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Fortunato Depero (1892-1960)
1-3 Performed by Luigi Pennone, Arrigo Lora-Totino, Sergio Cena
Recorded February 1976 in Torino
from the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)
4 from Italian Futurist Poetry (1913-1933), performed by Vittore Baroni
Fortunato Depero, both in his painting and in his poetry, took Balla as his starting-point. But his interest in poetry gave rise to a number of publications which enable him to be considered, not only a great painter, but also one of the most interesting Italian poets of the early 20th century. In 1916 he published the manifesto l'onomalingua.
In his "Verbalizzazioni Astratte" ("Abstract verbalizations"), Depero developed the onomatopoeic invention to the point of paroxysm and, in a certain sense, left it behind. For Depero the poet, onomatopoeia is a problem of language, the language of natural forces developed to the maximum of sonic intensity. Depero does not describe the object or the sensation or the state of mind, he makes them act sonically.. sex whimpers its timidity stammeringly in "Verbtilizzazione astratta di signora" ("Abstract verbalization of a lady"), a canine appetite shrieks in "Trarrivai", water gurgles in "SiiO VLUMMIA - Torrente", the Brindisi all'hotel 5th Avenue" ("Toast at the Fifth Avenue Hotel") fans the peals of bells, the crowd in "Broadway" riots. "Avoid giving to material human sentiments but, rather, intuit its different directive impulses, its forces of compression of expansion, of cohesion and of disintegration... It is not a case of rendering the dramas of a humanized material. It is the solidity of a sheet of steel that we are interested in for its own sake, that is, the incomprehensible and inhuman alliance of its molecules and electrons... the heat of a piece of iron or of wood is now more vitally interesting to us than the smile or tears of a woman" (Marinetti). The technique of Depero's onomalanguge develops these concepts. Depero really succeeds in animalizing, vetetalizing, mineralizing, electrifying or liquefying style" (Marinetti). The obsessive intensity of his operation is extreme and so must his declamation have been, as Carlo Belli recalls: "I can still hear his extraordinarily mobile voice when he recited to me:
Ambla no-òffa embla carèmba n
I did not always have the power to look at him in the moment when he broke into these sonic rigmaroles according to the intensity, the fatness or leanness of the sounds, his lips twisted to express a violent disdain, his face was suddenly illuminated, or his eyes narrowed to ferocious pin-heads of tar. He wrote a lot and I dilligently copied it and then lost the copybook. (from "Memory of Depero" in Catalogo Depero, Bassano del Grappa, 1970).
Fortunato Depero was born at Fondo (Trentino) in 1892; his father was first a chimneysweep and later a policeman of the Austrian empire. For a yearh e was an apprentice to the marble-cutter Scanagatta at Rovereto, to where his family had moved. His first exhibition was in 1911 at the Giovannini stationery shop in Rovereto; two more exhibitions followed. In 1913 he published "Spezature Impressioni - Segni - Ritmi" ("Pieces. Impressions - Signs - Rhythms"), a collection of prose, poetry and reproductions of grotesque and symbolistic drawings. In the same year, he visited Boccioni's exhibition at the Sprovieri gallery in Rome, which made a deep impression on him. In 1914 he frequented the gallery and met Balla, Cangiullo and Marinetti, exhibited at the galley, was "scetavaiasse", one of the five "famous dwarf artists" at the first dynamic and synopticdeclamation of Cangiullo's poem "Piedigrotta" and took part in the "Funerale del filosofo passatista" (Bene etto Croce) ("Funeral of the traditionalist philosopher"). In collaboration with Balla he formulated the ideas for the famous and fundamental manifesto "La ricostruzione, futurista dell'universo" ("The futurist reconstruction of the universe"), which was issued on March I Ith 1915 and signed by "Balla Depero futurist abstractionists". In the same year he prepared the poetic manifesto of "Onomalingua" and in 1916 composed various s and onomalinguistic poems and held a large exhibition (200 works) in Rome, which included free-word placards, paintings, drawing, plastic- motornoise complexes, sketches for theatrical costumes. In 1917 he worked on the construction of the plastic set and the 35 plastic- mobile costumes for Stravinsky's "il canto dell'Usignolo" ("The nightingale's song"), which was not performed. He illustrated Gilbert Clavel's short story "Un istituto per Suicidi" ("An institute for suicides"). 1918 saw the performance at the Teatro dei Piccoli, Rome, of Depero's "Balli Plastici" ("Plastic dances"), performed by the marionettes of the Compagnia Marionettistica Dell'Acqua, with music by Casella, Malipiero, Bartok. In 1919 his article: "Il teatro Plastico Depero - Principi e applicazioni" ("The Depero plastic theatre - Principles and applications", was published in "Il Mondo". He founded the Casa d'Arte, a factory producing furniture and decorative objets d'art in order to integrate art with the functions of life (Bauhaus). In 1921 he designed the "Cabaret del Diavolo" for Gino Gori. In 1924 the Compagnia del Nuovo Teatro Futurista opened in Milan with Depero's mechanical ballet "Anihccam del 3000" (music by Casavola). In the meantime his works were shown in numerous personal and joint exhibitions both in Italy and abroad. In 1927 he presented "Padiglione Tipographico" ("Typographical pavilion") on behalf of the publishing houses Bastetti - Tumminelli - Treves at the 3rd International Exhibition of the Decorative Arts at Monza. In the same year Dinamo Azari published the Riveted Book "Depero Fulurista" ("Depero the futurist"): a summary of Depero s work from 1913 to 1927, including his literary work, and an unequalled example of innovatory graphics. In 1928 he left for the U.S.A. where he held some exhibitions of his works and designed the costumes for Massine's ballet "Amerikan Sketches,", music by Griselle. In 1931 he planned the free-word and sound book (two records of onomalinguistic declamations) "New York - Film vissuto" ("New York - film experience"). In the following year the magazine "Dinamo", founded and edited by Depero, was published at Rovereto; five numbers were published. In 1934 "Liriche radiofoniche" (Radiophonic Lyrics") (Editore Morreale, Milan) was published. In 1940 Legione Trentita published "Fortunato Depero nelle opere e nella vita" ("Fortunato Depero, his life and works") at Trento. During the Second World War he gave radio readings of onomalinguistic poems. He had already given radio readings of his poems. On November 23rd 1933, from Milan, he declaimed "Poesie Americane" ("American poems") in a Santagostino advertising program and, in 1934, from Rome, "Dinamismo, di una Sifora Metropolitana" ("Dynamism of a metropolitan lady") and, from Genoa, "Bambola Felice" ("Happy doll") in Pirelli advertising programs (cf. notices in Radiocorriere of 18/3/34 and 25/3/34).
In 1947 he published, in English, the volume "So I think - So I paint". In 1948 he returned to New York where be held two exhibitions. 1950 saw the publication of the "Marqesto della pittura plastica nucleare" (Manifesto of plastic nuclear painting). In 197 the municipal administration of Rovereto decided to found the Depero Permanent Gallery and Museum for the collection of the artist's works. On the occasion of the opening of the museum in 1959 an honorary committee was instituted, with among the promoters: J. Arp, Bragaglia, N. Gontcharowa, M. Larionov, B. Munari, G. Vantongerlo. Depero died at Rovereto on the 29th November 1960.