|ISBN: 978-1-60606-475-7 Getty Publications|
Monday, December 12, 2016
"Futurist Painting Sculpture (Plastic Dynamism)" by Umberto Boccioni
Oddly enough, I feel nostalgic for the Futurists. Which is as a movement in the very early 20th century. One should not have those feelings. As far as I know, these Italian poets/artists were the first militant arts movement in Europe. Perhaps the little brother to the Cubists, but with a bigger mouth. Along with F.T. Marinetti, who was actually the main figurehead in the Italian Futurist movement, there was also Umberto Boccioni, who wrote about the Futurist aesthetic, as well as making sculptures, wrote a collection of essays in 1914, "Futurist Painting Sculpture (Plastic Dynamism)" that along with Marinetti's writings, are very much the ground zero for Futurist thought and action.
While Cubism is very much about how one looks at the world, the Futurists were focused on the motion, speed, and their passion to destroy the past, so that the young artist can live and work in a dynamic (Italian) culture. To do so, they must eliminate images of the nude, feminism, portraits of flowers, and statues made of stone and bronze. They prefer the plastic material which they see as something totally new and therefore, beautiful. The interesting thing about The Futurists is that they had strong feelings about the nature of being Italian, as well as a need to shock the masses to embrace the new that's the 20th century. Of course, this leads to Fascism in their country -if not directly, then spiritually. A lot of the art movements of the time is basically about the eye confronts an object in front of them. Impressionists, Cubists and so forth were more in tuned to the nature of how one sees the landscape in front of them. Futurists literally wanted to transform that landscape into a physical presence. To pour cement over Venice was one of their aesthetic goals, which I'm sure would warm the heart of a real estate mogul.
Still, and especially when I was young, I was intrigued by the Futurists, just due to the fact that I liked Marinetti's narratives and the stylistic poetic skills he brought to the paper. They believed as men around 30, that by the time of 40, you're out of business in the art/writing world. They worshiped the idea of youth doing art and making a society that benefits the beauty of the race car and everything that science can bring to that table - including war, which is nothing more than a cleansing of the world. In a style, it reminds me of more of the militant aspects of the punk movement of the 1970s. The ground zero is approached to make a new culture. This, appeals to a man in his late teens to early 20s, but alas, as I got older, I went back to Cubist thought. On the other hand, we can't forget the shock of the new, and the need to flush out the old, to make space for a new idea. Ironically sometimes the new idea is not that hot.
"Futurist Painting Sculpture" is a fascinating book on many levels. Beautifully designed by the Getty Publications (would the Futurists appreciate being part of an institution like the Getty?) and wonderfully edited by Richard Shane Agin and Maria Elena Versari, this is an important document to have in one's collection. Also one gets a lengthy introduction by Versari (almost 50 pages long) that is informative and places the Futurists in the context of the early century. The book also includes manifestos written by various members of the Futurists as well. Boccioni, like Marinetti, wrote to shock, and of course reading it now in 2016, it doesn't have that freshness. But if one can imagine themselves back in time, and being introduced to something visually and aesthetically jarring - well, it would be very interesting.