The title of the sculpture, Architettura di una testa (1934), clearly reveals the artist’s intentions. Officially portraying Mussolini, as suggested by the subtitle, Mino Rosso actually wanted to accomplish a disorienting sculptural profile. Shaping the pieces as though they were a mechanical composition – like a wrench and a huge screw on a perforated and irregular background – he declared his participation in the Second Futurism (especially in the group operating in Turin). In fact, [Rosso’s sculpture payed homage to the Manifesto dell’arte meccanica futurista, published in the magazine “Lacerba” in 1922 and signed by the artists Ivo Pannaggi e Vinicio Paladini, and was closely related to contemporary artworks such as Archipenko’s sculptures and Léger’s paintings. The sample here considered (Buscaroli 2009, 122) is a small mixed media sculpture (wood and aluminium; 49.5x40.5 x6.5 cm) belonging to a private collection.
A New Theorization of the Relationship Between Subjectivity and Objectivity
The Rationalization of Aesthetics: the Straight Line
'Today MACHINERY characterises our time. Pulleys and flywheels, bolts and chimneystacks, all the polished steel and the smelly grease […] This is what fascinates us' ('Oggi è la MACCHINA che distingue la nostra epoca. Pulegge e volani, bulloni e ciminiere, tutto l’acciaio pulito ed il grasso odorante […] Ecco dove ci sentiamo irrimediabilmente attirati'; Panneggi-Paladini 1922).
This extract from the Manifesto dell’arte meccanica futurista makes clear just how powerful the impact of industrial development and mechanical innovation on the artistic field was. Internationally, the years between WWI and WWII were characterised by widespread industrialisation and industry-related images and themes became a crucial part of the collective imagination. It is no coincidence that movies like Metropolis by Fritz Lang (1927) or Modern Times (1936) by Charlie Chaplin came out exactly at that time, spreading and sharing new values, ideals and aesthetics.
This piece by Mino Rosso can thus be considered as part of a complex transnational context. Living and working in Turin, Rosso was situated in a potent artistic and political environment: on one hand, Second Futurism and on the other, the strikes and factory occupations of the 'Red Biennium' ("Biennio Rosso", 1919-1921). Both of these contrasting influences can be clearly traced in Architettura di una testa (1934), which is simultaneously an official portrait of Mussolini, in line with the idea of "arte totale" promoted by the regime, and a modern artwork celebrating mechanical industry. Far from the solemn, masculine sculpture typical of the twenties, this portrait pertains to a homogeneous and ‘mechanical series’ done in the first part of the thirties (the portraits of Marinetti and Prampolini, for example).
The fact the piece is official and representative is contrasted by its playful spirit: the result is a sculpture that seems to dramatise more severe examples of official portraiture such as Dux con pietra miliare (1929) by Thayaht. Mino Rosso’s Architettura di una testa in fact appears to be almost an animated version of Thayaht’s, which is dominated by a strong and irremovable seriousness. The similarities between the two serve ultimately to highlight their contrasting effect: rationalisation and linearity are common to both, but whilst Thayaht’s Dux is static and severe, like a heraldic emblem, Rosso’s Mussolini is an ‘irregular’ portrait, characterised by a total absence of balance, and multiple contrasts – waving and errant lines, full and empty spaces.
Alberti, Sandro. 1993. Mino Rosso. Scultore e pittore 1904-1963. Turin: Editris.
Buscaroli, Beatrice (ed.).2009. Scultura futurista 1909-1944. Omaggio a Mino Rosso. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.
Marchiori, Giuseppe and Enrico Crispolti. 1959. Sculture di Mino Rosso. collana di 'Notizie' n. 3, Turin.
Panneggi, Ivo and Vinicio Paladini. 1922. 'Manifesto dell’arte meccanica futurista.' Lacerba.