Sunday, 3 August 2014

Gerardo Dottori: The Futurist View

Alessio Stefanelli from Perugia, Umbria–Dottori’s home town–was our speaker for the evening. Photo: ©Annmarie Meredith 2014
The great thing about a visit to the Estorick Collection are the artistic surprises that lie in wait for you. First you walk through the garden and think 'it would be nice to spend more time out here', then you step into a small hallway, pass the bookshop on the right, café to the left, continue along a white washed corridor and then into one of the galleries where you might be assaulted by paintings of intense colours or unexpected sculptures or beautifully crafted drawings. This can make you pause briefly while you collect yourself.

This is what happened to me last week at the Islington Art Society's annual visit to the Estorick to see Gerardo Dottori's exhibition 'The Futurist View'. I am woefully ignorant about many 20th century artists and visits like this do help fill the gaps in my knowledge.

Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. The Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti launched the movement in his Futurist Manifesto in 1909. The Futurists glorified and emphasised speed, technology, youth, violence, cars, aeroplanes and industrial cities and rebelled against harmony and good taste. Gerardo Dottori (1884-1977) became a leading figure of the movement during the years between the two world wars and signed the Futurist Manifesto of Aeropainting in 1929.

There are a number of his Aeropaintings on display in this exhibition which depict landscapes and visions of Umbria from the viewpoint of a passenger in an aeroplane. They have an hypnotic quality to them so you could easily lose yourself for a long time once you have been drawn into these slightly unrealistic but harmonious landscapes.

Gerardo Dottori's reputation suffered after the end of WWII when being a Fascist was no longer socially or politically acceptable. Presumably the Estorick have now decided that enough time has passed since 1945 to safely introduce him to a new audience. Certainly we could not have asked for a more enthusiastic speaker than Alessio Stefanelli who, coming from the same town in Umbria as Dottori, told us that he has grown up seeing the very same landscapes that are depicted in these paintings and his enthusiasm made me want to go and visit the area for myself.