Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Italian Futurism

Written in the Futurst Manifesto of 1909 was the declaration of leaving the past behind. The author, a poet called Marinetti, modestly wrote about the futurists and their likeness to a lighthouse on a dark winters night. It is very long, very wordy and very dramatic. Enjoy this excerpt:
"Come, my friends!" I said. "Let us go! At last Mythology and the mystic cult of the ideal have been left behind. We are going to be present at the birth of the centaur and we shall soon see the first angels fly! We must break down the gates of life to test the bolts and the padlocks! Let us go! Here is they very first sunrise on earth! Nothing equals the splendor of its red sword which strikes for the first time in our millennial darkness."

So what was it all about? It was about leaving the past behind in terms of civilisation as a whole. Futurism wasn't limited to the arts and was a philosophy of the new age. It was about celebrating the ephemeral, speed and contingency of the 20th century. Nothing was certain or fixed, traditions were a thing of the past and the done thing was to move with the times. Machinery, youth and the industrialised world excited the Futurists. It originated in Italy, the country that was considered to have lost its way during the 19th century. In artistic terms we can tell that Italy had moved away from the podium when we notice that the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century were alllll about the Italians; in the 19th century? They were nowhere to be seen and had handed the baton to the French. They were back, baby. (Or tried to be).

Giacomo Balla, A Worker's Day, 1904
This whole movement happened amid a time of mass immigration to America due to the poverty in South Italy. The north however, was better developed and following the rest of Europe more closely. This is at the beginning of the 20th century in Milan and 5 years before the Manifesto was written and is therefore is not as excitable as the later works of Balla seem.

Street Light, 1909
Balla has obviously seen Van Gogh here - the sketchy lines. As Balla absorbs the ideas of the Futurists his art begins to follow suit. Here it looks like as if the street light is taking over the natural light offered by the moon and therefore portraying the idea that man overpowers nature.

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 1912
The idea that everything moves fast! 

Speeding Automobile, 1913
This is where the road to abstraction takes hold. The spirals are meant to show the speed of the vehivle although we cannot see it. His style has changed quite a lot.

Abstract Speed and Sound, 1914
Even more abstract...

Umberto Boccioni, the City Rises, 1910
Another Italian Futurist man. This shows how the futurists aspired to change life not just the arts but in general too. This shows men trying to control the wild horses. The idea here is that the horses represent nature and that the men must be in control to achieve what the futurists set out in the manifesto.

The Laugh, 1911
A slightly Cubist influence piece in that the composition is torn up into fragments with readable images and signs. The woman represented is laughing, and her laugh looks as if it is fire coming from within her. This idea is perhaps an allusion to the idea set out by the 20th century philosopher Henri Bergson, of whom believed that laughter is a strong force of energy. The strength of this energy is shown by Boccioni in the deep yellows and reds.

State of Mind - the Farewells, 1911
This is part of the State of Mind triptych. The fragmented painting is of a train setting off and leaving people behind and tearing them apart. Although Marinetti's futurist idea insisted that it should be a positive thing, I think Boccioni has focused in on the fact that modernity is powerful - because this doesn't seem too positive does it?

State of Mind - Those Who Go, 1911
Tormented space with faces torn apart. These are those who left on the train above.

State of Mind - Those Who Stay, 1911
Another dreary image of those who had to say goodbye to the others. This though, doesn't simply give us an impression of what the figures are thinking. The picture above is limited in that we are offered their state of mind - how upset they are to leave. However, this one gives a sense that not only is their state of mind suffering, but their surroundings aren't too pleasant either. The long rain like brush strokes could possibly show how bad it is at home. I'm not too sure what the history background for this is but considering we haven't approached the war I can only imagine those who leave are leaving for another country - to emigrate from the poverty.

Unique Focus of Continuity in Space, 1913
Looks like a transformer.... It looks like his cubismish paintings in the round.

Carlo Carra, the Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, 1911
Strong sense of nationalism in the flags being waved about, but also an interest in anarchism what with all of the seemingly angry and rebellious energy. This was painted about elections in Italy and it is believed that the abundance of colours is to represent the diversity of the people in the crowd.

Interventionist Manifesto, 1914
The influence of Synthetic Cubism  is visible and has lead to the phenomenon of collage-making! I have written in my notes that this says 'let's war with the austrians' or at least implies it in all that writing somewhere. Carra was obviously a bit of a nationalist...

Gino Severini, Self-Portrait, 1912
Very creepy and inspired by cubism.

Armoured Train, 1915

Anton and Giulio Bragaglia, the Slap, 1910
These two brothers aimed to shock people by modernity. To wake them up to the dawn of the new age so to speak. Very symbolically doing so by slapping here! Looks like a photo-montage.

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