Born in 1907, Bruno Munari joined the Milanese Futurists in 1926. Their rejection of academicism, their interest in bringing together different artistic disciplines, and their interest in capturing the pulse...
Born in 1907, Bruno Munari joined the Milanese Futurists in 1926. Their rejection of academicism, their interest in bringing together different artistic disciplines, and their interest in capturing the pulse of urban life in their work, interested this young artist who, even before he was twenty, had begun experimenting with aero-painting, whose manifest advocates aero-sculpture. In 1930 Munari made Macchina aerea, constructions of multiple red spheres and a smaller black sphere, made of wood, that moved slowly like a constellation, a group of atoms, or a space station, buoyed by the air. Neither painting nor sculpture, it was ignored by public at the time and eventually destroyed.
Disillusioned with painting, seeking to introduce dynamism and fluidity into art, Munari soon realized that Futurist techniques froze movement and were aligning with the heroic and classicist monumentality that was de rigueur in mainstream artistic circles at the time. On the contrary, he argued, machines should be simplified; they should even integrate natural phenomena (drafts, temperature differences, humidity, plays on light and shadow).
Drawing on the lessons of Paul Klee, Max Bill, and Josef Albers, but also on Italian abstraction (notably Osvaldo Licini and Fausto Melotti), in 1933 he created his first Useless Machines. Made of corrugated cardboard and distemper, wooden battens, silk thread, and wire, their forms and colors harmonize proportionally in space. Carefully fashioned, these sculptures could be produced as multiples—like an industrial design, but devoid of function. These machines are useless, according to Munari, because they “do not make anything, they do not eliminate labor, they do not save time and money, and they are not marketable commodities.” Instead, they are “objects to look at, the way one looks at a drifting group of clouds after spending seven hours inside a factory full of useful machines” (1937).
Munari, the “Leonardo and Peter Pan of Italian design,” according to Pierre Restany, would maintain this ironic note through the visual and literary work he created throughout his career. It crystallized in 1942 with the publication of Le macchine di Munari, a compellation of abstruse machines inspired by the American inventor Rube Goldberg. The titles reflect their poetic surrealism: A Lizard-Propelled Engine for Lazy Turtles, A Tail- wagger for Lazy Dogs, A Mechanism for Smelling Artificial Flowers, A Handkerchief-waver for Departing Trains, etc.
- Riccardo Venturi From the book 'Suspension', by Matthieu Poirier, published by Olivier Malingue Ltd and Skira, Paris, 2018. Book available to purchase from the gallery for £35.
London, Olivier Malingue, Suspension – A History of Abstract Hanging Sculpture 1918–2018, 1 October - 15 December 2018.