Monday, 11:50am
1 February 2010

Action stations

Jonathan Miller explores the analysis and representation of movement

The current Estorick exhibition ‘On the Move: Visualising Action’ is not an art or photography exhibition, though it contains plenty of both. Nor is it strictly about science or technology or cultural history.

Yet all these elements are essential to this show’s success, juxtaposed throughout this small North London gallery, accompanied by eloquent, extended captions written by the exhibition’s curator, Dr Jonathan Miller.

Below: Dynamism of a Cyclist, Umberto Boccioni (1913). Ink on paper, 18 x 30 cm. Estorick Collection, London

02 Boccioni Dynamism of a Cyclist

6 Marey Analysis of the Flight of a Seagull

Above: Analysis of the Flight of a Seagull, Etienne-Jules Marey (1887)
Bronze, 16.4 x 58.5 x 25.7 cm. Dépot du Collège de France, Musée Marey, Beaune, France

Here’s an example: ‘[Etienne-Jules] Marey unknowingly made a major contribution to the development of one of the most significant movements in twentieth-century modernism, although it was not until several years after his death that this influence expressed itself in the dramatic appearance of Italian Futurist painting (1910). For the Futurists – obsessed with the urban environment and the machine – movement and speed constituted the very essence of modern life, and capturing a sense of “dynamism” became their central artistic goal.’

On display are photographs, paintings, drawings, arcane contraptions (including Marey’s bizarre ‘photographic rifle’, sculptures, including Bertelli’s Continuous Profile (Head of Mussolini) and comics (The Beano’s Billy Whizz, top).

Below: Densmore Shute Bends the Shaft, Harold Edgerton (1938). Vintage silver gelatin print, 19 x 23 cm. Courtesy The Michael Hoppen Gallery

9 Harold Edgerton, Densmore Shute Bends the Shaft

07 Thomas Eakins Motion Study, male nude, standing jump to right

Above: Motion study: male nude, standing jump to right, Thomas Eakins (1885). Dry-plate glass negative, 9.2 x 11.4cm. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Miller’s provocative thoughts on this ubiquitous, yet under-explored subject will pique the curiosity of anyone involved in visual culture.

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
‘On the Move: Visualising Action’
13 January to 18 April 2010

Review to follow in Eye 75, published in Spring 2010.

See ‘Surface Wreckage’, about Jonathan Miller’s photographs in Eye 34.

Eye, the international review of graphic design, is a quarterly journal you can read like a magazine and collect like a book. It’s available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and (new!) classic collections of themed back issues. Eye 74 is a Berlin special.