New Program Series at the Guggenheim Explores Futurism’s Many Facets

Installation view: Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe

Installation view: Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 21–September 1, 2014. Photo: Kris McKay © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

F. T. Marinetti, Sudan-Paris (Sudan-Parigi), 1920

F. T. Marinetti, Sudan-Paris (Sudan-Parigi), 1920. Mixed media, including sponge, sandpaper, grater, wool, brush, silver-coated paper, silk, velvet, and feathers, on cardboard, 63 x 37 x 10 cm. Private collection

Francesco Cangiullo, Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo (Grande folla in Piazza del Popolo), 1914

Francesco Cangiullo, Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo (Grande folla in Piazza del Popolo), 1914. Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, 58 x 74 cm. Private collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome


Poetry that abolished syntax, understanding art through touch, and a 1917 seduction manual—these and other concerns of the Italian Futurists will be examined during a series of programs and events intended to give visitors a deeper understanding of Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe.

Starting next month, the museum will host three lectures by scholars that touch on different Futurist innovations. “These lectures hone in on three very diverse instances of Futurism’s history,” says exhibition curator Vivien Greene, “and demonstrate the breadth of a movement that engaged the teachings of Maria Montessori, proletarian politics, and issues surrounding women’s rights.” On April 1, Professor Emily Braun will discuss Tactilism, a Futurist theory which obligated “viewers” to come to an understanding of artworks using only their sense of touch, for instance by exploring panels composed of variegated materials, such as F. T. Marinetti’s Sudan-Paris (1920). On May 7, Professor Christine Poggi will examine the Futurist fascination with machines and development of arte meccanica, or machine aesthetics, with special emphasis on the oeuvre of Ivo Pannaggi. And on May 20, Professor Lucia Re will consider the debate about the role of women that arose in Futurist circles following the publication of a seduction “manual” by Marinetti in 1917.

The museum also is presenting a series of performances in the spirit of Futurism’s distinctive parole-in-libertà, or “words-in-freedom,” poetry. Both visual artworks and poems, words-in-freedom works such as Francesco Cangiullo’s Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo (1914) sought to free language from what the Futurists felt were the constraints of syntax. Curator Susan Thompson notes that this “innovation in free-form poetry is among the movement’s most significant contributions, interweaving visual art, poetry, graphic design, and performance. Many of these works were intended to be declaimed live in front of audiences and incorporate drawn-out vowel sounds, onomatopoeia, and voice modulation to correspond font size and weight to volume and emphasis.”

At spontaneous moments during viewing hours on June 7 and 8, composer, performer, and musicologist Luciano Chessa will perform selected words-in-freedom works in the rotunda. An expanded performance including Futurist musical compositions will take place in the Peter B. Lewis Theater on June 9. “We are so pleased that Luciano Chessa will join us this summer to bring to life many words-in-freedom compositions,” Thompson says. “He is one of the leading contemporary practitioners of Futurist declamation. Unconventional, disruptive, boisterous, and provocative—these performances perfectly encapsulate the roiling energy of Futurism.”

In addition to ticketed programs, the museum offers free guided tours such as Curator’s Eye, which give viewers a chance to hear about the works on view in Italian Futurism directly from the curators who organized the exhibition, and Art in the Round, which are led by museum educators and focus on a specific theme. See the Curator’s Eye and Art in the Round pages for a complete list of tour dates and times.

See the calendar for a full list of events at the museum, read more Futurism related posts on the blog, and visit the exhibition site to learn more about Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe.