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Balla exhibition in Rome is one of the most complete yet

by Andrea Carli

Certainly, Giacomo Balla’s contribution to the Futurist movement is a central focus in the exhibition on show at National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome until March 26.

But there is something more (or something different): the founding value of light in all of its physical, spiritual and esthetic facets. Sunlight, artificial light, but also the rays of light from the camera oscura. There is the breakdown of light into abstract geometric shapes.

Curated by Stefania Frezzotti, this National Gallery show titled “Giacomo Balla: A Wave of Light” is a narration of a long and complex career. It starts with Balla’s pioneering phase at the turn of the 20th century, when the Italian artist identified the language of modernity in Divisionism and photography, through his studies of movement and velocity, decorative motifs and applied arts, to a lengthy period immersed in his own personal realism and in revisiting his earlier themes of Roman landscapes, portraits and family life.

The exhibition showcases 35 paintings donated by Elica and Luce Balla, his daughters, in 1984 that filled in gaps in the Gallery’s collection with masterpieces such as La pazza (1905, from Polittico dei viventi) and Affetti (1910). Also on view are key works from his Futurist period that the Gallery had lacked until then -- notably two tablets from Compenetrazioni iridescenti (1912), studies on velocity, Dimostrazioni interventiste (1915), spiritualist paintings from the 1920s, and works from his final figurative period which at the time had received little attention.

It’s the first time the works from both donations are being displayed as one.

All paintings are connected by an idea. Balla wished for a world reborn through the development of a new sensibility open to technological and scientific innovations as well as esoteric teachings, tied to theosophy and psychic mediumistic phenomena.

(Giacomo Balla: A Wave of Light, exibit curated by Stefania Frezzotti, National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rome through March 26)