How have artists represented the future and the emergence of technological developments from the beginning of the 20th Century up to modern times? From the very first representations of new industrial cities to the fascination with space exploration, the invention of cinema, FUTURS, Matisse, Calder, Miró, an exhibition presented at La Vieille Charité in Marseille until 27 September, showcases the representation by artists of “ the future”. And it’s one of the strongest exhibitions I’ve ever seen this summer.
From the first envisions of the new industrial cities to the fascination with the space conquest, the exhibition explores the interest artists took in innovations in architecture, robotics, cinema and space imagery. And they certainly pushed boundaries with their medium. From the utopian city of Metropolis, through the robotic fighting machines of The War of the Worlds to the great fear expressed in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The new cities grappling with industrial and technological revolutions provide the context for futuristic scenes (as seen in works by Giacomo Balla, Speeding Car). Artists and architects turn them into mega-cities, with soaring skyscrapers or invent functional, open-ended, fictional structures, freed from spatial constraints. Here the exhibition continues to impress and features masterpieces by Fernand Léger or Kazimir Malevich.
Fritz Lang predicted the disenchantment of the interwar period. Labyrinthine cities (Paul Citroën, Metropolis) or anthropomorphic representations of industrial machinery (Carl Grossberg, The Machine Room) reveal the alienating power of modern cities. A feeling of disturbing weirdness spreads through the works of American precisionist artists (Charles Demuth, After All…) and into imaginary cities in which fiction makes sense of reality (Cédric Delsaux, Dark Vador. Dubai).
Industrial mechanisation, later explored in the exhibition, had a serious impact on research in robotics, reducing man to a machine (Victor Brauner, Prestige of the Air; Konrad Klapheck, Male World); it was also explored by science-fiction writers and filmmakers. Here Yves Klein, Pneumatic Rocket and Erró, Science-Fiction Scape perfectly illustrate the frustrations of the Cold War.
Space exploration offered opportunities for artistic explorations (Enrico Prampolini, Diver of the Clouds). Pop artists continued to push the boundaries of their medium to further explore the notion of “frontier” (with works by Martial Raysse, Portrait of Gordon Cooper; Bernard Rancillac, The Fiancée of Space).
Copyrights Calder Foundation, New York, Artists Rights Society (New York)
Although astronomy has always inspired artists in their quest for visual invention, the development of spatial imagery became one of the favourite artistic topics in the 20th and 21st centuries. The radical modernity of the Bauhaus (František Kupka, Blue and Green; László Moholy-Nagy, Light-Space Modulator), and the Surrealist found new sources of inspiration (Max Ernst, The World of the Naïve; Oscar Dominguez, Cosmic Landscape). Their works ventured into imaginary territories where the microcosm merges with the cosmos, and constellations become poems (Joan Miró, Dance of Figures and Birds in a Blue Sky, Sparks; Alexandre Calder, Mobile).
Experiments with space proper to modern art are the milestones along an artistic path which leads to minimalism (Josef Albers, Silent Hall), the contemporary deviations of NASA photographs (Alain Jacquet, Jumping Rope) and fairy-tale installations opening the way to a new visual language (Bruno Peinado, Silence is Sexy).
From paintings, sculptures, photographs to installations, this fantastic exhibition fluidly explores mutual relationships and influences between art and science, literature and film, reality and fiction! It’s a must-see.