Wednesday 11 November 2015

Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm

Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm.
The curators of this part of the exhibition see Surrealism as an approach rather than a style, and the exhibits reflect that. 
Surrealism was a new way of seeing, of looking inwards instead of outwards. Inspired by Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis, the surrealists turned away from rational reality and embraced the irrational hidden sides of the human mind. All the various expressions of the movement originated in Paris, where the author Andre Breton wrote the first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. The city also attracted young writers and painters from the Dada movement. They used automatic writing and dream resumes in attempts to tap into the subconscious. The ambition was to dissolve dream and reality into an absolute reality - a super reality (surreality). The surrealists wanted to change life and society, and liberate the individual. 
Giorgio de Chirico is the primary pioneer of surrealist painting. In what he called his 'metaphysical paintings', made before WWI, de Chirico portrayed a fictive, eerie world with near-photorealism. Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Yves Tanguy used the secret imagery of dreams in their hyper-realist figurative style, while Joan Miro created a universe of symbolically charged abstract signs. Max Ernst experimented with different techniques, including collage, to achieve painting beyond painting, where transformations and metamorphoses were central elements. He forced himself to react to the unexpected and surrender himself to chance. Dorothea Tanning's paintings were precise figurative renderings of dream-like situations.
In sculpture, Alberto Giacometti developed claustrophobic works, charged with both violence and eroticism. Meret Oppenheim produced surrealist objects that can be seen as three-dimensional collages of everyday items from diverse contexts, evoking dark and sexual fantasies. Surrealism was the first movement in the 1920s to use moving images as a new medium. 

Dorothea Tanning, Don Juan's Breakfast, 1972

Toyen, (Marie, Cerminova) The Myth of Light, 1945

Salvador Dali, The Enigma of Wilhelm Tell, 1933 

The legend of William Tell is about a man who defies his masters and is punished by having to shoot an apple resting on his son's head. In an interview Dali claimed that William Tell in the painting was his father. But instead of an apple, the child in the father's arms has a piece of raw meat on its head, perhaps indicating the father's beastly intentions. The figure also resembles Lenin, and there are countless possible interpretations of this. Dali ended the interview saying: 'I hope everything is perfectly clear, but if it is too clear you can call me and I will try to make it more obscure'. 

Louise Bourgeois, Quilting, 1999


Max Ernst, L'Ete Imaginaire, 1927

Alberto Giacometti, Cage, 1930-31


Wolfgang Paalen, Articulated Cloud, 1938

Meret Oppenheim, Ma Gouvernande - My Nurse - Mein Kindermadchen,  1936/1967


Ma Gouvernande - My Nurse - Mein Kindermadchen is the artist's own title, and it's an essential element of the work. Oppenheim said that the white shoes reminded her of a nanny: 'I was a small child, four or five, we had a young nanny. She dressed in white. Maybe she was in love and maybe she radiated a sensual atmosphere that I unconsciously registered, and maybe this was the reason that white-attired Elseli left such a lasting impression on me'. The tri-lingual title is evocative of the multilingual bourgeois circles of the early 20th century. The object is a replica of an earlier version that is said to have been destroyed in the 1930s. The replica was made for Oppenheim's exhibition in Stockholm in 1967.

Rene Magritte, The Red Model, 1935

Giorgio de Chirico, The Child's Brain, 1914

When Surrealist Andre Breton saw this painting in a gallery in Paris he was completely captivated and bought it for his collection at once. It thereby became to be of critical importance for many of the Surrealists. They were fascinated by the fact that this surrealist picture had been painted several years before the advent of Surrealism. The piece is characterised by a dreamlike atmosphere. A curtain partially blocks our view into a room whose edges are oddly skewed. The man's eyes are closed and his skin is pale. The shadows are harsh, and behind him we glimpse a deserted urban landscape. Is it a picture of a dream or of reality, of sleep or wakefulness?

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