Monday, February 20, 2017

REVIEW: The Art of Rube Goldberg

A postage stamp featuring Rube Goldberg's art.
A postage stamp featuring Rube Goldberg's art (MoPop).


Ironically, Rube Goldberg was one of America’s most popular cartoonists, but today, many are unaware of his talent – until now. A brand new traveling exhibit, "The Art of Rube Goldberg" has recently opened at MoPop featuring over 90 pieces of art that spans more than 70 years of this man’s life. This is just a small fraction of the estimated 50,000 cartoons that he drew during his lifetime.

Even if they aren’t familiar with his name, most people are familiar with Goldberg’s style of “inventions” where a path of unrelated objects work together to create a solution to a problem we didn’t even knew we had. The most well-known example of this is the Goldberg-inspired Mousetrap Game. It was his humor and creativeness that inspired some well-known sequences in various movies and cartoons including the Wallace and Gromit shorts, Edward Scissorhands, Back to the Future and most recently, OK Go’s music video, “This Too Shall Pass.” However, this was just part of what Goldberg has been known for.

Rube Goldberg and his father
Rube Goldberg and his father.
Born on the 4th of July in 1883, Reuben Goldberg grew up wanting to be an artist, but his father wanted him to study engineering. He graduated from U. Cal Berkeley with a degree in engineering and was hired afterward by the Water and Sewer Department of San Francisco, but after six months, he quit to take a job as a sports cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle. He later moved to New York to work for the New York Evening Mail. By 1915, Goldberg was earning $25,000 per year and was known as “American’s most popular cartoonist.” His works includes comics titled, Mike and Ike (They Look Alike), Boob McNutt, Foolish Questions and Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts who created all those crazy invention mentioned above.

In 1930, Goldberg wrote the screenplay for the film Soup to Nuts which featured the first appearance of the Three Stooges as well as one of his inventions. Goldberg was also the first president of the National Cartoonists Society.

Rube Goldberg's Professor Butts cartoon.
A Professor Butts cartoon.
Understanding some of Goldberg’s history will help you to appreciate MoPop’s new exhibit. Those who are wanting to see a bunch of Goldberg-styled inventions will be somewhat disappointed. There is one “hands on” hand-stamping invention to try out on display as well as a couple of domino stacking activity stations, but mostly, this is an art exhibit. The best part of the exhibit are the short films being featured there that include clips from Soup to Nuts, the short film, Something for Nothing where Goldberg explains his perpetual motion ideas and scenes from the 2009 documentary, Mousetrap to Mars.

"The Art of Rube Goldberg" continues through April 24, 2017. More information about the exhibit can be found here.

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