First Comprehensive Overview of the Influential Movement to Be Shown in the U.S.
Featuring Over 360 Works, Including Several Never Before Seen Outside of Italy
Exhibition: Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York
Location: Full rotunda and ramps, High Gallery, Annex Levels 5 and 7
Dates: February 21–September 1, 2014
Italian Futurism unfolds chronologically, juxtaposing works in different mediums as it traces the myriad artistic languages the Futurists employed as their practice evolved over a 35-year period. The exhibition begins with an exploration of the manifesto as an art form, and proceeds to the Futurists’ catalytic encounter with Cubism in 1911, their exploration of near-abstract compositions, and their early efforts in photography. Ascending the rotunda levels of the museum, visitors follow the movement’s progression as it expanded to include architecture, clothing, design, dinnerware, experimental poetry, and toys. Along the way, it gained new practitioners and underwent several stylistic evolutions—shifting from the fractured spaces of the 1910s to the machine aesthetics (or arte meccanica) of the ’20s, and then to the softer, lyrical forms of the ’30s. Aviation’s popularity and nationalist significance in 1930s Italy led to the swirling, often abstracted, aerial imagery of Futurism’s final incarnation, aeropittura. This novel painting approach united the Futurist interest in nationalism, speed, technology, and war with new and dizzying visual perspectives. The fascination with the aerial spread to other mediums, including ceramics, dance, and experimental aerial photography.
The exhibition is enlivened by three films commissioned from documentary filmmaker Jen Sachs, which use archival film footage, documentary photographs, printed matter, writings, recorded declamations, and musical compositions to represent the Futurists’ more ephemeral work and to bring to life their words-in-freedom poems. One film addresses the Futurists’ evening performances and events, called serate, which merged “high” and “low” culture in radical ways and broke down barriers between spectator and performer. Mise-en-scène installations evoke the Futurists’ opera d’arte totale interior ensembles, from those executed for the private sphere to those realized under Fascism.
Italian Futurism concludes with the five monumental canvases that compose the Syntheses of Communications (1933–34) by Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), which are being shown for the
first time outside of their original location. One of few public commissions awarded to a Futurist in the 1930s, the series of paintings was created for the Palazzo delle Poste (Post Office) in Palermo, Sicily. The paintings celebrate multiple modes of communication, many enabled by technological innovations, and correspond with the themes of modernity and the “total work of art” concept that underpinned the Futurist ethos.