Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Giacomo Balla, Street Light

Giacomo Balla, Street Light, 1909
68.78 x 45.16 in.

Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) was an Italian Futurist painter and a prominent art teacher.  Born in Turin to a photographer and a musician, Balla began his art career working in a lithograph print shop.  He attended the University of Turin and had some early success there before moving to Rome in 1895.  In Rome Balla worked as an illustrator and caricaturist.  In the following years, he showed at several major exhibitions in Rome and Venice, including the Venice Biennale, and also had international success.  Balla began teaching and counted prominent artists such as Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini among his students.  Balla began experimenting with Futurism and was a signatory to the Futurist Manifesto in 1910.  He began designing Futurist furniture, extending the movement beyond the canvas.  Unlike most Futurists, Balla was not concerned with modern machines or violence, and instead his painting is known for his visual representations of light, speed, and movement.  1914's Abstract Speed and Sound is among his best known pieces. Street Light is a powerful example of Balla's style, exemplifying his visual representations of light. In this piece, Balla juxtaposes the artificial light of the lamp with the moon that is visible through the glow.  With his unusual brushstrokes, composed mostly of small and precise lines, and the bright palette, this large piece makes quite an impression.  Balla's take on the luminous scene is intense and beautiful, while also somewhat off-putting and eerie.  I had a brief blackout in my house tonight so I am particularly glad of Balla's illumination.

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