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Rebirth

John Evans on an innovative exhibition of Futurist work

05 December, 2019 — By John Evans

Installation shot of the 3D-printed Synthesis of Human Dynamism

THREE weeks ago a full-size bronze by Umberto Boccioni sold for over $16.1million at Christie’s in New York.

It was controversial, given that during the artist’s short lifetime (1882-1916) the startling work, titled Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, had never been cast in bronze. But its value now is measured by its importance as a Futurist masterpiece, a strident, striding figure capturing what Boccioni called the “synthetic continuity” of motion, his “lines of force”. The original plaster piece can be seen in São Paulo.

Today, at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in Canonbury, for £19.99, you can pick up a unique 12.5cm replica of another of his works, Spiral Expansion of Muscles in Movement.

And this one is truly innovative, being 3D-printed and a recreation of a sculpture destroyed a decade after his death.

Soon after signing up to the 1910 Futurist manifesto, Boccioni sculpted the Spiral work and two others, Synthesis of Human Dynamism and Speeding Muscles.

It is these three that are revisited in the Estorick’s groundbreaking exhibition Umberto Boccioni: Recreating the Lost Sculptures.

After the conscripted Boccioni was fatally crushed by his horse on a cavalry exercise, aged 33, a number of his sculptures passed to fellow artist, Piero da Verona; but were destroyed in 1927.

Now digital artists Matt Smith and Anders Rådén have collaborated to enable us to view these pieces again, in a single gallery. A fourth recreated work of a human face, titled Empty and Full Abstracts of a Head, can also be seen alongside a drawing study.

The detailed methods used by Smith and Rådén are examined. Working from photographs of Boccioni’s studio and of three exhibitions held between 1913 and 1917, they have been able to compare images with a number of measuring techniques – and using Photoshop – to produce the highly accurate 3D reconstructions.

As well as the 3D prints, the show features maquettes which pinpoint areas where Smith and Rådén “compensated” for a lack of documentation, filling in by drawing “on the insights they had gained into Boccioni’s stylistic vocabulary”.

Time-lapse recordings of the processes can also be seen.

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