"No cell phone use, speaker phone or photography while in the galleries." This sign in the lobby of the Whitney Museum means you won’t be able to mimic Buckminster Fuller while perusing his voluminous survey at the Whit. No attention deficit disorder, multi-tasking allowing in Adam Weinberg land!
Of course, the fun of Fuller lies in this participatory element. He used to decamp at Yale, during my undergraduate days, sometimes just after Ken Kesey left town with a bus full of empty nitrous oxide canisters, and informally lecture all comers without limits. Bucky was basically a nut with one idea, which he would recalibrate from every angle and vector. But what an idea! The geodesic dome manifested itself in a thousand forms at the Whitney, in wire, metal, plastic, foam and green cheese. A soothing mind massage, logically entering from the atomic nucleus, the snowflake and the supernova.
Below Bucky, on the Whit’s third floor, doors bang and screens flash. It must be Paul McCarthy, who is Bucky Fuller pumped full of crack and thorazine. These days everyone is claiming a piece of the old pervert’s success. Life and art would be better without McCarthy’s heavy excess; his lame shtick is simply a waste of time.
On the other hand, over in midtown, "Dali: Painting and Film" is one of the most spectacular shows ever mounted at the Museum of Modern Art. You are plunged into the master’s melting cauldron -- Un Chien Andalou and L’Âge d’or are projected on the walls and a huge backdrop for Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound hangs alongside Dali’s paintings and sketches for the film.
This show is one long amusement ride through Dali’s fermenting brain, snaking down the escalators to subsume the fey pretension of Olafur Eliasson, not to mention your correspondent’s meager descriptive powers. So let me highlight one of Dali’s bonbons.
It’s the 1946 Disney film Destino, presented at MoMA for the first time since Dali abandoned it for financial reasons 50 years ago. Dali’s dark-haired lass dances up a spiral mountain, as her tears turn to hummingbirds, ants crawl out of her palms and a thousand Sigmund Freuds bicycle by. Her object is her naked lover, a man lost in a maze until he transforms into a baseball player and she turns into a ball. This lost gem and the other films transform MoMA’s chilly galleries into an exhilarating multiplex.
There can be no doubt, as this show confirms, that the champion influence on the art made today by Rachel Harrison, David Altmejd, Thomas Hirschhorn and a thousand others is not Picasso, Warhol or Duchamp, it is Salvador Dali.
"Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe," June 26-Sept. 21, 2006, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
"Paul McCarthy: Central Symmetrical Rotation Movement Three Installations, Two Films," June 26-Oct. 12, 2008, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
"Dalí: Painting and Film," June 29-Sept. 15, 2008 at the Museum of Modern ArtCHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).