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  • Genio Futurista by Giacomo Balla text by Fabio Benzi

GENIO FUTURISTA by Giacomo Balla

"Genio Futurista" (oil on tapestry canvas, 279 x 381 cm, the largest work ever painted by Balla) has always been regarded with one accord, and above all by Balla himself, as the linchpin of his show at the World"s Fair in Paris in 1925, a highly symbolic presence for the origin and developments of Art Déco, but also because it allows the public to approach and rediscover the fascination of an exciting and prestigious collection, built up with patience and passion by Laura Biagiotti and Gianni Cigna.
The oil painting was made by Balla for the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs Modernes held in Paris in 1925, where it was shown for the first time in the pavilion of decorative arts together with three other works.
The Paris Expo set the seal on what was by this time the widespread international diffusion of the ideas of the Futurists who, interpreting the theories of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, had already carried out a genuine ideological and artistic revolution in the previous decade, and given voice to the impetus that would clear the way for the international avant-gardes. The cult of speed and dynamism was linked to a new concept of art, which the Futurists no longer saw as mere representation, but as concrete action in the world. In the themes tackled this translated into a paean to modernity and progress and embodied the optimistic and progressive vision of the early part of the century. The hanging was put on display again in the exhibition at the association of Amatori e Cultori di Belle Arti in Rome in 1928, in a dominant position at the centre of a large wall in the anthological room devoted to Giacomo Balla"s work in which the artist presented a selection of the most important creations of his career, commencing with the Divisionist works from the beginning of the century.
Based on the colours of the Italian flag (red, white and green), set on a dark and light blue ground, the "prismatic" composition is centred on the schematic figure of a man, with the head in the shape of a star, the arms outstretched to form a sort of M, the initial of Marinetti, the inventor of Futurism, and two red wedges for the legs. From this only vaguely anthropomorphic abstract figure (the "Futurist Genius", essentially Balla"s self-portrait) radiate noise-forms that condense the artist"s various experiments with Futurist painting into a sort of artistic summa: from the sharp "motor-noise" forms to the abstract volumes of Feu d"Artifice (1916-17), from the patriotic use of the tricolour in Forme-grido Viva l"Italia (Forms-Cry Long Live Italy, 1915) to the theoretical and theosophical representations of the "fourth dimension" in Trasformazioni forme-spiriti (Form-Spirit Transformations, 1918) and Pessimismo contro Ottimismo (Pessimism versus Optimism, 1923) and to the intersecting triangles of the Compenetrazioni iridescenti (Iridescent Interpenetrations).
The Genio futurista hanging is the precise and recapitulatory representation of an inspired process that led the artist to an awareness of the dynamic relationships of the universe, and to depict them as pure shapes and colours: an avant-garde not just of forms, but also and above all of intellectual intuitions, of dimensions that go beyond the visible and "give skeleton and flesh to the invisible", as Balla himself put it in the manifesto of The Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe (1915).

Prof. Fabio Benzi, professor of Contemporary Art.

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