Future Shock: Guggenheim’s Gorgeous Retrospective on Futurism

By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
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Championing a radical and utopian vision, the artists profiled in the Guggenheim’s new exhibit Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe brought the concept of “total works of art” to new heights, especially when it came to objects and interior design, according to organizer and museum senior curator Vivian Greene. From the bedroom Giacomo Balla designed for his daughter in 1914 to the art houses (Casa d'Arte) he and other designers like Fortunto Depero created across Italy, forward-thinking design was applied to every aspect of life.

With more than 360 pieces ranging from manifestos and furniture to paintings and posters, the survey showcases broad visions and stylistic evolution, from fractured spaces and machine aesthetics (arte meccanica) to the more streamlined aeropittura of the ‘30s. Pieces like a mural from a Palermo post office and a dining room set by Gerardo Dottori show how "the aesthetic was always evolving," according to Greene.

The Cimino Home Dining Room Set (Sala da pranzo di casa Cimino) by Gerardo Dottori from the early 1930s.Table, chairs, buffet, lamp, and sideboard; wood, glass, crystal, copper with chrome plating, leather, dimensions variable. Private collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice Photo: Daniele Paparelli, courtesy Archivi Gerardo Dottori, Perugia, Italy

The Cimino Home Dining Room Set (Sala da pranzo di casa Cimino) by Gerardo Dottori from the early 1930s.Table, chairs, buffet, lamp, and sideboard; wood, glass, crystal, copper with chrome plating, leather, dimensions variable. Private collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice Photo: Daniele Paparelli, courtesy Archivi Gerardo Dottori, Perugia, Italy

Greene especially likes the ceramic pieces filled with small details and timely references, such as the spirals from an aeronautical-themed plate, celebrating the country’s then current obsession with flight. A sun-shaped anti-pasta set from Bruno Munari features an array of brightly illustrated exotic animals, a nod to Italy’s excitement over its then-expanding overseas colonies, and a coffee service from Balla exhibits bright colors and abstract shapes. "There’s a wonderful sense of intimacy with that piece," Greene says. "You can really imagine yourself using them."

Antipasti Service (Piatti Servizio Antipasti) by Bruno Munari and Torido Mazzotti (1929–1930).Glazed earthenware (manufactured by Casa Giuseppe Mazzotti, Albisola Marina), six plates: 21.6 x 21.6 cm diameter each; one vase: 11.7 x 7.6 cm The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection © Bruno Munari, courtesy Corraini Edizioni Photo: Lynton Gardiner

Antipasti Service (Piatti Servizio Antipasti) by Bruno Munari and Torido Mazzotti (1929–1930).Glazed earthenware (manufactured by Casa Giuseppe Mazzotti, Albisola Marina), six plates: 21.6 x 21.6 cm diameter each; one vase: 11.7 x 7.6 cm The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection © Bruno Munari, courtesy Corraini Edizioni Photo: Lynton Gardiner

Up through September 1, Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe at the Guggenheim showcases several pieces never seen outside of Italy.

Fortunato Depero's Heart Eaters (Mangiatori di cuori), 1923.Painted wood, 36.5 x 23 x 10 cm Private collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome Photo: Vittorio Calore

Fortunato Depero's Heart Eaters (Mangiatori di cuori), 1923.Painted wood, 36.5 x 23 x 10 cm Private collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome Photo: Vittorio Calore

Ivo Pannaggi's 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

Ivo Pannaggi's 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

Mino Somenzi, ed., with words-in-freedom image Airplanes (Aeroplani) by Pino MasnataFuturismo 2, no. 32 (Apr. 16, 1933) Journal (Rome, 1933), 64 x 44 cm Fonds Alberto Sartoris, Archives de la Construction Moderne–Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL), Switzerland Photo: Jean-Daniel Chavan

Mino Somenzi, ed., with words-in-freedom image Airplanes (Aeroplani) by Pino MasnataFuturismo 2, no. 32 (Apr. 16, 1933) Journal (Rome, 1933), 64 x 44 cm Fonds Alberto Sartoris, Archives de la Construction Moderne–Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL), Switzerland Photo: Jean-Daniel Chavan

Patrick Sisson

@patricksisson

During the course of his career writing about music and design, Patrick Sisson has made Stefan Sagmeister late for a date and was scolded by Gil Scott-Heron for asking too many questions. His work has appeared in Pitchfork, Nothing Major, Wax Poetics, Stop Smiling and Chicago Magazine.

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