Visionary architecture, 1960

Wall label for Buckminster Fuller's "Partial Enclosure of Manhattan Island" (1960) as presented at MoMA's "Visionary Architecture" exhibit, fall 1960. Text probably written by Arthur Drexler.

I'm fascinated by the “Visionary Architecture” show put on at MoMA in the fall of 1960. The exhibit consisted of materials (photographs of models, plans, drawings) from 28 ideas for cities and urban structures “considered too revolutionary to build.”  “Ideal projects,” writes the show's curator Arthur Drexler, “afford the sole occasions when [the architect] can rebuild the world as he knows it ought to be.”  And: “When ideal projects are inspired by criticism of the existing structure of society, as well as by the architect’s longing for a private world of his own, they may bring forth ideas that make history.” Theory and practice — vision and realism — merge in this presentation. “Today virtually nothing an architect can think of is technically impossible to realize.” Here, then, comes a definition: “Social usage, which includes economics, determines what is visionary and what is not.”

Buckminster Fuller's project on display here was brand new — done in 1960, just before the show opened. The wall label from the MoMA exhibit is reproduced above. This is vintage dome-obsessed Fuller, but now with a hint of ambient-coverage aesthetic the manner that would emerge with Christo and others. A dome over “a large part” of Manhattan.

The 1920s were all the rage in the '50s

Nicholas Joost had been a Chicago-area professor and, for several years in the early 50s, was an associate editor at Poetry magazine. After a while his main interest became The Dial, the avant-garde magazine whose heyday had been the 1920s. Eventually he would write several books about the Dial but first, from 1956 through 1960, he helped prepare a major exhibit on the Dial put on at the Worcester Museum (in Massachusetts). Joost's manuscripts (at Georgetown) include correspondence of the late fifties and they seem (to judge from the finding aid) almost entirely taken up with the Dial exhibit. I haven't seen the exhibit catalogue for the show, which opened in '59 and ran through part of '60, but I'm soon going to be in touch with the folks now at Worcester, get a copy of the catalogue and find out what institutional records they have kept. I've long been curious about specific reasons why the 1920s were so much the rage in the mid and late 1950s, why specifically Fitzgerald's fiction had such a comeback, why American modernists circa 1925 was of such great interest. This Dial show and its reception will, I think, give me some further clues.

Motherwell: Which side are you on?

Readers here will know by now that one of my obsessions is the representation of the 1930s in the 1950s. I suppose you could say I collect these bits of (usually politicized) retrospectives. At right is an oil-and-charcoal painting by Robert Motherwell about the Spanish Civil War - done in 1958-60. Look over at my 1960 blog for more.

On the rounendless talk of cut-ups

Bob Perelman's history

I've recently published a long essay on the poetry of Bob Perelman. It's called "The President of This Sentence." It's about the convergence in Perelman's writing of two parallel and also, at times, convergent analyses--one of modernism's rise and fall; the other of the state of Cold War at the point of giving way to New Left and countercultural skepticism. Here is a link to the whole essay, and here is the opening paragraph:

Reading by Charles Olson from the Maximus Poems

Charles Olson at a blackboardWe at PennSound are pleased to say that Charles Olson's reading from the Maximus poems at Beloit College has now been segmented. He read for 50 minutes total from many sections of the long work. Here is your link.

Introduction to a Symposium on Poetry in 1960

My introduction to the recent symposium on poetry in 1960. It begins with a look at a late late 1959 essay by Stanley Kunitz predicting that the 1960s will in poetry be a time of consolidation and not of experiment--that experiment was all exhausted, played out.

Cubism, the Word

cubism graphed on the Google Books Ngram Viewer
cubism graphed on the Google Books Ngram Viewer

According to Google Labs' fairly new "Books Ngam Viewer," which tracks usage of words and phrases in all the books Google has scanned dating from 1800 through 2000, the use of the word "Cubism" (and closely varients) peaked in 1960.

Handbook of Modern & Contemporary American Poetry

I have an essay in this forthcoming book, and am excited to keep such good company. I expect the book won't be out for another year. And I'm probably jumping the gun in posting the contents but I'll wait 'til someone tells me to take it down. You'll get the gist of what's in it, anyway. (Below at right: Cary Nelson.)

The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Edited by Cary Nelson

1. A Century of Innovation: American Poetry from 1900 to the Present
  Cary Nelson

2. Social Texts and Poetic Texts: Poetry and Cultural Studies
          Rachel Blau DuPlessis

3. American Indian Poetry at the Dawn of Modernism
          Robert Dale Parker

4. “Jeweled Bindings”: Modernist Women’s Poetry and the Limits of Sentimentality
          Melissa Girard

Cary Nelson5. Hired Men and Hired Women: Modern American Poetry and the Labor Problem
          John Marsh

6. Economics and Gender in Mina Loy, Lola Ridge, and Marianne Moore
          Linda A. Kinnahan

7. Poetry and Rhetoric: Modernism and Beyond
          Peter Nicholls

8. Cézanne’s Ideal of “Realization”: A Useful Analogy for the Spirit of Modernity in American Poetry
 Charles Altieri

9. Stepping Out, Sitting In: Modern Poetry’s Counterpoint with Jazz and the Blues
          Edward Brunner

10.  Out With the Crowd: Modern American Poets Speaking to Mass Culture
            Tim Newcomb

11.  Exquisite Corpse: Surrealist Influence on the American Poetry
           Scene, 1920-1960
            Susan Rosenbaum

12.  Material Concerns: Incidental Poetry, Popular Culture, and Ordinary Readers in Modern America
          Mike Chasar

13.  “With Ambush and Stratagem”: American Poetry in the Age of Pure War
            Philip Metres

14.  The Fight and the Fiddle in Twentieth-Century African American Poetry
           Karen Jackson Ford

15.  Asian American Poetry
           Josephine Park

16.  “The Pardon of Speech”: The Psychoanalysis of Modern American Poetry
            Walter Kalaidjian

17.  American Poetry, Prayer, and the News
           Jahan Ramazani

18.  The Tranquilized Fifties: Forms of Dissent in Postwar American Poetry
           Michael Thurston

19.  The End of the End of Poetic Ideology, 1960
           Al Filreis

20.  Fieldwork in New American Poetry: From Cosmology to Discourse
           Lytle Shaw

21.  “Do our chains offend you?”: The Poetry of American Political Prisoners
            Mark W. Van Wienen

22.  Disability Poetics
           Michael Davidson

23.  Green Reading: Modern and Contemporary American Poetry and Environmental Criticism
           Lynn Keller

24.  Transnationalism and Diaspora in American Poetry
           Timothy Yu

25.  “Internationally Known”: The Black Arts Movement and U.S. Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop
            James Smethurst

26.  Minding Machines / Machining Minds: Writing (at) the Human-Machine Interface
           Adalaide Morris

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