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fortunato  depero

︎Artist, Futurism, Graphic Design   
︎ Ventral Is Golden


"A time will come when the eye of man will perceive colours as feelings within himself. To paint a human figure you must not paint it; you must render the whole of its surrounding atmosphere." - Umberto Boccioni.


Born in 1892, and inspired largely by the sculptures of Umberto Boccioni, Fortunato Depero became quickly infused with the Futurist Movement of the early 20th Century. An extremely talented and multifaceted artist, with works spanning the realms of painting, sculpture, collage, illustration, set and costume design, typography and advertisement, Depero and other Futurists became mouthpieces for the various changes brought about by new technological and political revolutions of Italy and subsequently the rest of Europe, that defined its character preceding World War I.


After releasing Depero-Dinamo Azari in 1927, a book known for being bound with industrial bolts, his talent for graphic design and advertisement during the mechanical revolution of art, culture and consciousness was clear. Depero moved to New York in 1928, becoming the first – and only – Italian Futurist to move to the United States. While in the United States he would design front covers for publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, as well as designing one of his most iconic campaigns for Italian liqueur producer, Campari.







In today's connected yet seemingly fragmented, fluid and ultimately paradoxical cultural climate, where the negative impact of industry, advertising and capitalist systems are fulfilling their more destructive agendas, it isn't often that we hear the praises of industrialisation's consciousness raising effects. 
In a convoluted way, this is what the Futurits’ thought.
Although they later became affiliated with the fascism of Mussolini, the Futurists’ love of disruption and progress paved the way for the extnesion of the human mind.
This idea was not to stop at any cost though, and led them to construct what some call “a church of speed and violence.” They embraced fascism, pushed aside the idea of morality, and argued that innovation must never, for any reason, be hindered.
Sound familiar?





“The Futurists‘ world was characterised by a new movement of mechanical domination over nature, on both psychological and sub-atomic levels.”




Provoked by the technological advances brought about by inventions such as the aeroplane and motorcar, and subsequent rise of the man-machine integrated Metropolis, the Futurists‘ world was characterised by a new movement of mechanical domination over nature, on both psychological and sub-atomic levels.
"The period before 1914 saw a spectacular advance of capitalism, which was developing the productive forces at a dizzying pace. Europe and the USA were industrialising rapidly at the expense of agriculture, the proletariat at the expense of peasantry. Old ideas were crumbling. In the field of science the basis was being laid for a twin revolution, connected with relativity theory and quantum mechanics. The human mind was gradually penetrating beyond the world of appearance and discovering a deeper reality in the sub-atomic world, where the laws of the ordinary world of sense perception did not apply. The sensation existed that this was a new age, an age of progress in which the machine was king." - (Woods) and the new mechanical metaphor of nature built itself into the atom.



"The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it." - Umberto Boccioni.


One positive aspect of the Futurists was their use of literary and typographic devices. Although they thought it would help disassociate Italy from the burden of it's history, and rebirth the mentality of the country into the 'cult of the modern'; a new capitalist dream based on the integration of man and machine which proved to be fatally conservative and short-sighted, these literary devices, such as those developed by Depero, liberated the mind from the confines of what the written, linear word-view allowed. This has always been a helpful tool in cultivating the ability to lift the mind out of an ‘escalator mentality’ induced by metropolitan environments that pollute streams of consciousness and mechanise birth canals with overproduction.

In the world of Futurism the machine was god. The human did not disappear entirely, but just enough to be subjugated and alienated by the idea of absolute progress. In the same sense humanity is disappearing again into another new technological relationship with nature, a kind of collaboration or aperture through which the sentience of nature is revealed. This is perhaps a type of consciousness moulded by the perspectives of the ancient Greek records of lost civilisations, the reasons for their downfalls, and the many examples of anceint technologies that have been recorded throughout pre-dynastic Egypt.

It is an interesting phenomena of human pathology to use metaphors of new technology to describe reality in such a way that it falls outside of the effects of history, as a kind of self-realised product of purely modernised thought. Although the Futurists fell victim to this, their absurd poetics related directly to the public understanding of the Theory of Relativity, as it became entangled in the formalism of a new industrial complex that was mistaking ideas of speed and chaos for perfection and progress. 

One of the leading members of the movement, Umberto Boccioni, once wrote that "on account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular."
Rather than perceiving an action as a performance of a single limb, the Futurists viewed action as the convergence in time and space of multiple influences. "The motor bus", Boccioni continued, "rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it."




Depero also dipped into the word of fashion design.
Fashion, initially as a verb or 'a manner of doing something', is what separates it from most other mediums as an art form that directly affects the mind by being placed upon the body. It becomes a kind of social ritual: a medium in which the human body dwells and emerges as an interface between the internal message and the external reaction.
For Depero, the subversion of the waistcoat acted as the space suit of the Futurist's exploration into the new techno-superior dinner party of the hyper industrial realm.
Corporations in our current culture for example, also present us with the desire to transcend social class and even to acheive broader immaterial concepts such as ‘equality’ through an extension provided directly through their products. The illusion is nothing new. The hope of Depero's waistcoats were a new form of thinking within his social circles, in revolt of the petite bourgeoisie, who stood in the way of extending the reach of humankind, allbeit, in the end, at a wider cost to human freedom and the enovironment.


Machinery, technology, information and fashion, have of course, many useful applications. However, it is the mental processes that are hidden inside of technological expression that contain the seeds for the potential destrcution of notions like ‘equality’ and ‘progress’.



Do the patterns of historical failures now present themselves once again within an age of communication more as opportunities than inevitabilities?

Ironically, the facsist leader of the Futurist movement, Filippo Marinetti, often declared that history should give way to strength, speed and the power of the machine, yet to avoid the obviously negative connotations of these words we must also be mindful of his notion that “an image must be a synthesis. It is not only what one sees, but also what one remembers.”













Further Reading ︎
Depero, Pinterest Board
Vests by Depero, Italian Ways article
Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting
Italian Futurism, Introduction
Futurism and Fascism, Alan Woods



Mark