BLAST
'Vorticism' was the only movement in Great Britain comparable in intention with Parisian Cubism and Italian Futurism before 1914. Wyndham Lewis was the creative pivot around which Vorticism revolved, and the publication Blast, which he edited, was the group's public platform. It was a period of polemic, of artistic turmoil, of group activity and noisy manifestos. 'Putsches', Lewis has written, 'took place every month or so.' The Futurists held an uproarious exhibition at the Sackville Gallery in March 1912, and it was during this year that Lewis made his first drawings (e.g. The Centauress), which are now recognized as Vorticist. (The word was actually coined by Ezra Pound the following year.) Vorticism was abstraction, often totally non-figurative, and characterized by flat, plan-like systems of arcs and angles organized radially from a particular focal point (the 'Vortex') which draws the spectator into a whirling recession. Like Cubism and Futurism, the movement was essentially antiImpressionist; like the latter, it 'accepted the machine world . . . it sought out machine forms'. The 'political' purpose of the movement was to 'hustle the cultural Britannia' and Blast -- or, to give it its full title, Blast: Review of the Great English Vortex -- was to blow the cobwebs from her eyes as though with a flame-thrower. There were, in fact, only two issues, published by John Lane , The Bodley Head. The first, in a puce cover, appeared on June 20th, 1914; the second, in a white cover, the following year. The main manifesto in No. 1 was signed by R. Aldington, Arbuthnot, L. Atkinson, Gaudier-Brzeska, J. Dismorr, C. Hamilton, E. Pound, W. Roberts, H. Sanders, E. Wadsworth, and Wyndham Lewis. Humour ('Quack ENGLISH drug for stupidity and sleepiness'), sport, and the years 1837-1900 ('curse Abysmal inexcusable middle class') were blasted; hairdressers, seafarers and ports, England were among the blessed. Reproduced were works by Gaudier-Brzeska, Epstein, Frederick Etchells, Spencer Gore, Cuthbert Hamilton, William Roberts and Wyndham Lewis. C. R. W. Nevinson and Edward Wadsworth were among the additional names in No. 2. Between these two issues, in June 1915 at the Doré Gallery, there took place the 'First' (and last) Vorticist Exhibition. Besides the artists from the Rebel Art Centre ('the Great London Vortex') founded by Miss Lechmere and Lewis in Great Ormond Street, some half a dozen sympathisers contributed. But, as Lewis wrote nearly a quarter of a century later, 'a bigger Blast than mine had rather taken the wind out of my sails'. The exhibition coincided with the deaths in France of the movement's philosopher, T. E. Hulme, and its most talented sculptor, GaudierBrzeska. Many of its other artists subsequently employed Vorticism's precise, clear-cut, sharpedged, metallic handwriting to record aspects of the war upon which Europe was embarked, and incidentally to start the modern movement in England, but all subsequently retreated to a greater or lesser extent from Vorticism's extreme point of complete abstraction.
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