Home Art magazine Giacomo Balla’s artistic research on light

Futurism&Co Art Gallery in Rome dedicates to artist Giacomo Balla an exhibition that explores Balla’s intrinsic relationship with light.

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Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) was among the first protagonists of Italian Divisionism, when in the early 1900s he began to paint pointillist paintings, without fully adhering to the program of his greatest exponents. He then became a leading exponent of Futurism, signing with Marinetti and others including Boccioni, Carrà and Russolo, the posters that sanctioned the theoretical aspects of the movement, the first in 1909 and in particular the following year, the Manifesto of Futurist painters. After several years of active involvement, in 1937 he wrote a letter to the newspaper Perseo in which he declared himself an outsider to Futurist activities: the works of the 1930s were marked by a return, albeit innovative, to figuration.


Giacomo Balla, Automobile in corsa, 1913 ca., watercolor on paper. Courtesy Futurism&Co Art Gallery, Roma


The 150th anniversary of Giacomo Balla’s birth will be celebrated in Rome, in a local art gallery in the historic center. The exhibition features more than seventy works, sourced from private collections. The exhibition will be curated by Elena Gigli, art historian and authoritative scholar of the Turin painter. “Making light has always been my favorite studio," writes Balla in '54, in a letter written to the art historian Alfred Barr. According to Balla, the centrality of the research of light in painting has always been of primary importance. "It’s about a research, mostly interior, prior to the Futurist experience. This more than an exhibition on Futurism is an exhibition on light", reiterates curator Elena Gigli.

Roman by adoption, Balla is a man with many artistic facets, of which the most dynamic and creative were undoubtedly spent over the extraordinary futurist adventure. The exhibition aims to investigate this passage of style, which experiments with images the development and renewal of the Futurism movement. Balla strived for finding inspiration, in tune with people's daily sensibilities, in the imagination aroused by cinema, fashion and current affairs photography, which is simultaneously watched and imitated by millions of people. The "avant-garde" of taste is a sort of mass imagery, of "mass avant-garde", a concept he emphasized in a Futurist proclamation published in 1930.
Balla's adolescence was immediately permeated by art, at first musical with the study of the violin and, later, pictorial, with training at the Albertina Academy. During his university career the artist came into contact with Divisionist techniques and in 1895 he moved to Rome where he dedicated himself to the study of light, experimenting with the effects painted on canvas. Between 1909 and 1911, Balla composed one of his most famous works, Arched Lamp, where the influences of both Divisionism and Futurism are evident: the subject of the painting is an electric street lamp that radiates the environment and, almost with a scientific approach, the light is rendered by breaking down the colors.


Giacomo Balla, Arched Lamp, 1909-1911, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art (MoMa).


Cover image: Giacomo Balla, Affetti (studio), 1910, oil on canvas. Courtesy Futurism&Co Art Gallery, Roma 

Written by Maria Eleonora Piva

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