boccioni, riot in the galleria, 1910

Analysis of The Riot

Umberto Boccioni plays with an idea of space and palette in his construction of The Riot,and seems to be evolving himself with the Futurist movement. In this painting he details the astonishing power that color in its purest form has over the tone of a painting, and creates an image that is full of life and implicit movement. The colors in Boccioni’s construction are vehicles to get the viewer to see a unique palette that spreads a mood of chaos with every brushstroke. This essay will prove the impact that minor details like brush stroke and linear construction have on a work of art, and how they can take a simple palette and make it complex.

Initially, the painting is flooded with a vibrant palette that displays the entire color wheel. Reds, yellows, greens, blues, purples and oranges are all incorporated into the work, but blended specifically to create patterns and shapes. Boccioni assigns colors to locations in the scene, and uses the colors to formulate a tone of restlessness. For instance, Boccioni paints an intense red streak across the center of the painting with some underlined tones of yellow, evoking aggravation and violence. The red horizontal line commands attention and appears fluid while it looms over the activity of the blue and greens below it. Boccioni does not provide great detail in his construction of recognizable beings, but instead employs color to develop a tone throughout the painting that captures the emotions of a crowded and rowdy street simply through specific placement and contrast.

In addition to color, Boccioni puts incredible emphasis on brush stroke and epitomizes how an artist can paint almost exclusively straight lines, but at the same time create such a successful image. In the bottom left hand side, he places harsh, diagonal lines that penetrate the neighboring colors and entities. At the bottom center of the painting, Boccioni paints a mysterious brown-red figure that appears to be a horse or an elephant, and has a rider on its back. The harsh, diagonal lines seem to envelop this central subject, either to protect it or to attack it. Boccioni creates a tension in these figures by leaving no break in color or space between the figures. All the subjects are juxtaposed directly next to each other and create a sense of chaos and extreme movement. Although no faces are depicted, no intricate body shapes are defined, and no deep clarity is seen, the palette and linear construction of this massive collage of colors speaks volumes about the chaotic tone of the painting, and implements the Futurists ideals of violent rage and dehumanization of artistic expression.

In continuation, Boccioni constructs two objects in the painting that are clear and recognizable, and, because of their clarity, they must be noted. First, three bright lights stagger across the middle section of the painting. The light they give off pierces downward into the blue on the bottom left and into the bottom right, and even into the horizontal red and yellows that were discussed earlier. This element is particularly evident in Futurist paintings, and represents their ideology that man-made light demonstrates man’s power over the environment. The second objects are the two windows with the green shutters that sit next to the middle light. Both are man made constructions and are recognizable in this abstract painting even though Boccioni uses thick brush strokes that blur idealistic figures. The windows are set apart, not only by color, but are painted with and surrounded by a solid palette instead of chaotic diagonal lines ranging in a wide variety of colors. The windows hang symmetrically over the crowd and add a balcony effect to the subject. Those in the windows are detached from the activity on the street and are safely unaffected by the commotion.

In conclusion, the elements used by the artist such as, palette, linear construction, and wide brush stroke prove the artist’s ability to change the perception of a painting. Although the subjects are unrecognizable to the naked eye and the clarity is a bit skewed, the artist develops a tone throughout the painting simply by the choreographing of different colors in different order and form. It can be stated that this work of art is successful because of Boccioni’s broad palette that is constructed with angularity and specific brush stroke making a simplistic painting something with incredible power and effect.

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