Guggenheim and the Futurists

My next stop was the Solomon Guggenheim in its fantastic Frank Lloyd Wright designed spiral building. I haven’t been to the Guggenheim in years though I always go to the Peggy Guggenheim when I’m in Venice. Go figure.

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Also, if we are going to talk about morally questionable art institutions, the Guggenheim is getting a lot of flack from the possibility that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates may be built using slave labor. There was a protest back in February. I need to do some more research into it.

I was particularly keen on seeing the Futurist exhibits. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Futurists despite their fascist and war loving tendencies. I love their exhalation of color, speed and cities. Such a contrast to the German Expressionists with their sick cityscapes.. Reader, I’m a city girl through and through. Well, it was an extremely fascinating exhibit. And there were wall tags! It was done chronologically from the base of the museum to the top, contrary to other exhibitions I’ve been to at the Guggenheim.

The exhibition was fairly comprehensive covering painting and literature to ceramics, vests, and even furniture. They had some paintings on loan from the Peggy Guggenheim including a wonderful painting by Gino Severini called “Sea=Dancer.” It depicts a dancer in a blue dress at a Cabaret. You get a sense of her many movements and the hustle and bustle of the Paris café. There was a bronze statue called “Unique Forms of Continuing in Space” by Umberto Boccioni showing a figure walking. He is made of shapes to emphasize the many shapes a person makes while moving. He once said, “Let us fling open the figure and let it incorporate within itself whatever may surround it.” Brilliant. Of course, I learned for the first time that all the bronzes were cast posthumously. I didn’t know that. He made the sculptures from plaster.

There was a part of the Futurist manifesto labeled on the wall. Part of it really spoke to me:

“1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.

2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.” I love this celebration of modernity and the city. But then a new facet of the movement revealed itself to me: “ We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.” Now the love of war was not new to me. The contempt for women was definitely unexpected. I know that the Futurists decried the female nude believing that artists have been too long obsessed with it. But I didn’t realize that it went beyond that. There were some female artists involved with the Futurists. I know that other movements had some interesting relationships to women but it was a bit disturbing to see this “contempt for women” so plainly spelled out.

I also learned that Futurists did not really embrace film, which I find very odd. For a movement so obsessed with technology and speed, you would think they would embrace this new technology that can actually record speed. There was one film called “Thais.” All I saw was the ending where the main character, a woman, gets crushed by the abstract background.

On the other hand, photography was embraced. There were some amazing photos where they tried to show the movement. There would be blurry shots showing the motion. There was one painting that was of a violinist’s hands while playing. Simply magnificent.

Towards the end, it was interesting how I started failing to recognize the names of the artists. Some regular Futurists died in the war. The later works were simply not as good as the early 1910s and 1920s. There were some truly magnificently horrid sideboards.

Anyway, I’m really glad that I made it to the exhibition. I feel that I really learned a lot more about Futurism and saw some old friends.

That’s all!

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