2021 IAS Dissertation Research Grant

Lucia Colombari (PhD candidate, University of Virginia)

“Conflicting Cultures: Exhibiting Italy at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco”

Envisioning the Modern City: Italian Futurism and American Art (1906-1929) critically examines the role of international exhibitions in the reception, dissemination, and transformation of Italian Futurism in the United States during the first decades of the twentieth century. It reverses commonly held notions that the Italian avant-garde had a marginal impact on the development of modern art in the U.S. Instead, this study expands the analysis of Futurism as a transnational movement and positions it at the core of American artists’ response towards the industrial and technological changes of the modern era. It contends that while a cohesive movement never developed in the U.S, Italian Futurism provided American artists the theoretical and pictorial solutions that bridged the gap between urban modernity and artistic expression. By interrogating exhibitions as highly politicized spaces in which arts, national identities, and international diplomacy intertwined, this dissertation seeks to enrich and complicate the understanding of the artistic and cultural relations between the U.S. and Italy. It compares cultural and political specificities of both countries to understand local responses and international postures towards urban life in visual culture and art practice. In particular, it sheds light on the role of international exhibitions as intermediaries for the transposition of the cultural knowledge of modern Italy across the Atlantic. Each exhibit fostered debates about modern art and became a catalyst for disseminating Futurists’ ideas and philosophy, thereby prompting U.S. artists to exploit the aesthetic potential of technology and urban transformations.

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