Monday, 7 September 2009

Futurism at the Tate Modern

The Futurists were, and still are a fascinating group of distinct individuals to gain even a brief insight into. The exhibition at the Tate Modern, does just this. Through relevant and perceptive comment, it not only explains who the movement were, but aligns your modern brain with their futuristic ideals.

The exhibition contains works from just 4 exhilarating years (1914-18) in the art of Italy, France, England and Russia, indicating perfectly the pace at which their ideas were progressing and the modernity of the movement.


Upon entering the first of many rectangular rooms, you immediately see the iconic sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni, which comforts all visitors that they know something of the less mainstream Futurists, and of which regulars to the Tate Modern will know from the copy displayed in the permanent collection. Leant up against the nearest wall was a board that dwarfs many of the paintings in that room, and outlines the very important Futurism Manifesto of Filippo Tomasso Marinetti, February 2009. Vital is this introduction, because the sense of these paintings is lost without their aim. I would say it is fair to conclude, that the Futurists, led by the highly politically poet Marinetti, had a mind of their own. And to establish what it is that makes them unique is to look beyond the visual, as quite literally they did.


The Futurists admire all of which interests me little. They praised man-made over God-made. They had a very masculine need for speed, weightiness and shiny metal objects - all of which do not suit my femininity. However, the way they displayed such completely abstract emotions, forces and supernatural sensations is brilliant.


Boccioni evidently understood the complex connection between the visual and his ideas, in the compelling States of the Mind. The beauty of the modern brushstroke is so sinewy here. I remain thankful to Rembrandt for what he began in his innovative impasto technique – launching a trend not to conceive the brush stroke. The force of the person at the train station is heavy. When he stays, he is being held, all of him. His environment is physically shaped by his emotional state. Boccioni sells the importance the Futurists put in the man – able and powerful. When he goes in his second triptych, his movement is swift, like a gush of wind that takes you with him. Your eyes and body follow helplessly along the aggressive lineation of all three paintings in the triptych. The artists stated so accurately, ‘[I am] seeking by intuition the sympathies and the links which exist between the exterior (concrete) scene and the interior (abstract) emotion.’


What trumps the enthralling work of the Futurists is all that accompanies it. This exhibition is deceptively not only a presentation of Futurism. As you journey on intrigued you find other great works of the time feature too and understand their need because of the great overlap. You are bombarded by the art of ‘isms’, one great minor or major movement after another. From Cubism, to Cubo-Furturism (the Russian branch of Futurism) then to Vorticism. All of which are a strong, energetic and colourful force in art, and upon the art lover.


Futurism is at the Tate Modern until September 20 

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