Futurism (Tate Gallery, 23rd July 2009)

What a contrast the Futurism Exhibition at Tate Modern was to the Richard Long Heaven and Earth Exhibition at Tate Britain?  I’ve already discussed the Richard Long Heaven and Earth Exhibition with its engagement with the natural world and its focus on circles and natural imagery.  I felt that, The Futurism Exhibition was about everything the Richard Long exhibition wasn’t. 
Whereas the Richard Long Exhibition asks the viewer to consider  of solitude, remote vast landscapes, silences and the contours of the natural world, the Futurism Exhibition explores speed, sound, crowds and cityscapes.  Whereas the Richard Long exhibition presents circles and serpentine lines, browns, creams and ochres, the Futurism Exhibition is mainly about straight line in the form of diagonals and a celebration of colour.  The Futurism Exhibition engages with ideas that are clearly set in a specific time and place.  Even though the exhibition is about the future, it is historically constrained in its ideology.

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Tate Modern have set up the Futurism Exhibition in such a way that large canvases are framed in the entrances and exits so as you wander round suddenly a glimpse of a work comes into view.  I must admit, I found I was moving quickly around the exhibits at first, but over the summer I revisited the show several times and each time found something new of interest.  The Futurists’ manifesto is very shocking to us now.  The glorification of war is abhorrent to our thinking now.  These works were produced up to the stat of the first war and explore a society in the bars, streets of busy cities.  There is an experimentation with technique and the exhibition includes cubism to demonstrate the connections between the Futurist and Cubist movements in modern art.

There are many paintings in the exhibition that I found interesting and wanted to discuss.  Carlo Carra’s  I funerali dell’anarchico Galli, (1910-1911), for example struck me with its violence and business and the sense of eruption it conveyed.  Luigi Russolo’s La rivolta, (1911) with its red, yellow blue and stunning diagonals marching out of the left of the canvas.  The size and colour in this image drew me to it as soon as I saw it.  This was the antithesis of the Richard Long aesthetic.  It felt like a large army on the move and heavily populated space.  Another busy painting full of energy was A Gino Severini’s  La Danse du <<pan-pan>> au Monico, (1909-1911/1959-1960).  From a distance the red girl in the centre catches the eye, but much closer up, it becomes apparent that the image is made up of a montage of fragments of people.  It is clear in this painting how Cubism has had an influence on Futurism. 

I personally found the Futurism Exhibition much more interesting than the Richard Long Exhibition.  However, they made extremely interesting contrasts, which reading together made me think differently about each exhibition.

Reviews and Previews

Futurism Tate Gallery in the Times
Futurism The Telegraph
Futurism at Tate
Futurism in The Indpendent
Evening Standard – Futurism Exhibition

 Catalogue

Ottinger, D. (2009) Futurism. London: Tate Publishing

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