Biography

A Futurist in New York

Finally, in September 1928 he left for New York, the only Futurist to experience not episodically  the great North American metropolis (1).

«The day advances appreciably. From the thick fog you can see like a sort of magical apparitions, high narrow regularly forged walls, like pieces of gigantic turreted cans. They are the skyscrapers that you discern  vaguely in the  distance “(2).

Already in December he held a solo show at the Guarino Gallery where he exhibited paintings and tapestries, followed by many others in 1929 and 1930. He then realized the settings for the Zucca Restaurant (all the furniture and wall paintings) and for the dining room of the Enrico Paglieri Restaurant (unfortunately both destroyed just a year later for the construction of the Rockefeller Center), he studied scenic solutions and costumes for the Roxy Theater, costumes for the ballet American Sketches as well as for choreographies of his conception as Figures and Motorlamps.

Finally, in September 1928 he left for New York, the only Futurist to experience not episodically  the great North American metropolis (1).

«The day advances appreciably. From the thick fog you can see like a sort of magical apparitions, high narrow regularly forged walls, like pieces of gigantic turreted cans. They are the skyscrapers that you discern  vaguely in the  distance “(2).

Already in December he held a solo show at the Guarino Gallery where he exhibited paintings and tapestries, followed by many others in 1929 and 1930. He then realized the settings for the Zucca Restaurant (all the furniture and wall paintings) and for the dining room of the Enrico Paglieri Restaurant (unfortunately both destroyed just a year later for the construction of the Rockefeller Center), he studied scenic solutions and costumes for the Roxy Theater, costumes for the ballet American Sketches as well as for choreographies of his conception as Figures and Motorlamps.

Moreover, thanks to the sophisticated stage equipment of the New York theaters, he left aside all the armor and superstructures imposed so far on his characters (who could only perform slow robotic movements), tricks used  in 1918 to support the Italian stage deficiencies, and instead let the dancers free to pirouette on the stage, dressed only in  tights decorated with his futuristic motives of dynamic designs. He also worked in the advertising and illustration field, producing magazine covers for”Vogue”, “Vanity Fair”, “Sparks”, “The New Yorker”, “New Auto Atlas”, “Atlantica”, and others. In fact, for Depero New York was essentially advertising.
In his eyes the North American metropolis appeared as an immense, luminous and glittering advertising poster.

Even the windows of the most famous streets of the metropolis, such as the Fifth Avenue in New York – he writes – are of a risky modernity: dynamic and chromatic constructionism, decorativism expressed with the most contrasting materials ...” (3). In New York Depero produced hundreds and hundreds of sketches, collaborated with the major advertising agencies and with the most popular fashion, graphic and literature magazines. Almost always managed to impose his style, his creations, as in the case of the magazine “Vanity Fair”, or of “Movie Makers”, or even of “Auto Atlas”. In other cases, on the other hand, as in the sketches for the famous magazine “Vogue” the artist was forced to accept compromises (a case more unique than rare) with the editorial line, clearly inspired by Art Deco style. However, New York, with its huge panorama of the arts, also took him closer to certain constructivist graphics, which live in the counterpoint of white, red and black, or in photo-collage, and which he experimented in a group of works created  on the memory of vision of the city, that he realized once back in Italy.

Moreover, thanks to the sophisticated stage equipment of the New York theaters, he left aside all the armor and superstructures imposed so far on his characters (who could only perform slow robotic movements), tricks used  in 1918 to support the Italian stage deficiencies, and instead let the dancers free to pirouette on the stage, dressed only in  tights decorated with his futuristic motives of dynamic designs. He also worked in the advertising and illustration field, producing magazine covers for”Vogue”, “Vanity Fair”, “Sparks”, “The New Yorker”, “New Auto Atlas”, “Atlantica”, and others. In fact, for Depero New York was essentially advertising.
In his eyes the North American metropolis appeared as an immense, luminous and glittering advertising poster.

Even the windows of the most famous streets of the metropolis, such as the Fifth Avenue in New York – he writes – are of a risky modernity: dynamic and chromatic constructionism, decorativism expressed with the most contrasting materials ...” (3). In New York Depero produced hundreds and hundreds of sketches, collaborated with the major advertising agencies and with the most popular fashion, graphic and literature magazines. Almost always managed to impose his style, his creations, as in the case of the magazine “Vanity Fair”, or of “Movie Makers”, or even of “Auto Atlas”. In other cases, on the other hand, as in the sketches for the famous magazine “Vogue” the artist was forced to accept compromises (a case more unique than rare) with the editorial line, clearly inspired by Art Deco style. However, New York, with its huge panorama of the arts, also took him closer to certain constructivist graphics, which live in the counterpoint of white, red and black, or in photo-collage, and which he experimented in a group of works created  on the memory of vision of the city, that he realized once back in Italy.

A pictorial summa of the  mankind encountered in New York can be found in the great Big Sale, painting of 1930, which depicts precisely a glimpse of the New York market of Bleecker Street, made up of stalls, well turned legs and a shoeshine “in gibus”, as elegant as a business man.

At the intersection of Broadway with one of the side streets of the lower city [downtown] – writes Depero – a perfect gentleman, with shining gibus, monocle, carnation in the buttonhole, striped trousers, ebony stick with ivory knob, shoes of lacquer and gaiters of very fine nutria, he is  smoking a big half-dollar cigar. Passers-by look at him with curiosity. The newspapers have noted, interviewed and commented with sympathy. Do not believe that he is a millionaire walking in the street, or a diplomat waiting for taxis. No, he is an authentic shoe-shine of probable Neapolitan origin, who had the bizarre idea of combining himself in that way to attract attention and to multiply customers. “(4).

A pictorial summa of the  mankind encountered in New York can be found in the great Big Sale, painting of 1930, which depicts precisely a glimpse of the New York market of Bleecker Street, made up of stalls, well turned legs and a shoeshine “in gibus”, as elegant as a business man.

At the intersection of Broadway with one of the side streets of the lower city [downtown] – writes Depero – a perfect gentleman, with shining gibus, monocle, carnation in the buttonhole, striped trousers, ebony stick with ivory knob, shoes of lacquer and gaiters of very fine nutria, he is  smoking a big half-dollar cigar. Passers-by look at him with curiosity. The newspapers have noted, interviewed and commented with sympathy. Do not believe that he is a millionaire walking in the street, or a diplomat waiting for taxis. No, he is an authentic shoe-shine of probable Neapolitan origin, who had the bizarre idea of combining himself in that way to attract attention and to multiply customers. “(4).

Notes

  1. In fact, Depero remained in New York for almost two years, until the autumn of 1930. On Depero’s New York experience, see M. Scudiero & David Leiber, Depero futurista & New York, Rovereto, 1986
  2. F. Depero, Nel porto di New York, in Fortunato Depero nelle opere e nella vita,, autobiography, Trento, 1940
  3. F. Depero, The windows of Saks, Ibidem
  4. F. Depero, Lustrascarpe in gibus, Ibidem

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