"We futurists, Balla and Depero, would like to create this total fusion to reconstruct the universe by brightening it, completely recreating it. We will give flesh and bone to the invisible, the intangible, the imponderable, and the imperceptible. We will find abstract equivalents for all the forms and elements in the universe. We will then combine them, according to the whims of our inspiration, to create complex models which we will put into motion."
Manifest: Futuristic Reconstruction of the Universe, Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero,
Six years after the publication in Le Figaro of the founding manifest for futurism by Marinetti, in 1915 Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero created what is possibly the most completely absorbing act of the Italian avant-garde: the manifest Futuristic Reconstruction of the Universe.
And it is the anniversary of this publication which provides the pretext for the exhibition Giacomo Balla futurist abstractionist at the Fondazione Magnani Rocca in Mamiano di Traversetolo (Parma), which can be seen until 8 December 2015, curated by Elena Gigli and Stefano Roffi.
An exhibition which reflects on various moments in the working life of Balla, from the unconditional luminosity of the Roman landscape with Villa Borghese in the distance (1907), seen from the balcony of his home, or the triptych Maggio (1906), with, at the centre, his wife Elisa, which underlined the divisionist sentiment that characterised his work for a number of years, to then pass to the period lived in Düsseldorf, with the study on light and its colours, and to his research on the dynamics of the flight of swallows (between 1912 and 1913), the dimostrazioni interventiste translated into painting on the occasion of the First World War, the exclusively futuristic interests and the relationship with theosophical theories, to return, during the 1930s, to an apparently more conservative realism, demonstrated by the canvas which closes the exhibition: La famiglia del pittore (Noi Quattro allo specchio; Auto balmoglie figlie), October 1945.
It would, however, be limiting to propose an exhibition of Giacomo Balla which shows an extract of solely canvases or solely drawings, because the two-dimensional experience is but a part of the experiential life of the Turiniese (or to be precise, Roman) artist. Balla, in line with futurist ideology, believes in an all-engaging work, in which the creation conditions and redefines reality, seen as all that with which we come into contact on a daily basis. Therefore fashion, design, architecture, and even the frames of the paintings cannot be excluded from the painting itself: the colours escape and occupy space, the ideas escape and transform the room, the house, the city. In 1929 Giacomo Balla, along with his family, moved to via Oslavia, transforming his home into a complete work, into a futuristic work where the separation between art and daily life is removed. Futurist furniture, paintings, objects, etc.
Everything is vested and covered, as though it were a sacred place in which to respect rules and hopes.
As testimony of this global experience, there are various pieces of furniture made and painted by Balla himself, a number of projects for interior design and a series of futurist clothes and accessories (one must not forget that Balla was the creator of the manifesto for the Vestito antineutrale).
"The initial idea was to propose a parallelism between the house of Luigi Magnani, which contains the exhibition, and Balla's house. Two places which we can consider as self portraits; Magnani's villa reflects his identity, his culture, as Balla's kaleidoscopic house expresses the energy, vitality and colour of futurism. A house, that of via Oslavia in Rome, which expresses that vitality which aimed to counter the die-hardism which had preceded the avant-garde. And it is the very manifesto of 1915 which defines art's invasion of the universe seen as daily experience." (Stefano Roffi, scientific director of the Foundazione Magnani Rocca of Mamiano di Traversetolo, Parma).
It is from one's own home, from its internal disposition, from the way in which one lives it, participates with it, and transforms it over time, rendering it ambiguous, that a transformation begins which spreads as though it were a nebula, acidic and toxic, but perhaps also vital, like an antidote to boredom and intellectual torpor. The absence of a confine between thought and action defines that which we can consider an active avant-garde, armed and fighting, intent on occupying vital, celebral space.
This was futurism, something which collides willingly against a wall, a machine launched like a bomb which changes the landscape in which it explodes: pieces of coloured metal which still move on the streets, an avant-garde which fires its cartridges in the conviction that it is right to transform the World in one's own image and likeness.