Russian fables

Intentionally crude, deliberately archaic, printed on poor paper, with hand-drawn type and bound in sack cloth, Futurism seems a strange epithet to attach to the manifestos and publications of the Russian Futurists. One, entitled A Slap in the Face of Public Taste, published in 1912, lends it name to an upcoming exhibition at the Estorick Collection of Modern Art in London’s Islington, dedicated to the interaction between Russian Futurists and their better-known (or perhaps better pigeonholed) Italian counterparts, such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero. Some of the work – by Marc Chagall, Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky – does really belong to other traditions, but the work of Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov marks the specifically Russian take on Futurism known as Rayism. Some of the other work is distinctly folkloric, but, of course, Primitivism and Futurism were two sides of the same coin in the ferment of early 20th century culture. In any event, art historical categories are one thing, the work is another, and the show should be interesting in shining light on the connection between two of Modernism’s lesser-known traditions.

A Slap in the Face! Futurists in Russia runs from 28 March to 10 June at the Estorick Collection Collection of Modern Art, 39a Canonbury Square, London N1, and then from 23 June to 18 August at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1

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