Arts News

Vancouver Art Gallery features The Surrealist Revolution in Art

By April MacIntyre May 30, 2011, 7:37 GMT

Vancouver Art Gallery features The Surrealist Revolution in Art

Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lobster Telephone, 1938, painted plaster, telephone. The Edward James Trust © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/SODRAC (2011).

The most comprehensive exhibition of Surrealist art ever to be seen in Canada is on view at the Vancouver Art Gallery from May 28 through September 25, 2011.

The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art features 350 works by leading Surrealist artists, including André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Leonora Carrington, Brassaï, André Masson, Man Ray, Edith Rimmington, Wifredo Lam and many others.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has selected works of art that underscore the Surrealists’ radical sense of experimentation and the expansive range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, collage, photography and film.

The exhibition provides a stunning overview of one of most important movements of the 20th century and features a number of signature works by more than 80 artists including Dali’s Lobster Telephone, Ernst’s The Forest, Miró’s Photo: This is the Colour of My Dreams, Giacometti’s Spoon Woman, Carrington’s The House Opposite and Man Ray’s Emak-Bakia, among many others.  This exhibition is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Dawn Ades.

Edith Rimmington
The Oneiroscopist, 1947
oil on canvas
The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel Museum
Photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Edith Rimmington The Oneiroscopist, 1947 oil on canvas The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel Museum Photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

 

At the exhibition, a 336-page hardcover book edited by Dawn Ades will be published by the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of the largest books produced by the Gallery, it features essays by Ades and thirteen other internationally acclaimed scholars.

It also reveals, for the first time, the Surrealists’ passionate interest in indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest and the little-known influence of early Hollywood cinema on the development of Surrealist film.

The installation of the exhibition is designed to create a variety of environments and moods in which to contemplate the themes that the Surrealists explored over a period of three decades such as desire, androgyny, violence and transmutation.

In total, there will be loans from more than sixty of the world’s foremost private collections, museums and galleries, including the Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the Israel Museum, the Musée du quai Branly, the Centre Georges Pompidou, and Tate.

“This is an unprecedented exhibition that was four years in the making,” said Gallery director Kathleen Bartels, “So many of the investigations done by the Surrealist artists continue to reverberate in contemporary art. We are delighted to have the opportunity to share the masterpieces of this tremendously influential movement with Canada, and – especially – to tell the story of Surrealism’s special relationship with British Columbia and this part of the world.”

According to Bartels, André Breton wrote the first Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924, launching a movement which continues to exert a powerful influence. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s own investigations, Breton was fascinated by dreams and set out to create an artistic process which would tap directly into the unconscious mind and dreams freeing artists from what he saw as “false rationality.”

The exhibition also highlights the many techniques developed by Surrealist artists including automatism, frottage, fumage, Rayographs and ‘the surrealist object,’ an approach to sculpture in which several unrelated components—most often found objects—were joined together.

“Visitors to the exhibition will be immersed in the radical spirit of Surrealism,” said guest curator Dawn Ades. “This was a movement which was revolutionary in its time and hugely expansive in ambition. The Colour of My Dreams showcases the depth and breadth of the Surrealists’ provocative vision, and explores areas that have been virtually unexplored in the past.”

From the museum:

The Colour of My Dreams brings to light for the first time in an exhibition the Surrealists’ fascination with First Nations art. Breton and some of his colleagues felt European culture was in total decay in the decade preceding World War II, leading many of the Surrealist artists to develop a passionate, if complex, interest in indigenous ceremonial art, including that of the Pacific Northwest.

The Surrealists were drawn to the “authentic” quality, inventiveness of form and visual brilliance of First Nations art. Some of the movement’s members collected, wrote about and even exhibited their own work alongside First Nations art from British Columbia and Alaska.

Included in the exhibition are a number of spectacular masks and other First Nations pieces such a Kwakwaka’wakw headdress from Alert Bay, British Columbia, which once belonged to Breton; two Alaskan Yup’ik masks acquired by Enrico Donati; and a sketchbook by Robert Lebel depicting First Nations masks. This important component of the exhibition also highlights, through a selection of never-before-exhibited documentary photographs, the seminal trip made to British Columbia and Alaska in the late 1930s by artist Kurt Seligmann.

Another ground-breaking aspect of The Colour of My Dreams is an examination of the little-known influence of early cinema on the development and evolution of Surrealist film -- perhaps one of the most influential legacies of the movement. The exhibition reveals the formative early films that captured the Surrealists’ imagination -- ranging from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu to Betty Boop cartoons to Hollywood movies featuring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Displayed throughout the various galleries of the exhibition, nearly 30 films reveal the provocative nature of Surrealist filmmaking and its antecedents.



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