Friday, 10 December 2010

Bite 9: Umberto Boccioni - Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913, bronze, h: 114 cm
Made up of protruding and receding components, wing or flame like muscles and machine parts, this 'unique form' is really a kind of bionical man, with a cubist bent. Remarkably, it manages to appear both solid and dynamic, grounded, with feet on two plinths, and transcendent.

It is a manifestation of the Futurist ethos - which praised "the beauty of speed," the glory of progress and the "cowardice" of looking to the past. The Futurist movement may have existed in Italy along with Metaphysical Painting, but the two could not be more opposing in ideology. 

'Melancholy and mystery' is not presented here. Rather it is technology, discovery, the future; the bronze figure boldly striding forward unabated, the abstract forms suggesting speed, progress and, yes, continuity of purpose.

Boccioni, who previously worked only in paint, only began to work in sculpture in 1912, a year before completing Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. As a study of the human form in motion it is certainly unique, and well before its time, representing a passionate focus and a singular talent. 

30, 000 Years of Art Phaidon, 2007.
Art of the 20th Century, Taschen, 2005.