A Slap in the Face!

28 Mar 2007 – 10 Jun 2007

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 20:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 17:00

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Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

London, United Kingdom

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  • Highbury & Islington
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A Slap in the Face! Futurists in Russia


After founding Futurism in 1909, F. T. Marinetti's ambition was to establish an international movement that would develop his own group's activities, achievements and interests.

Futurist ideas quickly became familiar to Russian artists through translations of manifestos and newspaper articles, yet Marinetti's visit to the country in 1914 provoked mixed responses. While many artists admired his revolutionary zeal others, such as Mikhail Larionov, resented what they perceived to be Marinetti's cultural imperialism and vehemently resisted his influence.

Despite the unquestionable impact of Marinetti and his followers on Russian artists, their work was marked by genuine aesthetic differences that frequently seem to contradict the label 'Futurist'.

While both movements were fascinated with the urban environment and the machine, Russian Futurism was equally interested in folk art and rural themes, its focus on the timeless dignity of the Russian peasantry having no equivalent or place in Marinetti's urban fantasies.

A greater emphasis upon primitivism was also apparent in the deliberate roughness and crudity of Russian Futurist books, with their distinctly 'hand-made' quality, being printed on coarse paper and containing handwritten texts.

The manifesto 'A Slap in the Face of Public Taste' (1912) ' from which this exhibition derives its title ' was bound in sackcloth. The concept of zaum, or 'transrational', language likewise expressed a seemingly paradoxical 'Futurist' desire to return to the very dawn of language and explore the expressive potential of pure sounds, freed from any accepted logical meanings.

This exhibition explores all of the above themes, in addition to other distinctly Russian Futurist tendencies such as 'Rayism', which was grounded in the principle that objects are perceived by means of the light rays they reflect. It was these rays that Russian artists aimed to depict, transforming humble still lifes and landscapes into explosive clusters of light and shards of colour.

Another style, known as 'Cubo-Futurism', drew upon influences from France and Italy while incorporating indigenous linguistic and iconographical elements.

The first exhibition in England to view Russian Futurism in relation to Italian Futurist art and ideas, A Slap in the Face! Futurists in Russia, is curated by John Milner, Professor Emeritus in Art History at the University of Newcastle.

It has been organised in conjunction with the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, where it will be on display from 23 June '18 August 2007.


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