Pop CultureJewish HistoryPhotographyFilm & VideoContemporary ArtArchitecture & DesignChildren & YouthJewish Culture & Ideas
Mar 15, 2018–Jul 8, 2018
The Art of Rube Goldberg explores the career of Rube Goldberg (1883–1970), one of the most celebrated and influential cartoonists of all time. Marking the first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Goldberg’s work since 1970, the exhibition brings together never-before-exhibited original drawings and preparatory sketches alongside rare photographs, films, letters, and memorabilia from the Goldberg family archives.
Share your experience with us @jewseum using #rubegoldbergCJM.
The exhibition begins with Goldberg’s groundbreaking early work, with original drawings tracing his rise to prominence as a nationally syndicated presence in the 1920s and 1930s. Highlights include one of Goldberg’s earliest existing drawings, “The Old Violinist,” from 1895, an original concept drawing of Boob McNutt and Bertha from the 1920s, as well as original artwork for such daily and weekly comic strip series as Foolish Questions, Mike and Ike—They Look Alike, Lala Palooza, and Boob McNutt from the 1910s and 1920s. The influence of vaudeville, jazz, and early film on Goldberg’s art is explored while his satirical take on fashion, sports, politics, gender roles, and other aspects of modern life is celebrated. Rare family photographs and early films provide period detail and essential context. Three full-page comics from the color supplements of Sunday newspapers (featuring Bill and Boob McNutt’s Ark) are shown alongside the original artwork.
Also on view are two of Goldberg’s earliest animated films, Leap Year from 1915, and a 1924 animation of Goldberg’s characters Boob and Bertha, as well as examples of Goldberg’s published books, rare color postcards, collectibles, and memorabilia based on Goldberg’s early cartoons.
At the center of The Art of Rube Goldberg is a section dedicated to his invention drawings. Showcasing over thirty original drawings, this section explores the development of these iconic inventions—overly complicated chain-reaction machines designed to perform simple tasks—from their first appearance in 1912 to the emergence of Goldberg’s mature style in “The Inventions of Professor Lucifer G. Butts, A.K.,” which appeared in Collier’s magazine from 1929–1931. His zany contraptions function, as he put it, as a “symbol of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results” and made him a popular cultural icon.
Also on view is film footage from the Goldberg scripted film—Soup to Nuts—from 1930 starring the Three Stooges; the classic self-operating napkin sequence from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936); a rare interview of Goldberg by legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ 1987 film The Way Things Go. There are examples of children’s toys, hobby kits, and board games directly inspired by the invention drawings, as well as examples of Goldberg’s related advertising. Highlights from the 2009 documentary film Mousetrap to Mars profiles the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Building Contest.
Rube Goldberg was born in San Francisco in 1883 and died in New York in 1970. He was part of an established Jewish family—his father Max was Sheriff of San Francisco County in the 1890s. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1900 and UC Berkeley in 1904, in engineering. After working as an engineer for the city briefly, he left to do sports cartoons for the San Francisco Chronicle. He relocated to New York in 1907, where he remained for the rest of his life; he married and had two sons, George and Thomas, who changed the family name to George during WWII.
Rube Goldberg still inspires fanciful art, San Diego Jewish World
RUBE GOLDBERG!!! Great Show at Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, Lively Foundation
Who Was Rube Goldberg, and What Are His Contraptions?, How Stuff Works
Inventos descabellados hacen reflexionar sobre la tecnología, Taringa!
Charles Desmarais’ art picks for May 13, San Francisco Chronicle
The Story Behind Rube Goldberg’s Complicated Contraptions, Smithsonian.com
This Exhibit of Classic Rube Goldberg Cartoons Is The Antidote To Silicon Valley Technophilia, Forbes
Rube Goldberg and ‘Contraption’ @ CJM, Squarecylinder
Though he was no inventor, Rube Goldberg’s ‘machines’ made him a household name, The Times of Israel
Jewish Contraptions, Tablet Magazine
Rube Goldberg’s beautifully ridiculous contraptions come to life in SF, East Bay Times
SFChronicle critics’ picks: What to do the week of April 15, San Francisco Chronicle
Rube Goldberg’s beautifully ridiculous contraptions come to life in SF, The Mercury News
Bay Area arts and entertainment picks, April 11, San Francisco Chronicle
Joking Aside, Rube Goldberg Got Tech Right, Collector's Weekly
At the CJM, 'Rube Goldberg' is an Adjective, Not a Verb, KQED Arts
7 awesome SF Bay Area things to do this weekend, March 30–April 1, The Mercury News
Rube Goldberg’s famed cartoons on display at Contemporary Jewish Museum, The Mercury News
Contemporary Jewish Museum Honors Cartoonist Rube Goldberg, Hoodline
Celebrating Rube Goldberg's Dada-Like Cartoon Inventions, KQED Do List
Patented Rube Goldberg, Bay Area Reporter
When Hubert de Givenchy came to San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle
The work of Rube Goldberg — artist, inventor, adjective — on display in SF, San Francisco Chronicle
Rube Goldberg’s machines (and his politics) on display at CJM, J. The Jewish News of Northern California (JWeekly)
Cartoonist & Invention Illustrator Rube Goldberg’s Career-Spanning Exhibition on View at the CJM, SF Station
Winter 2018 Arts Preview: Museums and Galleries, San Francisco Examiner
2018 in Bay Area art museums, Bay Area Reporter
The Art of Rube Goldberg was conceived by Creighton Michael; developed in cooperation with Heirs of Rube Goldberg, LLC, New York, New York; and curated by Max Weintraub. The tour was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC. The Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco’s presentation is presented on occasion of The CJM’s Tenth Anniversary in its Daniel Libeskind-designed building.
Lead sponsorship is provided by Gaia Fund, Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt, and Nellie and Max Levchin. Major sponsorship is provided by Dorothy R. Saxe. Patron Sponsorship is provided by Fred Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, in memory of Ben and A. Jess Shenson; and Amy and Matt Berler. Supporting sponsorship is provided by David Agger; Riva and David Berelson, in memory of Gita and Henry Baigelman; Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery; Joyce B. Linker; and Marilyn and Murry Waldman. Additional support is provided by Ron and Barbara Kaufman and Scott Ullman.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum thanks the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for its lead sponsorship of the Museum’s exhibition program.