For years, scholars have posited Joseph Stella as responsible for the creation of a particularly American brand of Futurism without actually qualifying or defining the appellation. This thesis looks at Stella's involvement with, and distinction from the Italian Futurist movement through the lens of his pastel, Futurist Composition, 1914, in the collection of the Amon Carter Museum. More than even Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Stella's Futurist Composition is a celebration of the Futurist aesthetic and innovative exploration of abstraction.
In order to understand the differences between the Italian and American Futurism, this paper examines the tenets of the former and the highly charged atmosphere in which they developed. The political crisis and social stagnation of Italy necessitated violent and revolutionary measures to be taken by its cultural leaders. Italian Futurism championed speed, dynamism, and modernity as the driving forces behind its energetic style. These three concepts that were so intrinsic to the movement translated easily into what would become the American modern aesthetic.
Through my investigation of all of these elements, I illuminate how Stella's Futurist Composition demonstrates the application of the style and dynamism of the Futurist influence, while avoiding its inflammatory political implications. Stella's work, while obviously indebted to the Italian movement, draws on the burgeoning urban culture of New York City and Coney Island to create an idiosyncratic American interpretation of Futurism.
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