This is a great roundup of art, but this is NOT retro-futurism

This blog has collected some awesome art, see all 20 or so pieces here, but I’m a little irked this is being called “retro futurism”. These are more like the opposite of retro futurism. Straight lines, grids, triangles, no. Not RF. Just because these pics are set in space doesn’t define them as futurism or retro futuristic. I think I’ve just revealed myself a hard-geek for art terminology , but when you talk about something with artists they (and you) need to know what you’re really referring to. Below are tripped-out, kick-space-butt, shine-a-light-through-a-prism, Pink-Floyd-esque posters.  Call it whatever, Retro-Dark-Side maybe, but its not futurist. It is cool though.

There is some trouble defining this retro-futurism term though. Take out the “retro” though. There was a Futurist movement in painting. Which eventually influenced a lot architecture that  idealized (maybe even parodied) what the future would be like. Saucer-ish shaped buildings ( at LAX airport),  diners with huge arches (ahem McDonald’s anyone?), boomerang / rocket shapes in buildings, even the cheesy Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Whet your appetite for info and pics over yonder… or . And to confuse things a little,  this architectural child of the movement tends to fit the term “futurism” a little bit better than the what the actual Futurist painters were doing. At least with a building that looks like a spaceship its easy to say “wow, futuristic!”  But the real fathers of this movement weren’t drawing space cities, but just playing with chaotic movement and swooping shapes of ordinary landscapes, buildings, or people.

I’m okay with some loose definitions. When I think of futurism my mind calls up the more playful, doo-woop stuff that was being done in architecture to portray howfun  the future would be. Someone else might think of this Boccioni painting. (Runs back from trip to Wiki) The term has some range. But none of the Tron-inspired art below would be considered retro of any Futurist stuff in the early or mid 1900’s. If there’s one common thread to that movement, I would say it was about loving movement and playing with shapes. The pics below are precise. They are grids, they are stacked lines and boxes that are conforming to a path. Yes, they have motion, but they aren’t loving being in motion. Like tossing a baseball in space, its just gonna make a straight line for a long long long time. A real Futurist would want to depict all the potential movement of that baseball, in one painting , starting with the winding motion of the pitcher.

So what are good examples of retro-futurism? Well consider first what ended Futurism. The future. Duy. Obviously Futurist painters died off. Saucer shaped buildings were always a novelty, not the norm. A giant arch around a building was eventually just costly and unnecessary. People were gonna eat cheeseburgers because they liked chesseburgers, arch or no… So I’d say art that revives the fun of the future would be considered retro-futurism. A great example is obviously Futurama. Every background shot of New NYC in Futurama is exactly that silly Googie architecture across an entire city. But are cartoons not serious enough to be consider retro-futuristic.  Well, “retro” anything is always playing off what that thing was. And futurism wasn’t boring, so to retro-ize it is like double the fun. I’d consider many cartoons retro-futurism.   Dexter’s Lab was also highly stylized with elements from futurist architecture, but even the character design includes many of the same swooping shapes.

Now to be fair, the Unicorn Alien Killer below is very playful, but I won’t give it marks for being retro-futuristic. It could be considered “retro”-something.  I’m reminded of getting my dad to buy me Atari games based on how cool the box art was. Someone else might be reminded of a Motley-Crew t-shirt. I have no problem with the term “retro”, its just that “futurism” is reserved already and its not what’s below.  Hear yours truly wax philosophical even longer on this topic in this drawing tutorial.

Cool Poster

Not Retro Futurism


Not Retro Futurism




3 thoughts on “This is a great roundup of art, but this is NOT retro-futurism

  1. These pieces look like they are retro-computer. They look like the early days of programs that could do limited graphics like repeating patterns, various primitive algorithms that have evolved by leaps and bounds today where the limit is the artists creativity. If recall back then, people were fascinated with computers and programs that could do stuff like this. Art made with computers back then were considered more “futuristic” or modern and the cleaner straighter more symetrical styles really echo 50’s modernism so maybe that is why some confuse it. Its clearly not retro-futurism.

    What do you think>?

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