The first comprehensive survey of Italian Futurism mounted outside of Italy opens tomorrow at the Guggenheim in NewYork. On view through Sept. 1, "Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe" covers the movement's birth through the death of its founder, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and includes "around 400 works, if you count every teacup," said the exhibition's curator, Vivien Greene, at a media preview this morning. Greene, along with Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong, emphasized the multidisciplinary nature of the show, which takes up the museum's entire rotunda and several auxiliary galleries. On view are actual tea sets, along with sculpture, film, photography, drawing, architectural renderings, ephemera and, of course, paintings, including fine examples by many brand-name futurists like Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Fortunato Depero and Gino Severini.
"We put great emphasis on the literature of the movement," Greene said. Selections from the Futurists' vast trove of propaganda are displayed in several large vitrines throughout the rotunda, combining often inflammatory content with avant-garde graphic design. The movement's provocative initial manifesto, published by Marinetti in an Italian newspaper on Feb. 5, 1909, is one of the first items highlighted as visitors ascend the museum's rotunda. Its bellicose 11 points are translated in a wall text, from "1. We intend to sing to the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness," moving quickly to more disturbing rhetoric, such as "9. We intend to glorify war--the only hygiene of the world--militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman."
Futurism's manifold "paradoxes," as Greene put it, are underlined in the exhibition. Futurists venerated technology and eschewed the past, yet embraced many of its traditional artistic modes and models. They denigrated women, yet Marinetti's wife, Bendetta, was awarded one of the few state commissions the Futurists ever received.
The exhibition's capstone is a room devoted to Bendetta Cappa Marinetti's five rarely seen mural paintings, collectively titled "Synthesis of Communications" (1933-34). In these joyful, roughly 10-by-6½-foot compositions, Bendetta uses sweeping arcs and aerial viewpoints to represent communication by air, radio, sea, land, and telegraph and telephone. They've never before left the central post office in Palermo, Sicily, where they have hung since the 1930s.