These two works belong to the early production of Bruno Munari. The first one is and ad that Munari created for the Mauzan Morzenti Agency, the graphic design studio founded by French artist and illustrator Achille Lucien Mauzan. It was an advertisement for a Milanese refrigerator company, Radaelli, and was one of the earliest works of graphic design produced by Munari. The second one is a sketch that should have been included in the volume L’Almanacco dell’Italia veloce, envisaged as a collection and celebration of the Futurist advertising imagination, which was never published due to financial difficulties. Both works display the Futurist imprint that characterizes Munari’s early production, recognizable in the rationalized, geometric figures, the vivid colours, the playful character, and the modern graphic style. This definitely distances itself from the elegant, idealized figures which populated ads in the first two decades of the 20th century, and rather resemble the abstract, colourful ‘puppet-like’ figures of Depero’s art, especially advertisements see Depero's ads.
A New Theorization of the Relationship Between Subjectivity and Objectivity
The Rationalization of Aesthetics: the Straight Line
Munari was a polyedric artist, a trailblazer, and an advocate of experimentation with new forms of arts which could be attuned to the developments of industry, the modern world, and mass culture. In 1966, he stated:
È necessario oggi, in una civiltà che sta diventando di massa, che l’artista scenda dal suo piedistallo e si degni di progettare l’insegna del macellaio (se la sa fare). È necessario che l’artista abbandoni ogi aspetto romantico e diventi un uomo attibo fra gli altri uomini, informato sulle tecniche attuali, sui materiali e sui metodi di lavoro e, senza abbandonare il suo innato senso estetico, risponda con umiltà e competenza alle domande che il prossimo gli può rivolgere. (Munari 2007 , 19)
The commitment to new, ‘popular’ forms of arts which he expresses in this excerpt, however, dated back to the beginnings of his artistic career. His interest in new artistic forms that could establish a strong connection with the modern, industrial world drew him, since the beginning, to the field of advertisement and graphic design. Since the end of the 1920s, he was part of a group of industrials, graphic designers, journalists and technicians who organized meetings in Milan, to discuss ‘all aspects of the rationalization of company work’, with particular emphasis on modern developments of advertisement and graphic design. The group called itself ‘Gar’ (Gruppo amici della razionalizzazione) in 1931, and included Guido Mazzali, Erberto Carboni, Marcello Dudovich, Marcello Nizzoli, and Carlo Dradi (Carotti 2014, 164-171).
In the early period of his production Munari was influenced by the so-called Second Futurism, which is evident in both works which we analyse here. In 1926, he was introduced to Marinetti and to the Milanese Futurist group, and started getting involved with the Milanese Futurist scene. He was praised by Marinetti as a promising young artist, and later by him indicated as the leader of the Milanese group. The Futurist movement had had an important role in the reappraisal of graphic design and advertisement as a modern art form, which enabled artists to forge a strong relationship with reality and with the public, experiment with innovative artistic materials and forms that represented a break with the past, and create a new urban aesthetics.
Bruno Munari was a key figure of the Futurist work and experimentations with advertising and graphic design. This is reflected in his involvement in the publishing project of the Almanacco dell’Italia veloce, which was supposed to be a ‘presentation of ideas, events and commercial products’ of Italy at that time. Munari’s sketch shows the creation of an innovative advertising style influenced by Futurist aesthetics, which we can trace in the imaginative, chaotic assemblage of elements, some of which draw on quintessentially Futurist themes like the airplane and the gearwheel; the dynamic nature of the composition; the geometric figures; the bright colours; and finally, the subversive and creative power of the reversed writing which says ‘pubblicità a scoppio’. This contains the word ‘scoppio’ (‘burst, explosion’) but also recalls the expression ‘motore a scoppio’ (meaning ‘internal combustion engine’), thus connecting the word ‘pubblicità’ (‘advertisement’) to some other tipically Futurist themes.
The advertisement for Redaelli also displays a rationalization of forms, in particular of the human body, which is reduced to geometric shapes, as well as of the text, in the style and display of the letters composing the name of the company. At the same time, the ad is characterized by creativity and dynamism which are created in particular through the layout of the figures, with half the human body (and its shadow) as well as part of the writing placed diagonally, and the refrigerator ‘floating’ in the middle of the composition. In 1937, Munari wrote:
Anche l’arte grafica rinnova le sue regole, quello che una volta era impaginatura simmetrica cede il posto al nuovo ritmo grafico […]. Questo ritmo grafico deve equilibrare spazio bianco, testo e illustrazioni […] altri ritmi vengono poi suggeriti dalle forme degli stessi oggetti’. (Munari 1937, cit. in Villari 2008, 32)
Antonelli, Pierpaolo, Matilde Nardelli and Margherita Zanoletti (eds). 2017. Bruno Munari: The Lightness of Art. Oxford: Peter Lang.
Carotti, Carlo (ed.). 2014. Saggi, sguardi e testimonianze sui socialisti a Milano dal 1981 al 2000. Milan: Lampi di Stampa.
Section ‘Le opere’ on the website http://www.munart.org/index.php?p=6
Munari, Bruno. 1937. ‘Ritmi grafici.’ In Campo grafico 4 (5/6): 33-35.
Munari, Bruno. 2007 . Arte come mestiere. Rome-Bari: Laterza.
Pellegrini, Sonia (ed.). 2009. L’officina del volo: futurismo, pubblicità e design. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.
Salaris, Claudia. 1986. Il futurismo e la pubblicità: dalla pubblicità dell’arte all’arte della pubblicità. Milan: Lupetti & co.
Villari, Anna (ed.). 2008. L’arte della pubblicità: il manifesto italiano e le avanguardie 1920-1940. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.