About the Guggenheim Museum’s current show on Futurism - the early 20th century art movement that glorified the power of the machine and high speed, that said the racing-car was more beautiful than “Winged Victory,” ancient Greece’s tribute to the Goddess Nike and that sought to destroy all museum art of the past - died in the last century and should stay that way.
Futurists’ tribute to machines of speed like planes and cars seems tantamount to the Impressionists paying homage to the weather. It’s art making-light: it leaves out all of humanity. I’m thinking of Balla’s “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leach,” which describes a dog’s legs in a blur in imitation of speed.
I keep thinking of the Luddites, that group of 19th-century textile artisans in England who protested the Industrial Revolution by wrecking factories and the machines in them. It took an army to quell the effort. “Futurism” in the 20th century seemed to take art backward.
And if you think that the Guggenheim show is just a look back at history, consider the new public art on the Park Avenue median in Manhattan, called “Spin-the-Spin” by Alice Aycock, which looks like a prime example of Futurism - intended or not. Her giant sculptures are all about motion. She thinks of “Spin-the-Spin” as if it were a vision of a freeze-framed spin. (Yawn).
Maybe Aycock is bent on motion because her father worked in the hydroelectric industry, but come on, a sculpture of a cyclone? What’s the difference between that and an Impressionist rendering of light on water?
As for the Futurists’ worship of technology, it’s certainly not doing much for the art world these days. I’m thinking of the new manufacturing tool that could use some wrecking: the Fabricator (Fabber for short), it’s a three-dimensional printing machine that makes a solid object from a blueprint on your computer screen. It could be anything – a lampshade, a violin, a car part – each made by a machine no bigger than a desktop printer. And for larger objects, there are larger printers.
Where are the Luddites when you need them? If you can transform any 2-D image into a solid object, the downside is self-evident: the Fabber spells the end of one-of-a-kind art as we know it.