One of the most unsettling images in the enormous exhibition of Futurist art now showing in Venice is Giacomo Balla’s The Mad Woman (1905). The woman stands full length, framed by a doorway, her hair mussed and gnarled. The yellow springtime light shatters on the broad field behind her. Her body is a coil of wrecked nerves, her long form one pulled or stretched contortion, from her flyaway curls to the tensed flex of her foot. She waves a finger in front of her face at the world outside her disordered mind, in a gesture of negation or chastisement, as if to scold or correct us, while her other arm hangs stiffly at her side, hand cocked at an odd angle. In its present setting—in a show called “Futurism and Futurisms,” which contains hundreds of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, books, documents, and assorted paraphernalia from the Futurist movements in several...


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