1913: The Shape of Time

1913 was a very good year for modern art in Europe. There seemed to be a shared consensus that experimentation was needed for art to engage in newer, less obvious forms of representation.
This was a year we saw Marcel Proust publish the first instalment of his classic text À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time); Guillaume Apollinaire release his masterful Cubist Painters; Igor Stravinsky compose The Rite of Spring; and New York host the groundbreaking Armory Show.
It was also the last true age of innocence. A year later, in the summer of 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, would assassinate the Archduke and Archduchess of Austria, setting off a chain of events that would culminate in the First World War. It would brutally cut short modernism’s upbeat temperament.
But let us not dwell on that and return to 1913. A new show at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds looks at how, buoyed by the energy of the time, sculpture was at the heart of the avant-garde.
Its practitioners were well attuned to simultaneity, one of the leading theoretical concepts of art being explored. This was understood to mean freedom for greater abstraction, multi-perspective viewpoints, and “simultaneous renditions of memory, intuition and experience”.
“This exhibition points both to the impact of sculptural thinking on the mutability of time and to the ways in which temporal thinking impacts on the production of and encounter with sculpture,” the institute explains.
Sculptors had inspiration aplenty. There was, for example, Umberto Boccioni’s frighteningly enthralling sculptures to dissect – Unique Forms of Continuity in Space and Development of a Bottle in Space – and Marcel Duchamp’s superbly beguiling 3 Standard Stoppages to ponder over.
This was an exceptional period, unique, and never to be repeated. The history of art had led to a point in time where suddenly all had become clear – anything could be possible so long as there was a willingness to break the mould. Alas, as wonderful as it was, 1913 was to be the pinnacle of the flourishing peppiness of modernism.
1913: The Shape of Time at the Henry Moore Institute runs until February 13th 2013.
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