One of the standouts in the Guggenheim’s current stellar survey of Italian Futurism, Fortunato Depero (1892–1960) was a fruitful contributor to the seminal avant-garde movement. As drawn from the Gianni Mattioli Collection, the Center for Italian Modern Art’s inaugural exhibition features more than 50 rarely seen works by Depero in a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, tapestry, collage, drawing and graphics.
Prompted by the Futurist writings of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Depero came to Rome in 1915 (he later spent the years between 1928 and 1930 living in New York), where he and artist Giacomo Balla launched Futurism’s second wave. His own style could be described as fantastical, even whimsical, characterized by bright, flat colors depicting figurative forms and mechanical motifs that seem to have leaped out of a child’s imagination. Eye-popping and almost Pop Arty, his approach naturally lent itself to design, and indeed, by 1916 he was creating costumes for Diaghilev’s production of Stravinksy’s The Song of the Nightingale. Although the performance was never realized, Depero’s preparatory collages became an important jumping-off point for the rest of his career.
Among the many gems in the show, his canvas City Mechanized by Shadows (1920) exuberantly depicts a surreal urban scene inspired by Giorgio de Chirico’s Metaphysical Art; another notable work is Plumed Knight (1923), a Cubistic figure made up of intersecting planes of painted wood. Also on view is Depero Futurista, his artist book bound with machine bolts. A startling masterpiece of graphic design, it reveals just how ahead of his time Depero really was—and how fresh his work remains today.