Italian Futurism (1909-­1944). Reconstructing the Universe

I had never seen an exhibition on Italian Futurism as rigorous as complete and above all, so well told as I saw in Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York. When I left, I had a hive of ideas in my head and I went for a walk to Central Park. It was a splendid day, because the sun coming through the leafless trees countered the cold breeze of the Hudson River. It was an ideal temperature; it was like the end of autumn in Madrid sitting on the terraces of Retiro Park.

The entrance to the Solomon R. Guggenheim costs $ 25 but certainly worth it. The exhibition had the power, the mystery that convey well-known authors with known works, combined with other works I had ever seen. Works by Giacomo Balla, Carlos Carrà and Umberto Boccioni, among other plethora of little-known authors but with an important role in Futurism. Painting was the most represented, but there were a lot of sculpture, film, fashion, theater, musical authors, designers, architects. Its when Futurism deployed in its entirety extension, affected almost every aspect of life and revealed in the spring of SXX the challenges of modernity, or in other words, what would be the conflicts to be solved from now on by society, art and culture in order to move forward. It is an exhibition that invites to imagine the futurible, starting from the future’s imaginary that took place at that time, trying to cover the "entire modern" from every possible forms of art.

When we see, for example, the painting of Balla ‘Abstract Speed + Sound’, we are already perceiving concerns about the new dimensions of time and space by the fast pace, the rapid succession of events involving modernity and how the artistic gaze translated. Similarly, the sculpture ‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space’ from Boccioni shows this concern, translated here into volumes in movement that turn into new forms, new poetic paradigms for what had been sculpture in the SXX until then.

Going each of the circular stories at the Guggenheim, it was like following the spiral of modernity unleashed by an artistic movement that tried to pulse it with all its consequences. I was receiving, from floor to floor, how it was expanding from the more traditional arts like painting or sculpture, others as design, fashion, film, music, but also felt how the same arts were reinvented again and other time in what today is still a profusion of imagination and aesthetic audacity.

It's a dizzying journey that excites imagination, that drives the spirit, the viewer's subjectivity to reach the maximum height, and then invites to look down as the paintings from Tullio Crali or the photo from Filippo Masoero, to experience a sense of wholeness. The paintings look down and through the clouds to the rural world, cultures scattered everywhere. Meanwhile the photograph hangs over the city in a dizzying spiral.

The futuristic look is a look steeped in science and technology as kind of prosthesis of sensitivity, as an eternal cheerfulness of the spirit whose translation is a continuous generation of new ways to help you organize and perceive the entire world around. No other movement of the artistic vanguard of SXX will show this vocation for covering the subject’s totatlity and its world of life unless the Russian Constructivism. Interestingly both movements had troubled relations with the two totalitarian systems that marked the SXX. The Fascism of Mussolini on the one hand and the Soviet Stalinism on the other.

Coming out of Central Park on my way to Manhattan I could see the majestic bridges across the river, large iron beams riveted to even more colossal columns. Also the majestic buildings that cross Park Avenue, some of them built in the first decades of SXX. You can also see the metro stations, with elevated tracks meandering the city, forming a moving mass of iron and concrete. Looking at these pictures, it crossed my mind that New York might have been an inspiration of Futurism or vice versa, the Big Apple, in his joviality, looked to the futuristic utopia to incorporate it into their spirit.

Artwork credits:

  1. Giacomo Balla. Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore), 1913–14. Oil on millboard (unvarnished) in artist’s painted frame, 54.5 x 76.5 cm, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553.31. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome.Photo: Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.
  2. Umberto Boccioni. Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio), 1913 (cast 1949). Bronze, 121.3 x 88.9 x 40 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Lydia Winston Malbin, 1989. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image Source: Art Resource, New York.
  3. Filippo Masoero. Descending over Saint Peter (Scendendo su San Pietro), ca. 1927–37 (possibly 1930–33). Gelatin silver print, 24 x 31.5 cm.Touring Club Italiano Archive
  4. Tullio Crali. Before the Parachute Opens (Prima che si apra il paracadute), 1939. Oil on panel, 141 x 151 cm. Casa Cavazzini, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Udine, Italy. Photo: Claudio Marcon.
  5. 6. 7. Installation view: Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 21–September 1, 2014. Photo: Kris McKay © SRGF.