By Adriana Baranello

Luigi Colombo, who went by the Futurist pseudonym Fillia (his mother’s maiden name), died of tuberculosis on 10 February 1936 at only 31 years of age. Fillia was born in Revello, in the province of Cuneo, but spent most of his life in Turin. A precocious autodidact, Fillia was a poet, playwrite, political activist, novelist, and–most famously–a painter.

Fillia represents one of the odder members of the later Futurists, and his works contain surprising and often highly progressive social theory. Fillia’s early political alignment was with the Communist Party, headed by Amedeo Bordiga and Antonio Gramsci. In 1922, following the Biennio Rosso (1918-1920, when Italy was temporarily veering toward Communism), Fillia and two others published the only know work that explicitly attempted to bring together Communist theory with Futurist praxis. It was a small pamphlet of poetry titled 1+1+1=1. Dinamite. Poesie Proletarie. Rosso + Nero. Fillia would abandon overt communism, in favor of apolitical neutrality, when Marinetti and Benito Mussolini reconciled in 1924, and Italy turned toward fascism.

Fillia’s next works, while he was beginning to develop his painting, were a seven act play, three novels, and several manifestos and short stories, that carried through many of Fillia’s Communist thematics, and introduced the most surprising thematic of his works–his radically progressive feminism. In this works, 25 years before Simone de Beauvoir would publish Le Deuxieme Sexe, Fillia declared men and women to be fundamentally equal in all things, and that gender difference was a mere social construct. (Futurism’s relationship to women and feminism is very complicated, and there is significant revisions going on in the scholarship in recent years.)

Fillia’s earliest pictorial influences were Enrico Prampolini and Giacomo Balla. The fragmented, brightly colored images were typical of earlier Futurism. Fillia’s work then shifted focus, nearing on biomorphic abstraction. Later, Fillia would go on to be one of the primary movers of Aeropainting, and of Futurist Sacred Art.

Futurism famously sought to “place the viewer at the center of the painting,” and would surround the viewer with the sensation of velocity transferred into pictorial form (Boccioni, et al, “Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto” 1910). Flight, however, would entirely change the Futurist paradigm. The Italians were passionate about flight, as was most of Europe, and the Futurist were doubly impassioned. “The Manifesto of Aeropainting” (1929) declared that the viewer be shifted up into the cockpit of an airplane moving at speed. Mostly this led to works such as Tullio Crali’s and Benedetta’s, however, Fillia’s aeropainting, and that of Enrico Prampolini tended toward a more “cosmic” understanding of what aeropainting was.

Futurist Sacred Art has been a thorn in the side of Futurist studies for decades, as it has been largely dismissed as “fascist” and “regressive” although that’s a simplistic reading in many cases. This led to its exclusion from the Guggenheim’s otherwise phenomenal and groundbreaking retrospective of Futurism in 2014, the first to be held in the US. Fillia’s “sacred” paintings only ostensibly demonstrate Catholic dogma–in reality they are riddled with peculiarities and often heretical implications.

Fillia’s last major work was to co-author The Futurist Cookbook with F.T. Marinetti. The cookbook, and the recipes, meals and serate included in it, are essentially an extended piece of performance, art, which challenged what precisely one considers “nourishment” and how 

Further Reading

Andreoli, Annamaria, and Giovanni Caprara, eds. Volare! Futurismo, aviomania, tecnica e cultura italiana del volo, 1903-1940. Roma: De Luca, 2003

Baranello, Adriana M.(2014). Arte sacra futurista: Fillia Between Conformity and Subversion. California Italian Studies, 5(1).

Berghaus, Günter, ed. Fascism and Theatre: Comparative Studies on the Aesthetics and Politics of Performance in Europe, 1925-1945. Providence: Berghahn Books, 1996. 

—. Futurism and Politics: Between Anarchist Rebellion and Fascist Reaction, 1909-1944. Providence, R.I.: Berghahn Books, 1996.

Crispolti, Enrico. Fillia: fra immaginario meccanico e primordio cosmico [Cuneo, mostra in San Francesco, 14 maggio – 30 giugno 1988]. Milan: Mazzotta, 1988. 

—. Il secondo futurismo, Torino 1923-1938. Torino: Edizioni d’Arte Fratelli Pozzo, 1962. 

—. Ricostruzione futurista dell’universo. Torino: Assessorato per la Cultura, Musei Civici, 1980. 

—. Diulgheroff, Farfa, Fillia, Oriani, Prampolini, Rosso [Galleria Mosaico, Chiasso, 24 settembre 1966]. Chiasso: Galleria Mosaico, 1966.

Duranti, Massimo. 2007. Piety and pragmatism: spiritualism in futurist art = Arte sacra futurista. Roma: Gangemi Editore.

Greene, Vivien, ed. Italian Futurism 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2014.

Mechanical Landscape, oil on canvas, 1926-1927, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome.

Self-Portrait, tempera on cardboard, 1925-26, private collection.

The Bal Tabarin, poster, c 1927

The Adoration, oil on canvas, 1931, private collection.

Aerial Mystery, oil on canvas, 1931,  Collezione Caproni, Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni,Trento.

Overcoming the Earth, oil on canvas, 1930-1931, Collezione Giardini.

The Beloved, oil on canvas, 1930,  Collezione della Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Roma Capitale

Portrait of Tullo D’Albisola (Tullio Mazzotti), charcoal on paper, 1934, Collection of Ava Mazzotti, Albissola Marina.

Futurist Landscape, oil on canvas, 1931, private collection.

The God of Aerial Life, oil on canvas, 1934, private collection.

Fillia (middle right) with F. T. Marinetti (middle left), at the Santopalato Restaurant in Turin, c 1927.

F.T. Marinetti and Fillia, La Cucina Futurista, 1932, Milan: Casa editrice Sonzogno.

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