curated by Chiara Gatti and Raffaella Resch
Following the projects on German Expressionism and couples in the Russian Avant-Garde, the MAN is pleased to present "Flight and Light. The Women Futurists. 1912-1944”, an exhibition dedicated to Futurism and women. This concludes the trilogy of exhibitions with a unique approach created under the artistic direction of Lorenzo Giusti that focuses on the movements of the historical avant-garde.
The presence of women in art in the 20th century has been highlighted by several studies beginning from the 1970s. Historical and critical explorations have been carried out not only with the intention of discovering a genre, a female specificity in art. These have brought to light, or once again brought to light, exceptional personalities, works of high quality, lives with complex interactions of which in the past even their dates of birth or death were unknown, and they have revealed a vision of women's art in the avant-garde movements, which up to then had been confined to a secondary role.
A still-unresolved controversial case is the role of women in Futurism, a movement created as misogynist which from its very founding proclaimed contempt for women and constructed an all-absorbing vision of art based on force, speed, and war, with the exclusion of the female gender (“We want to glorify war - the sole hygiene of the world - militarism - patriotism, the gesture that destroys libertarians, the beautiful ideas to die for, and contempt for women”, Manifesto of Futurism, 1909).
The exhibition provides, with more than one hundred works of painting, sculpture, papers, textiles, theatrical maquettes and objects of applied art, a comprehensive vision of the women who worked from the 1910s to the 1940s, who signed the theoretical manifestos of Futurism, participated in the exhibitions, experimented with innovations in styles and materials in different branches such as the decorative arts, set design, photography and cinema, but also dance, literature and theatre. They were independent figures, artists and intellectuals, in the forefront of aesthetic research at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Their works were sometimes daring (exemplary is the biography of Valentine de Saint-Point), often mentioned en passant with respect to the chronicles, sometimes overlooked by the critics of the period, caught up in the anonymity of family life (as was the case of Brunas) or cancelled by the wars (Alma Fidora, whose library and archives of documents were destroyed in bombing raids). Total artists stand out, not only the most renowned Benedetta, but also Marisa Mori, Adele Gloria and the group of those who collaborated with L’Italia futurista: their fields of interest were vast, from writing to painting, illustration, and ceramics, not to mention studies into parapsychology and occultism, to which also the Manifesto della Scienza Futurista gave its attention.
The exhibition presents loans from Italian public and private collections, with some works that are not well known. It starts with the Manifeste de la Femme Futuriste, published by Valentine de Saint-Point on 25 March 1912, in reply to the Fondazione e Manifesto del Futurismo by Marinetti, published in Paris in Le Figaro in 1909.
The itinerary highlights the features of a collective effort which bears witness to the depth of an aesthetic reflection shared by the women of the group and rich in implications, free from stereotypes, clichés, platitudes and hackneyed compulsions connected with relations to the "menfolk" of the movement.
The selection of works is accompanied by an abundant collection of documents: first editions of texts, autograph letters, photographs of the period, original posters, studies, and sketches.
Every stage of the itinerary, which proceeds by macro-themes – the body and dance, flight and speed, landscape and abstracts, forms and words – records a particular aspect of the women futurists’ works: applied arts, textiles, the use of metals and in general experimentation with mixed media and multidisciplinary works, but also literature and dance.
The exhibition narrates the fascinating biographies of each of the artists as they fit into the artistic and cultural life of the period (the salons, the most important national exhibitions, magazines, theatres) but also places them against the background of a country that was both thrilled by progress and devastated by the conflict.
The catalogue will contain the works on exhibition with texts by Giancarlo Carpi, Enrico Crispolti, Chiara Gatti, Lorenzo Giusti, and Raffaella Resch, and an interview with Lea Vergine, organizer of the memorable exhibition she curated in 1980 for the Palazzo Reale di Milano, “L'altra metà dell'avanguardia”, dedicated to the female artists active from 1910 to 1940.