Bruno Munari: My Futurist Past

Exhibition running from Sep 19 2012 until Dec 23 2012

The exhibition ‘Bruno Munari: My Futurist Past’, on view at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, investigates the career of one of the most complex and creative figures of 20th century Italian art. The show presents Munari’s art from his initial Futurist phase (around 1927) to the post-war period (1950), when, as one of the founders of the Movimento Arte Concreta, he became a point of reference for a new generation of artists and designers in Italy and beyond. 

Born in Milan in 1907, Munari lived and worked in the city until his death in 1998. His career began within the Futurist movement; F.T. Marinetti considered him to be one of its most promising young exponents. From the beginning Munari explored the possibilities of painting in accordance with the theories of Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero in their 1915 Manifesto ‘Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe.’

Munari’s roots lay in what he termed his ‘Futurist past’, but his kaleidoscopic career was influenced by a varied aesthetics and sensibilities, including movements such as Constructivism, Dada and Surrealism. Throughout his career he also embraced a broad range of media and disciplines, from painting to photomontage, sculpture, graphics, and film and art theory. 

From the outset he adopted an innovative approach to the use of space in his art. In 1930 Munari designed the first ‘mobile’ in the history of Italian art. The aim of his ‘Useless Machine’ was to liberate abstract painting from its static nature. The paradoxical name was intended to be a reflection on the usefulness of the useless (art) and the uselessness of the useful (machines). This developing personal aesthetic separated him from the Futurists with their fascination in the machine and uncritical celebration of progress.

Towards the end of the 1940s Munari became a founding member of M.A.C. (Movimento Arte Concreta) in Milan. This movement became a catalyst for Italian abstraction, bringing about a ‘synthesis of arts’ in which art and technology, and creativity and functionality converged. This movement reflected Munari’s belief that technological advances expanded the artist’s creative vocabulary.

This exhibition focuses on Munari’s initial, conflicting relationship with Futurism and, through his graphic illustrations and advertisements, his independent work as a graphic designer for the leading magazines of the day. The show reveals the richness of Munari’s playful and endlessly creative career, revealing his important contribution to the modernisation of Italian culture. 

OPENING HOURS: Wed-Sun: 11.00-18.00, Sun: 12.00-17.00, Closed Mon & Tue

Image Credits:

Cosmic Map, Bruno Munari (1907-1998)1930 Tempera on card, 30 x 40 cm. Courtesy Gambini Collection, Busto Arsizio 

Aeroplanes and Archers, Bruno Munari (1907-1998)1932 Mixed media, 34.8 x 24.8 cm. Courtesy Massimo & Sonia Cirulli Archive

Misunderstood Poet, Bruno Munari (1907-1998)1933 Mixed media on paper, 27.8 x 21.8 cm. Courtesy Massimo & Sonia Cirulli Archive

T (design for an advert for the magazine Campo Grafico), Bruno Munari (1907-1998)1935 Mixed media, 25 x 18 cm. Courtesy Massimo & Sonia Cirulli Archive

The Berlin Olympics, Bruno Munari (1907-1998)1936 Lithograph, 80 x 60 cm. Courtesy Massimo & Sonia Cirulli Archive

Useless Machine (Arrhythmic Carousel), Bruno Munari (1907-1998)1953 Iron structure, gramophone mechanism and aluminium sheets, 113 x 60 x 30 cm. Courtesy Miroslava Hajek

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