A new exhibition at Stanford Libraries reveals the many creative relationships that influenced R. Buckminster Fuller

Press release
September 30, 2021David Jordan

Fuller with Globe and Model

Precession: R. Buckminster Fuller’s Creative Connections explores significant interpersonal relationships of the renowned architect and inventor. 

R. Buckminster Fuller, an American architect widely known for popularizing and securing a U.S. patent for the geodesic dome, is the subject of a new exhibition opening at Stanford Libraries on October 7, 2021. Precession: R. Buckminster Fuller’s Creative Connections brings forward items from Fuller’s archive, which Stanford acquired in 1999.

Portrait of R. Buckminster Fuller Photographed by Laurence Cuneo, 1976.

Fuller said that “precession is completely regenerative… one brings out the other,” and the exhibit demonstrates this as it features Fuller’s friendships with various artists, intellectuals, and global thinkers over the course of his more than 60 years as an architect and public intellectual. Precession is used in the exhibit as a metaphor for the reciprocal influences between Fuller and other creatives.

Ruth Asawa, an American sculptor nationally known for her wire sculptures, is one of the creative connections featured in the exhibit. Asawa, whose paper archive is also at Stanford Libraries, was Fuller’s student at Black Mountain College. Black Mountain was an experimental college founded in 1933 centered on John Dewey’s principles of education that emphasized the study of art as central to a liberal-arts education. The impact Fuller and Black Mountain College had on Asawa’s artistic career has been well documented; this exhibition gives viewers a glimpse into that relationship.

Handwritten note by Ruth Asawa
Note from Ruth Asawa to R. Buckminster Fuller. Ruth Asawa was a student at Black Mountain College from 1946-1949, where she met Fuller, who taught there in the summers of 1948 and 1949.

Measuring over 1300 linear feet, the Fuller Archive is the largest single manuscript collection at Stanford and includes papers and numerous recordings and models spanning the years 1920 to 1983. “As archives often do, this collection has brought new insights about Fuller to light and illuminated key relationships across his multifaceted career as a mathematician, professor, and public intellectual,” said Roberto Trujillo, Associate University Librarian and the Frances and Charles Field Curator for Special Collections. 

Fuller standing in front of a class of people, holding a spherical frame.

Fuller had hundreds of friendships, professional relationships, and collaborators throughout his life, which he maintained through travel as well as copious correspondence. The exhibit focuses on just a handful of the many well-documented relationships within the Fuller Collection as well as other manuscript collections at Stanford Libraries.

Precession: R. Buckminster Fuller’s Creative Connections opens October 7 and will be on view through January 3, 2022, in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda in the Cecil H. Green Library. Access to campus libraries is currently limited to current Stanford ID cardholders. In conjunction with the exhibition’s opening, an online panel discussion is scheduled for October 14, 2021, from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm PT. This event is free and open to the public; registration is required. An online version of the exhibition is planned to be released at a later date. 

Fuller’s Creative Connections is curated by Hsiao-Yun Chu and Robert Trujillo and produced, designed, and installed by Deardra Fuzzell. Many individuals also contributed their time and expertise to make this exhibition possible. Special thanks to Jaime Fuller Snyder and the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller; Norman Foster and Alicia V. Royo of the Norman Foster Foundation; Elena Ochoa Foster, Valerie Maasburg, and the staff of IvoryPress; the Imogen Cunningham Trust; and the Isamu Noguchi Museum and Foundation. We also wish to acknowledge the following people for their support: Michael Keller, Meagan Trott, Wayne Vanderkuil, Christopher Hacker, Glynn Edwards, Arcadia Falcone, Laura Wilsey, Jessica Cebra, Catherine Aster, Brian Kerrick, Ramoncito Cuenco, Laurence Cefalu, Addie Lanier, Jeffrey Head, Tom Gitterman, and David Tucker.