Published: April 3, 2007
The first exhibition in England to focus on the complex relationship between Russian and Italian Futurism is at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art through Sunday, June 10.
A long overdue and comprehensive examination of the subject, “A Slap in the Face! Futurists in Russia” explores the energetic, creative and occasionally violent encounter of East and West in the arena of avant-garde art.
After founding Futurism in 1909, F.T. Marinetti’s ambition was to establish an international Futurist movement that would develop his own group’s activities, achievements and interests.
Despite the influence of Marinetti and his followers on Russian artists †particularly apparent in works such as Natalia Goncharova’s “Cyclist” of 1913, in which the legs of the figure are multiplied to suggest rapid pedaling †their work was marked by genuine aesthetic differences that frequently seem to contradict the label “Futurist.”
While both movements were fascinated with the urban environmental and the machine, Russian Futurism was equally interested in folk art and rural themes, as illustrated by Mikhail Larionov’s series of soldier paintings and “Spring,” 1912.
Other distinctive Russian tendencies such as “Rayism”‘ are represented in Goncharova’s, “The Forest,” circa 1913, and Larionov’s “Blue Rayism,” 1912.
The theme of war is also addressed again with Italian comparisons. Goncharova’s dramatic portfolio “Mystical Images of War” are displayed alongside “Universal War” by Alexei Kruchenykh with its series of delicate tissue paper collages by Olga Rozanova.
The emphasis of the exhibition is very much on the phenomenon of Russian Futurism, but later developments such as Suprematism and Constructivism are acknowledged in collages and photomontages by El Lissitzky and designs and constructions by Alexander Rodchenko.
The exhibition has been organized in conjunction with Hatton Gallery at Newcastle University, where it will be on display from June 23 to August 18.
The Estorick Collection is at 39a Canonbury Square. For information, 020 7704 9522 or www.estorickcollection.com .
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