dreamed up sculpture for state

Solway met Fuller in the '70s when Solway was asked to find a sculpture for the Ohio Supreme Court building.

"I wrote to him and said I would like him to do it and that it would be the juxtaposition of the laws of man and the laws of the universe," Solway says. "He agreed, but the Ohio Building Authority turned him down because he wasn't an Ohio artist.

"He wanted to make it huge, a diameter of 10 feet hanging from the ceiling and motorized. It would open and close like a flower."

Triangle intrigued him

Solways says Fuller spent his life looking at nature. "Fuller felt the triangle was the strongest structure that used the least amount of materials," he says. "The skin of his geodesic dome (1940s) is thinner relative to size than an eggshell is to an egg. He said this was the way we should build."

You can see this idea on the stamp, along with his idea of a high-rise plugging one house into another.

"He did the plan to make his houses, but lost all the money people gave him to make it happen. He was so depressed; he decided to commit suicide by jumping into a Michigan lake. He changed his mind and later said: 'I decided since I was such a failure at making money, I would spend the rest of my life making sense. I'm going to spend my life seeing how one man can change the world.' "


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