IntroductionFortunato Depero, Issue 1, January 2019
A brief overview of the first issue of Italian Modern Art devoted to Fortunato Depero.
The first issue of Italian Modern Art is devoted to Fortunato Depero – the subject of CIMA’s inaugural installation in 2014. All of the essays featured were presented on February 21, 2014 during CIMA’s first Study Day.
Though readily associated with Futurism, Depero by no means confined himself to this movement’s orthodoxy. Throughout his career, he engaged in fruitful dialogues, with contemporary artists – such as Mario Sironi, in the pivotal year of 1919 (Flavio Fergonzi’s Fortunato Depero in 1919) – and movements, ranging from Dadaism and Esprit Nouveau, to Art Deco, Bauhaus, Valori Plastici (a pivotal art criticism magazine published from 1918 to 1921) and pittura metafisica (metaphysical painting). This eclectic practice was influenced by the artist’s experiences in Italy as well as in foreign cities like New York, a metropolis with which he shared an ambivalent relationship (Raffaele Bedarida‘s ‘Bombs Against the Skyscrapers’: Depero’s Strange Love Affair with New York, 1928–1949). Perhaps more than any other Futurist, Depero was driven by a desire to blur the boundaries between high and popular culture. He realized this goal through painting and sculpture, as well as work in less conventional areas of visual culture, including furniture, industrial design, advertising (Giovanna Ginex’s Not Just Campari! Depero and Advertising), architecture, photography, publishing, tapestry (Virginia Gardner Troy’s Stitching Modernity: The Textile Work of Fortunato Depero), theater (Günter Berghaus’s Fortunato Depero and the Theatre), ballet scenography (Nell Andrew’s Fortunato Depero and Avant-garde Dance), and costume design. Yet, despite his wide-ranging contributions, Depero was not recognized as a modern master until critics, historians, and artists reassessed his works posthumously (Fabio Belloni’s The Critical Fortune and Artistic Recognition of the Work of Depero).
CIMA’s 2014 exhibition not only introduced this multifaceted artist to American audiences, but also represents the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work in New York since Depero’s residence in the city during the late 1920s. Encompassing painting, sculpture, textiles, drawings, and more, the exhibition featured more than fifty works, some of which were previously analyzed through multispectral imaging (Gianluca Poldi’s Depero’s Painting Technique and Variations. A Scientific Approach). This impressive array of art was drawn from the renowned collection of Gianni Mattioli, who was a close friend of Depero from 1921, when they met in Milan, until the artist’s death in 1960 (Laura Mattioli’s Gianni Mattioli and Fortunato Depero). One room was even devoted to the display of Depero Futurista (also known as the ‘Bolted Book’). Widely regarded as Futurism’s first book-object, this publication proved to be an experiment in typography through which Depero challenged the very idea of the book as a cultural object and design product (Melania Gazzotti’s Depero’s ‘Bolted Book’ and Futurist Publishing).
The publication of this issue would not have been possible without the hard work, commitment, and collaboration of Chiara Trebaiocchi, Jennifer Wilkinson, Shea’la Finch, and Nicole Boyd.
The staff and editors of the first issue would like to express their gratitude to The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for its generous support. Thanks also to the Fundación Juan March for the republication of some of the featured essays.
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