Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

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War Arrow
JEFFREY ARCHER
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Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by War Arrow »

Futurism was born in Italy in 1909(ish) with the publication of Marinetti's first (of many) Futurist manifestoes. What with impressionism, post-impressionism, cubism, fauvism and so on, art, and painting in particular was undergoing rapid transformations at the turn of the century. Futurism seems to have been an attempt to tap into and expand upon this, a revolutionary art which was about a lot more than just new styles of painting, but a celebration of all that was new in gleeful defiance of traditionalist tendencies, and Italy being at the time technologically and economically impoverished in comparison to the rest of Europe, it makes a sort of sense that they, of all people, should embrace the mechanistic future that appeared to be looming. Futurism was, in some senses, the Sex Pistols saying 'bollocks' on prime time TV which is why, of all the early twentieth century art movements I knew this was the one for me. Plus, Futurist paintings attempting to capture essences of dynamic motion on canvas, looked a lot more exciting than Braque's tedious brown squares or Matisse's toilet paper.

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Boccioni The City Rises 1910

A painting will either do it for you or it won't, and this one did it for me. The Futurists were still finding their feet at this stage, knowing what they wanted to paint, but not quite sure how to go about it, so a lot of the cues here were from symbolism and impressionism. Their exposure to cubism had a dramatic impact, inspiring a few steps further from the purely representational:

Balla before cubism:

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Balla Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash 1912

Balla after cubism:

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Balla The Car Has Passed 1913

So er... if it's not obvious, the point here is the emotional impression of a car speeding through a landscape, a painting of the experience as an abstract rather than of the actual figurative details.

The Futurists, being cheeky sorts who would happily disagree with you just for the sake of an argument, revelled in outrage, and thus had no qualms about singing the praises of war ('the world's only hygiene') and getting into fights. One manifesto heartily advocated taking potatoes to the theatre in the event of needing something to throw during a substandard performance, including their own Futurist productions if necessary. Typically Futurist performances (absurdist but hugely entertaining plays) tended to end in chaos, although spreading powerful glue upon certain seats prior to the arrival of one's audience was probably asking for trouble.

Up until a few decades ago, any general history of Italian Futurism would tend to sag around 1915, generally muttering something about Boccioni being killed during the great war and later painters being not much cop. This latter judgement is, I would say, bollocks. At this time, Mussolini was beginning to get some attention using much the same sort of inflamatory rhetoric that had served Marinetti so well, and for a short time there was a degree of mutual appreciation going on. Following Mussolini's rise to power (the march on Rome), the love affair became somewhat one-sided with Il Duce favouring the traditional and neoclassical over the embarrassing, excitable modernism of the Futurists. The Futurists for their part continued to express support for the state (although there's a Marinetti letter somewhere that I can't be arsed to dig out in which he bemoans the state of government and wishes that the leader would again become the Mussolini of old... think this was early 1930s)... and stylistically, Futurism went from strength to strength, contrary to what Thames & Hudson publishing seem to think - painting evolved, design, theatre, writing, poetry, toys...

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Balla Patriotic Hymn 1918? (sorry not sure of year)

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This is by Depero, graphic and stage designer, painter - he did just about everything. Shameless self-publicist (but then he was very much worth publicising), I'd argue a case for him being the one Futurist (excepting possibly Balla) who evolved the movement beyond its debt to Picasso, Braque etc. His paintings are childlike, uncompromisingly modern yet immediately accessible and very much in a spirit of celebration.

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He made a book with bolts in it:

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Made a mint off his Campari ads:

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And got plundered by New Order:

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I'm not well up on the history of design, but if Depero didn't actually invent art deco and how just about everything looked in the 1930s and 1940s, he certainly had a hand in it.

Futurism didn't end in 1918. In fact if anything it was only just getting started. Between 1920 and at least 1935, Mussolini's Italy was just shitting out Futurist painters and sorry, but regardless of politics, most of them were frankly astonishing to my mind.

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Dottori Crucifixion 1928

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Crali Urban Bombardment 1935

Expressly fascist themes (amounting to fervent Italian patriotism) were not overly common following Mussolini's distancing himself from the Futurists, but neither were they entirely unknown. Depero designed buildings incorporating stylised fasces, Dottori (I think) painted a couple of black shirts, war was offered as a subject for celebration. Of course, there was one hell of a lot more going on than this, but Italy... Mussolini... look just forget it, here's some nice Andy Warhol instead.

So Futurism pretty much invented (or significantly contributed to) Dada, abstract art, art deco, modern design, situationism, and The Sex Pistols (etc), music made with non-musical instruments, yet remains largely ignored as a sidebar in the history of art.

Thankfully this embargo has come to an end it seems. In 1990, getting to see even a measly reproduction of a Depero was hard work, but people have thankfully grown up and accepted that it is possible to admire a Dottori without declaring war on small North African countries. This painting was my first love, artistically speaking, and I'm not goiing to apologise for that, although I have been expected to on a couple of occasions. I also like soviet propaganda of the same era, and out of the entire NWA back catalogue, possibly my favourite track is MC Ren's 'Attack on Babylon' which forms an enthusiastic paen to shooting white people. I also like kittens, Matt Monroe, and anything Mexican excepting Porifirio Diaz and Frida Kahlo.

So.... Wayne mentioned Wagner....

Contentious art. Discuss.
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Wayne
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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by Wayne »

Interesting stuff!
I know bugger all about art, or art history, or the different movements, but i appreciate stuff that is creative, and requires some technical skill. I'm not impressed by glasses of water, the pickling of dead animals, or aircraft being turned upside down and presented as art. You get the idea.
So i can't really discuss art on any knowlegable level as i could with music, but i can at least tell you what i like, or what i think is good.
As far as these images go - the ones that stand out for me are:

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This is good. Such a lot to look at. I like the shapes.

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This crucifix one is probably my favourite here. Great contrast of colours. It looks almost like a representation of something carved out of wood.

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This one vaguely reminds of Metropolis or something, but with a different look to it, of course.


The Campari ad is alright as well. I'd like to see something 'better' (if you like) in that style than a bloke drinking Campari.
Good thread! 8-)
Last edited by Wayne on Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Zaroff
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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by Zaroff »

I love Futurist art, it was probably one of the last great artistic movements.
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War Arrow
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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by War Arrow »

Actually, on the musical front, Depero did a few stage designs for a production of Stravinsky's Song of the Nightin-gale about which I know nothing. Google Image is being unhelpful but this tapestry is possibly something from that:

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Although it never happened, other ballets did. These life-size marionettes probably hint at how they may have appeared:

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And on the down side:

http://www.forbes.com/forbes-life-magaz ... ism_2.html
History was rough on the Futurists. World War I, for which they had feverishly pleaded in poetry and painting, killed several key figures, including Boccioni. After the war, Marinetti allied the movement with Fascism, running for national office on a ticket with Mussolini. For him it was a natural decision: The radical innovation he advocated in the arts was paradoxically intended to inspire a reactionary social order, a militaristic dictatorship fortified by technology. But it was a losing proposition. His increasingly desperate attempts in the 1930s to make Futurism the state art form rendered the movement little more than a quasi-official propaganda bureau.

As fervently as Marinetti had to be Futurism's leader, Depero needed to be a disciple. He wrote Fascist fighting songs, designed a cover for the magazine supplement of Il Duce's newspaper, and in 1925 produced a gleefully gruesome tapestry, War=Festival (a grammatical antecedent, if not a political one, to the 1980s slogan "Silence=Death"). Depero's tapestry featured soldiers slaughtering one another against a backdrop resembling a jubilant pyrotechnic display. Though morally appalling, it's a magnificent example of artistic propaganda--visually alluring enough to win a gold medal at that year's Paris International Exhibition of Decorative Arts. Depero had a way with spin: His Fascist political allegiance was duly forgiven by his countrymen following his vague post--World War II acknowledgment of "those human and justifiable mistakes committed in good faith."
I get the very strong impression that "quasi-official propaganda bureau" is something of an overstatement, but there's really no point denying the political leanings of later futurists. For better or worse I tend to view things as being of their time and place, so "those human and justifiable mistakes committed in good faith," if vague, counts for something.

I'd make a parallel with Aztec (Mexica) society - opening a discussion on the same by immediately banging on about human sacrifice, well... you may as well not bother discussing it at all because it's going to add up to 'these people were terrible because they did not yet understand John Lennon's message of peace.' It's the point at which one can separate something from its ideology, if that is at all possible or even desirable, that's interesting. Obviously I have no problem with Futurist art, but then take these:

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Arno Brecker (one of Hitler's faves) and Michaelangelo - I see the great craft in both, yet it's not really my sort of thing so I'm not wild about either. What is probably worse is that I can't tell why the latter is apparently superior to the former. I'm put off the former for the same reasons as why I will probably never listen to a Gary Glitter record ever again, but wonder if this is not somehow dishonest on my part (well, aside from not really caring for the style of sculpture regardless of whether by Brecker or Michaelangelo).

Diving in with both feet now:

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Yup. Hitler, the worst artist in the world, and whilst they're not necessarily exciting paintings, I've seen much worse.
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Zaroff
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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by Zaroff »

If only the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had lowered their standards just enough to allow Hitler in.
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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by War Arrow »

Zaroff wrote:If only the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts had lowered their standards just enough to allow Hitler in.
I've a feeling someone else would have taken his place, but yes - I heard a theory that it was through being a frustrated artist that sent him off in that other direction. Also heard the same said about Charles Manson's thwarted musical career - if the Beach Boy he used to hang out with (Dennis Wilson?) had hooked him up with a record contract, maybe Sharon Tate would still be alive and well, but who knows.

Actually, as with Hitler's paintings, so far as drug-addled 1960s Californians with acoustic guitars go, there's probably worse than Manson who managed to shift a ton of records. Then again, who knows, perhaps if the Mamas & Papas hadn't got signed they too might have gone on the rampage.
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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

Post by Pepsi Maxil »

War Arrow wrote:
Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:10 pm

Also heard the same said about Charles Manson's thwarted musical career - if the Beach Boy he used to hang out with (Dennis Wilson?) had hooked him up with a record contract, maybe Sharon Tate would still be alive and well, but who knows.

It certainly didn't help that Wilson had stolen a song Manson had written and didn't bother to credit him.

Manson was a great singer:

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Re: Futurism and Art you get told off for liking

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