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GRAM hosts The Art of Rube Goldberg


The Art of Rube Goldberg opened this past weekend at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. WGVU stopped in for a preview.

Rube Goldberg was a beloved 20th Century cartoonist and inventor.

“He trained as a scientist, as an engineer.” “I’m Ron Platt, Chief Curator at the Grand Rapids Museum of Art. “Because he was so interested in being an artist he got work as a cartoonist so he could draw and really caught on when he moved to New York from San Francisco. He began a career that stretched 30 years and had amazing success as a syndicated cartoonist in newspapers all over the country.”

Held in high regard his name appears as a definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Platt explains,“Rube Goldberg means a contraption that does all kinds of crazy, sequential things with ultimately unusual or sort of haphazard results.”

“Well folks, there she is the Rube Goldberg door opener-upper. Sure, sure, I know they have a gadget called an electric eye that does practically the same thing, but that’s no good for a waiter.” That’s Goldberg appearing in a 1940 promotional film titled Something for Nothing. “How does this door opener-upper really work?”

Platt describes the artwork, “He drew these machines that had all these sort of connecting parts and they would end up running through all these crazy mechanations and then doing something like tying your shoe. I think it was a commentary on the technology of the time and how bewildering it was to so many people.”

Goldberg himself explains this system in the promotional film, “Now cat jumps on mouse ‘C’ causing lever ‘D’ to lift lighted candle ‘E’ which ignites fuse ‘F’ and sets off bomb ‘G’ opening door ‘H’ very gently.”

Platt says the heart and soul of GRAM’s The Art of Rube Goldberg exhibition are his invention drawings, “We knew that when we saw this exhibition and the opportunity to present it that it was so relevant to today.”

The Art of Rube Goldberg is on display at the GRAM through August 27th.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.