Boccioni's Materia

Boccioni's Materia

Dates: February 6–May 9, 2004
Venue: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York City

Press Preview:
Thursday, February 5, 10AM–1PM

From 1910 to 1912, the Italian artist Umberto Boccioni developed the Futurist theory of painting, culminating in his masterpiece Materia, a dynamic and faceted portrait of his mother set against a balcony in their apartment, integrating events seen outside the window with activity occurring in the interior space. Opening February 6, 2004, Boccioni's Materia: A Futurist Masterpiece and the Avant-garde in Milan and Paris is a highly focused examination of this painting and related paintings and sculptures by Boccioni and his European contemporaries, including Georges Braque, Robert Delaunay, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso. Through the juxtaposition of these works seen together with drawings and archival documentation, the exhibition highlights the pivotal role that Italian Futurism played within the history of Modernism. The exhibition also provides an unprecedented understanding of Boccioni's working process and the connections between the works he executed in diverse media. The exhibition will be on view through May 9, 2004.

This exhibition is supported by the City of Milan and Tenaris.

Additional support is provided by the Leadership Committee for Materia, Maurice Kanbar, and the Italian Cultural Institute.

The museum thanks the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its patronage and support.

Transportation assistance provided by Alitalia.

Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, said, "This exhibition encompasses a small but tremendously elite group of works. Loans of paintings, sculptures, and drawings of such high quality are only possible with the cooperation and collaboration of both public and private lenders. I must acknowledge here our profound thanks for their generosity."

The exhibition is organized around a series of core themes. The first of these traces Boccioni's evolution from Divisionism to Futurism. Divisionism was the Italian response to French Neo-Impressionism and the exhibition includes several key Divisionist paintings by Boccioni. The Divisionists were fascinated with capturing the effects of light in divided brushstrokes of color that took shape from a distance. They often combined their study of light with social commentary, sometimes applying their pictorial theories to depictions of the working class and the poor. Divisionism lent itself to the foundation of Futurism, which adopted Divisionist techniques for its own representation of objects and figures in motion.

A theme of great centrality to this exhibition is the exploration of the exchanges between Futurism and Cubism. Working in Milan, Boccioni drew inspiration from the city's rapid modernization and represented the Futurist vision of the new metropolis in his art. Contact with the Parisian avant-garde impelled Boccioni to work both with and against the art and ideas of his European counterparts. His investigations were influenced by his encounter with Pablo Picasso's 1910 portrait Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, and his possible viewing of Marcel Duchamp's 1912 Nude Descending a Staircase (No.2). Both works are featured in the exhibition.

Futurism has often been regarded as an offshoot of Cubism, with its decomposition of form and materialization of space. In reality, the dialogue between Milanese Futurism and Parisian Cubism was quite complex and fruitful for both parties. The Cubists' concerns lay in the largely private enterprise of pure painting and advocated a revolutionary style in art only. The Futurists' revolutionary vision sought to encompass every facet of life. As an artistic and literary movement that celebrated the city and the machine, Futurism rejected the past (even advocating the destruction of museums). The Italians embraced the new urban landscape and advanced technologies, exploited commodity culture, and redefined the public and private roles of the artist in society.

Boccioni’s Materia also highlights the relationship between Boccioni's painting and sculpture by examining the artist's development of key Futurist ideas in these two distinct media. Through his investigations of color, the sculptural qualities of form, the multidimensionality of space, and the problems pertaining to movement, Boccioni crystallized his theories pertaining to the dynamism of matter and the fusion of interior and exterior spaces. These notions are integral to the synthetic conceptualization of motion, simultaneity, and spatial relationships that defines the Futurist style.

Important archival material is presented for the first time via a touch screen component within the exhibition. Photographic sequences of Boccioni’s Milan studio (taken for the most part by the artist himself) and his 1913 sculpture exhibition in Paris (taken by opera singer Lucette Korsoff) allow insight into his working methods and deliberate staging of his self-image. These sequences will permit visitors an entry into the artist’s studio and an intimate, in-depth viewing of Boccioni's non-extant sculptural work.

Through his art and writings, Boccioni sought to revitalize art in Italy, where academic and classical traditions then dominated. He ultimately addressed the need for an innovative language of signs and a new system by which to represent content through his treatment of space and the figure, as well as his radical redefinition of the viewer's role.

Organized By:
The exhibition is organized by Laura Mattioli Rossi, Guest Curator, with Vivien Greene, Associate Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. It will be presented in the Thannhauser 4 and Tower 4 Galleries.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that includes a series of scholarly essays by Italian and American authors, who amplify the themes considered within the exhibition and offer an international spectrum of perspectives on the artist. The authors are Emily Braun, Flavio Fergonzi, Giovanna Ginex, Vivien Greene, Laura Mattioli Rossi, Fausto Petrella, and Gianluca Poldi.

Public Programs:
In conjunction with the exhibition Boccioni’s Materia: A Futurist Masterpiece and the Avant-garde in Milan and Paris, the following programs are presented in the Peter B. Lewis Theater of the Sackler Center for Arts Education.

Boccioni and Picasso: Futurism and Cubism in 1912
February 6, 6:30–8:30 PM
Participants include Emily Braun, Giovanna Ginex, Pepe Karmel, and Laura Mattioli Rossi. Moderated by Laura Mattioli Rossi and Vivien Greene.

An Evening of Futurist Music
February 7, 6:30 PM
This evening presents Futurist music performed by pianist Daniele Lombardi. This concert is supported by the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.

General Information: 212-423-3500
Hours: Saturday–Wednesday 10 AM–5:45 PM; Friday 10 AM–8 PM; closed Thursday
Admission: $15 adults; $10 students/seniors; children under 12 free; members free

January 26, 2004

Betsy Ennis / Jennifer Russo
Guggenheim Public Affairs
Tel: 212-423-3840

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