After founding Futurism in 1909, F.T. Marinetti’s ambition was to establish an international movement that would develop his own group’s activities, achievements and interests. Futurist ideas quickly became familiar to Russian artists through translations of manifestos and newspaper articles, yet Marinetti’s visit to the country in 1914 provoked mixed responses. While many artists admired his revolutionary zeal others resented what they perceived to be Marinetti’s cultural imperialism.

Despite the unquestionable impact of Marinetti and his followers on Russian artists, their work was marked by genuine aesthetic differences that frequently seem to contradict the label ‘Futurist’. While both movements were fascinated with the urban environment and the machine, Russian Futurism was equally interested in folk art and rural themes. A greater emphasis on primitivism was also apparent in the deliberate roughness and crudity of Russian Futurist books, with their distinctly ‘hand-made’ quality. The manifesto ‘A Slap in the Face of Public Taste’ (1912) was bound in sackcloth.

This exhibition explored all of the above themes, in addition to other distinctly Russian Futurist tendencies such as ‘Rayism’, which was grounded in the principle that objects are perceived by means of the light rays they reflect. It was these rays that Russian artists aimed to depict, transforming humble still lifes and landscapes into explosive clusters of light and shards of colour. Another style, known as ‘Cubo-Futurism’, drew upon influences from France and Italy while incorporating indigenous linguistic and iconographical elements.

The exhibition was the first in England to view Russian Futurism in relation to Italian Futurist art and ideas. It was curated by John Milner, Professor Emeritus in Art History at the University of Newcastle, and was organised in conjunction with the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, where it was on display from 23 June – 18 August 2007.

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