|Ivo Pannaggi, Speeding Train (Treno in corsa), 1922, oil on canvas, 100 x 120 cm|
Fondazione Carima–Museo Palazzo Ricci, Macerata, Italy. Photo: Courtesy Fondazione Cassa di risparmio della Provincia di Macerata
The Guggenheim in New York, with its utopian form obedient to laws of physics more than the needs of its inhabitants, is the perfect venue for Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, a survey of a morally flawed movement guided by style and dogma. Futurism began in literature with the 1909 publication of a manifesto by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Aligned with the rise of Fascism, it was meant to shake things up, and courted controversy by promulgating war and lashing out against feminism. Inflammatory tenets aside, it glorified technology and speed, which have thrived in modern Italy in the form of sleek Ferraris. Nonetheless, many Futurist artifacts made lasting impressions, and hundreds are gathered here by curator Vivien Greene.
One of the main themes of Futurism was capturing movement, and thus time. In this respect, it crossed over with Cubism, although Futurism was far more concerned with speed and the political implications of its many genres. The Guggenheim show includes monuments familiar from textbooks, notably Boccioni's bronze sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). But it is largely fleshed out with examples of literature, photography, film, textiles and clothing, and furniture and homeware. Graphic design and typography were particularly ripe expressive milieus for this movement that relied on verbal bombast and propaganda. One of the most powerful works is the final painting, at the zenith of the ramp—Tullio Crali's Before the Parachute Opens (1939) in which the skydiving soldier appears to be made of bronze, as if we're sitting at a dizzying height above a monumental statue looking down at its domain. Like a number of Futurist paintings, it's a snapshot of several dimensions.