"Everything becomes abstract, the equivalents go from a starting point to infinity," wrote Balla in a 1913 notebook on a study of speed. From his painstaking studies on the dynamism of a speeding automobile, Balla's quasi-analytical drawings of the lines of force and speed that characterize an object as it moves through space moved inexorably towards an abstract rhythm that he began to articulate in 1913 and 1914. Vortice is one of several important studies that Balla created during this intense period of activity shortly before the First World War, when the artist was refining the dynamics of speed and movement into an abstract synthesis of linear form.
Having arrived at the synthesized form of the Linea de velocita or "line of speed" from his observations of a moving car, Balla's next step was to seek to explore the essence of speed as a force in its own right. This inevitably led him to abandon the object that caused the movement and disruption of space, in favor of capturing the abstract essence of the movement itself. Vortice is typical of Balla's works which take the very notion of movement itself as their subject. It is emblematic of Balla's experiments with the vortex--an essentially abstract phenomenon of movement that takes place in air and water and which ultimately formed the basis for a whole notebook of Balla's studies during this time and culminated in his painting of 1914, Vortice + volumi di spazio (Lista no. 389; Private Collection, Rome).