Disturbing Grotesquerie, Nightmarish Dreams, Varying Techniques
Stunning, Rich Collection, Launched by LA Museum, A First for New York
The Morgan Library is the supreme treasure house and exhibitor of the finest drawings in the US, but it seems that Leslie Jones, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was apparently the first to come up with the idea of an important show of the drawings of the surrealists, which played a major role in the development of the strikingly provocative movement of the early 20th Century.
Whether that curatorial priority be the case or not, the Morgan’s Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings, has fortunately brought the LACMA show (which ran from October to early January) in all its variety to New York with only a few changes. It is a stunning and rich exhibition. The 175 works form a revelatory account of how the seeds of Surrealism sprang up in the minds of its major practitioners. Drawings clearly took the lead in pushing the boundaries of conventional art and essaying new approaches and techniques in this Freudian, mystic, symbolic movement exploring the unconscious.
Love or loathe it, or both, at first sight, or simply find it as we do, after extended acquaintance, simultaneously intriguing and uncomfortable (and remarkably lacking in sanguinity – were these Parisians and others self-censorious in publicly excavating their innermost responses? there are not many provocative images of eroticism or lust in this collection), but always fascinating in its attempt to let the unconscious speak first without controlling mediation, this viewing is seminal.
One of its striking revelations is how far and wide the movement spread from Paris. Sheets from Eastern Europe, Tokyo, the US and Latin America are included. Works from the Morgan, LACMA, Tate Modern, the Pompidou Center and the Menil Collection join a number of items from private collections rarely accessible to the public.
There are over 160 works by Dali, Ernst, Magritte, Miro and many others in this must-see show which will run only from tomorrow till April 21 this year. Just how intriguing these are can be gathered from the pics in this post (either from the Morgan or from our Panasonic FZ35 in low exhibition light) which can be clicked to enlarge, or double clicked to super-enlarge for enormous detail. Additional pictures may be seen at Talk In New York Photo Calendar – Fabulous Morgan Surrealism
Meanwhile the Times today calls the show “sensational”, as indeed it is, repaying close attention endlessly with its extraordinary variety store of unexpected, stirring, often alien dissections of the strange unconscious visions which these artists might persuade us are always informing our emotional life:
The New York Times (Pics added by AL)
January 24, 2013
Squiggles From the Id or Straight From the Brain
By ROBERTA SMITH
Surrealism was very, very good to drawing. Or maybe it was the other way around. In any case, shortly after a young poet named André Breton issued his first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924 the movement and the medium — aided and abetted by a large cohort of talented artists and writers — joined forces, to extraordinary mutual benefit. That art continues to reap the fruits of this union is one of the many lessons of “Drawing Surrealism,” a sensational exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum.
Drawing was an ideal art form for the Surrealists, with their initial opposition to painting as bourgeois, cumbersome and requiring too much skill. (Nearly anyone, after all, could make a decent drawing, or a few; several by the writer Georges Bataille, possibly scratched out during therapy sessions around 1925, are among the show’s high points.) And being the art medium connected most directly to the brain, it also fit with and furthered the Surrealists’ wide-ranging interests in the id, dreams and language; chance, speed and fun; and disturbing juxtapositions.
The Surrealists, like this show, defined drawing very broadly. They invented or breathed new life into drawing techniques like frottage (pencil rubbings) and the game of exquisite corpse. They commandeered collage and took it places the Cubists never dreamed of. They also tended to crossbreed such techniques (as well as photography) in all sorts of enriching ways.
But despite drawing’s centrality to Surrealism’s many explorations, there have been very few exhibitions devoted exclusively to Surrealist drawings. The Morgan’s survey is the largest yet, and also the most international. Organized by Leslie Jones, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it had its debut last fall, and Isabelle Dervaux at the Morgan, the show is somewhat smaller than the Los Angeles version, with several substitutions because of the fragility of paper. Even so, it contains 165 works by 70 artists from 15 countries, and is accompanied by a handsome catalog with an especially informative essay by Ms. Jones.
If some of the inclusions on view serve historical clarity more than visual scintillation, the show as whole nevertheless provides plenty to occupy the eye. The stage is set with four works by important precursors of Surrealism, all from before 1920: a dreamlike drawing by Giorgio de Chirico, a poem-drawing by Apollinaire and two collages that Jean Arp arranged using chance. After these the largely chronological show is arranged according to techniques, which changed and expanded over time as more artists joined the cause and as Breton’s edicts endorsed, dismissed and reratified various methods.
This approach makes “Drawing Surrealism” a great introduction to the movement and a valuable break with the fashion for thematic displays. It serves as a reminder that few things are more important to an artwork’s ultimate effect than the way it is made, while also giving the show a variety and briskness unusual to exhibitions of drawings.