Visual Art

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Alice Wheeler

What It Is: Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (circa 1930, bronze, by Boris Lovet-Lorski)

Where It Is: Seattle Asian Art Museum

Woman is the past, man is the present, and machines are the future, according to F. T. Marinetti, the founder of futurism in 1909. "War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metallization of the human body," he writes in the late 1930s. By then, he is Mussolini's pal and whole shell-shocked populations would beg to differ. Art deco arrives like a gorgeous, deluded consolation prize, a neutered aftershock of futurism with shades of the original's derangement and aggression. Boris Lovet-Lorski's Salome is sleek and shiny, with an automobile grille between her legs and a metal factory tabletop for a head. She's a biblical woman transplanted with Marinetti's "electric heart," a creature of audacious perversity and perverse audacity, who has just stripped for her drooling stepfather and now stares blankly down at the face of a man whose beheading she demanded because it was the only way she'd get to kiss him. It is 1930 in New York, and the Great Depression has just begun.

 

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