The sub-title of this latest exhibition is ‘Eric Estorick’s Adventure in Soviet Art’, which started in 1960, when he visited the Experimental Graphics Laboratory in, what is now, St Petersburg, and bought several hundred works on paper. He was, at that time, running the Grosvenor Gallery in London, and mounted an exhibition of Soviet art the following year, entitled Lithographs by 27 Soviet Artists, as well as featuring these artists in further shows. This helped to dispel Western notions about Social Realism and government-sponsored art, and other private collectors and museums followed Estorick’s initiative, and began to acquire work by Soviet artists. This exhibition features works by 15 of the artists in the original show, and will be the first time in nearly 60 years that they have exhibited together. Many British visitors will be unfamiliar with some of the names featured, but the new-found freedom of expression from Eastern and Soviet Bloc countries, thanks to Eric Estorick’s interest in promoting east-west relations, gave westerers a chance to purchase these works. He also promoted Jewish art in America, and Hebrew Home at Riverdale on the Hudson River, has a growing collection of Soviet Bloc artists, as well as works by Marc Chagall, Alex Katz, Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, Ben Shahn, and Andy Warhol.
As a bonus to the lithography exhibition, visitors will be able to see an ambitious show entitled Umberto Boccioni: Recreating the Lost Sculptures, in which, using a combination of vintage photography and cutting-edge 3-D printing technology, two digital artists, Matt Smith and Anders Rådén, ‘recreated’ four of Boccioni’s lost works. The works were destroyed by a fellow sculptor, Piero da Verona, who was entrusted to looking after them, after Boccioni was killed in a horse-riding accident in 1916, aged just 33. His most famous piece, the astounding Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), is possibly the quintessential Futurist statement to come out of the movement, as it embodies both movement and speed of a racing figure, part man, part machine, in a static posture. Efforts have now been made to bring to life the destroyed works, utilising drawings, sketches and photographs taken at the time in Bocciano’s studio, and through sophisticated digital manipulation, have been able to render the contours of the full figures, which are then fed into a 3-D printer. The results are quite remarkable, from maquettes to full-size sculptures. He had published his Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture in 1912, in which he called for the rejection of conventional materials such as marble and bronze. His best-known sculptures were created in plaster and focused on the problem of how to capture dynamism in a static image, one of the key concerns of early Futurist art. There is a printer on display showing ‘work in progess’, which ably demonstrates the whole thermoplastic process. The white plastic filament used in 3-D printing has the same visual quality as the plaster Boccioni used in his works, no matter what scale, and one can only surmise how amazed he would have been by of the whole production.
Lithography from Leningrad
Until 22 December 2019