7 in-depth stories of surrealism – ARTnews.com
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We live in a society that abjures shared reality for the chaos of social media. The situation might have appealed to the Surrealists, and it certainly would have amused their leader, André Breton, who once hailed a self-destructive drug addict as the embodiment of surrealism. Although Guillaume Apollinaire is thought to have coined the term, Breton claimed it as his own with his October 1924 manifesto in a sort of battle over intellectual property with the poet Yvan Goll, a rival for control of the surrealist brand that had issued a similar decree two weeks earlier. Breton won, and the rest, as they say, is the history of art. Born out of collective PTSD in Europe after WWI, Surrealism sought to make the realm of the subconscious visible to a conscious world distracted by the initial wave of mass production and reproduction of the 20th century. Its complexities were manifold, as evidenced by our recommendations for the best books on surrealism. (Price and availability in effect at the time of publication.)
1. Leslie Jones, Draw surrealism
Drawing is essential for developing ideas, but as a stand-alone expression it is often seen as secondary to painting or sculpture. However, the medium played a pivotal role in shaping the principles of Surrealism, and this richly illustrated catalog accompanying a 2012-2013 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) shows how. For the surrealists, tapping the subconscious was fundamental, and drawing provided the key to it in the form of several unconventional techniques. Automatism, for example, transformed free association into concrete gesture and later became a cornerstone of abstract expressionism. The exquisite exercise of the corpse, a sort of telephone game played by drawing, explored the happy results of random juxtapositions. Rubbing, or rubbing, offered another means of dissociating the intention from the creative act. This book contains texts and works of 100 contributors and moves out of the original surrealist circle to include artists from Japan, Central Europe and the Americas.
Purchase: Surrealist Drawing from $ 16.02 (Used) on Amazon
2. André Breton, Surrealism and painting
When André Breton’s manifesto launched surrealism in 1924, the movement was meant to be literary rather than artistic. In response, he publishes Surrealism and painting four years later. Over time, the original treatise was combined into a book with other Breton writings published between 1928 and 1962, and this volume remains the main source on the subject. In it, Breton states that surrealism was not so much an aesthetic as a “purely internal model” for exploring the “dark continent of consciousness”. Breton’s essays deal with a wide range of artists associated with surrealism, as well as ruminations on popular art traditions (Haitian painting, Oceanic sculpture) that he considered relevant to the movement. Published in 2002, this edition was the first to be translated into English.
Purchase: Surrealism and Painting $ 11.18 (new) on Amazon
3. Stéphanie D’Alessandro and Matthew Gale, Surrealism beyond borders
Among the art isms of the early twentieth century, surrealism was arguably the most suitable for dissemination around the world for several reasons. First, he didn’t emphasize any particular style, instead welcoming abstraction, representation, or anything in between as long as he adhered to surrealist tenets. Second, the group had in André Breton a tireless leader and promoter whose writings and travels spread surrealist ideas far beyond the limits of their Parisian origins. The Metropolitan Museum’s extensive investigation into this chapter in the history of modern art, which runs through January 30, 2022, is the first of its kind and is repeated in this lavishly illustrated and deeply thought-out catalog, which, among others , reveals fascinating artists. and works of art hitherto known mainly to specialists. Surrealism beyond borders lives up to its title, offering a revealing look at how the movement has spread across the world, from Central Europe and Latin America to Asia and the Middle East, on a period of several years until the 1970s.
Purchase: Surrealism Beyond Borders $ 57.99 (New) on Amazon
4. Oliver Shell and Oliver Tostmann, Monsters and Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s
Just as Dada was a response to the catastrophe of 1914-1918, the Surrealists reflected the exhaustion and terror of the interwar period before the onset of a conflict that would prove to be even more devastating than its predecessor. Key figures of the movement like André Breton, André Masson and Max Ernst had served on the Western Front, so it is not surprising that they and other Surrealists (Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Yves Tanguy among them) were particularly alarmed, the prospects for war have increased with the rise of fascism. This catalog for a 2018 exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum explores how surrealism was galvanized by these developments and how its imagery became more gruesome as a result. Additionally, the authors of the book argue that this period produced some of the movement’s greatest works, particularly that of Ernst. Europe after the rains II, reproduced here in a superb gatefold. Monsters and myths shows how surrealism was born from one trauma to face another.
Purchase: Monsters and Myths $ 50.00 (new) on Amazon
5. Amy Dempsey, Surrealism
Published by Thames & Hudson as part of its Art Essentials series, Surrealism offers a digestible overview that will appeal to readers passionate about the subject as well as those with a simple curiosity about it. It begins with André Breton and the programmatic structure that he imposes on surrealism to distinguish it from the anarchist drifts of Dada. Breton’s precepts are covered comprehensively and incisively, along with the work of key figures and lesser-known names. Profusely illustrated with archival photos and color images which are often full-page or double-page reproductions, Surrealism Also contains a glossary of terms and a timeline of the history of the movement’s exhibition and other related events. Beautifully printed and ready for a coffee table, the book is also an encyclopedic appreciation of one of the most important chapters of 20th century modernism, whose stunning style continues to influence art to this day.
Purchase: Surrealism $ 16.95 (new) on Amazon
6. Whitney Chadwick, Women artists and the surrealist movement
Surrealism was hardly favorable to women: many of the male artists involved were misogynistic, as was much of their art. There were women who belonged to the movement, but they were expected to stand in the shadow of the men, serving as wives, mistresses and muses. But many of them were full-fledged artists whose work was as exceptional as that of the men. A few names – Dorothea Tanning, Meret Oppenheim – have been mentioned in standard accounts of modernist art history, but most have been ignored and their rediscovery only began in earnest after the rise of feminism in the years. 1970. Originally published in 1985, this book was the first major study of its kind, exploring the careers of female artists who, in addition to Tanning and Oppenheim, included Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Leonor Fini, Remedios Varo and others. Based in part on interviews and correspondence with a number of artists, the book is considered a classic.
Purchase: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement $ 29.95 (new) on Amazon
7. Ruth Brandon, Surrealist Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945
Focusing more on personalities than practices, Ruth Brandon Surreal lives is a sort of revealing group detailing the complicated relationships the Surrealists had with each other and with their leader, André Breton. The latter saw his role as that of guardian and chief executor – a position that has often rubbed artists upside down – and as such colored the movement’s love-hate dynamic. Salvador Dalí sums it up in his inimitable way: “The surrealist group was a coterie of pederasts all in love with André Breton. They all adored him and he loved to exercise his relentless power over them. Brandon goes into all of this and more, recounting the various peccadilloes, jealousies, indiscretions, and sexual relationships (including the female swap incidents) that made the pot boil. In bringing these characters to life, however, Brandon’s goal is not to be salacious, but rather to define what it meant to be a surrealist for an eccentric group of icons from the history of the art.
Purchase: Surreal Lives $ 16.00 (new) on Amazon