6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
C. K. Lidster
- Published on Amazon.com
The philosophical foundations of Futurism have made it territory to avoid for many; fascism, male chauvinism, the glorification of war, and the celebration of unfettered industrial development make it seem a hopelessly anachronistic route doomed to a dead end. Nevertheless, Futurist artists like Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini produced unquestionably brilliant and vibrant work. Using Cubism as a starting point, they combined Picasso and Braques' multiple perspectives in a static frame with a new pictorial jargon representing motion, objective progression through space and time. They seemed to personify the spirit of revolution and discovery that flourished in the years leading up to WWI: the philosphy of Nietzsche; Sigmund Freud and the birth of Psychology; and Einsteins' theory of Relativity (which was referred to indirectly in the Futurist Manifesto of 1909, when Einstein was still largely unknown and his theories still dismissed and misunderstood). As a doctrine, Futurism was like a supremely Optimistic antecedent of Punk Rocks' supreme Nihilism, and equally doomed to self-destruction. The horrors of WWI (and later, WWII), with its' pointless bloodshed, millions of young lives wasted in the nightmarish inertia of trench warfare, put an end to the notion of honorable combat and heroic death in service to a noble, patriotic cause. One of those young lives fed into the meat-grinder of 'The War to End All Wars' was Umberto Boccioni, the Futurist movements' most prominent and talented member, who died of injuries sustained after he was thrown from the saddle of a galloping horse. His death marked the start of Futurisms' end as a serious movement. It became harder and harder to justify unfaltering faith in industrial and technological development, in the glory of battle, in the superiority of male ideals. As the twentieth century progressed, the tenets of Futurism became obvious relics of a more idealistic age. As this book and the exhibition at the Guggenheim it is based on demonstrate, regardless of politics, the legacy of Futurism would thrive artistically, evolving through to the thirties and forties to influence every facet of modern art. At 352 pages, this book is satisfyingly comprehensive in scope, with hundreds of beautifully reproduced plates featuring Boccioni, Balla, Severini, Carra and dozens of other, lesser known artists whose works are just as vibrant and dynamic as their peers. The fact that most of the paintings, sculptures, etc. feel just as modern (or moreso) than even the best of their contemporaries is a testament to the ability of great art to transcend the personal deficiencies and idiosyncracies of the artist. Given the lack of decent monographs dedicated to individual Futurist artists, I was eagerly anticipating this release, and it did not disappoint. It is beautifully constructed and designed, about 9" wide x 12" tall, with a thick, high-quality paper stock that makes for a comfortably heavy tome. One caveat, perhaps, is the text-art ratio -- with over 25 articles written by an impressive assortment of international contributors, this makes it more than a simple picture-book for the coffee table. Personally, I like my art books to be rich in historical and critical essays, but perhaps others do not. Even so, this is a great book, and it's well worth the price.