Six years in the making, "Surrealism Beyond Borders" was hosted by Stephanie D 'Alessandro at the Met and Matthew Gale at Tate Modern in London, where the show will travel next year. As in recent shows like "International Pop", at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, or "Postwar" at Haus der Kunst from Munich, this new exhibition designs Surrealism is not quite a movement, but a sprawling trend. Its forms and purposes have mutated as they migrate, and so mere tales of this one-influenced-that-that won't cut it. It 's something grander, more messy, and much more compelling: an unstable cartography of moving images and ideas, blowing across the world like the trade winds of the subconscious. Opening the show, Marcel Jean 's Surrealist Cabinet in Three Dimensions (Surrealist Cabinet) ”(1941). Credit ... Jeenah Moon for Hfrance.fr
These movements were, like everything with surrealism, not quite rational and linear. Surrealism was a fluid web of exchanges, translations, idealizations and misunderstandings - and on this subject, too rarely in this era of sufficient cultural moralism, the Conservatives are actually treating us like adults. Because the surrealists, in Paris but also in New York and Mexico, had a serious primitivist tendency and celebrated the art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas for a supposed vitality that capitalist Europe had stifled . They were also among the loudest and most consistent opponents of colonialism in the West - demonstrating outside the 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition, demanding the freedom of Indochina and calling for black self-determination in the West. West Indies. One of the great virtues of "Surrealism beyond s" is the way it thinks that the opposition simultaneously, without unfounded superiority - and always places the regions idealized by these artists on a par with Europe.
At the Met you will see artists from 45 countries - their works borrowed from 95 collections of Bogota to Canberra, which was no small feat during a pandemic. There are objects from the 1920s and also some as recent as the 1990s, long after the "surrealist movement" bit the dust. Over 260 paintings, photographs and films here bristle with desire and sometimes in bad taste. Don't expect a masterpiece hit parade! This is an exhibition where you might not like a lot of the works on display - certainly true for me, to whom most surreal paintings feel outdated - but you always come away delighted with the Intelligence of this exhibition and grateful for the discovery of the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Eastern European artists who leave Dali and his friends in the shadows.
Here is what stands out most in "Surrealism beyond s": it was something more than a Parisian artistic movement with ulterior foreign followersurs (and less numerous), like Impressionism or Cubism. Surrealism was more like an epidemic: an ambient, variable, self-propagating language of rejection that artists like these could direct as needed. To their local bourgeoisie, or to their local dictator. At the church, or among the settlers. To all the constraints on the human subconscious and on human freedom.
Rita Kernn-Larsen, Denmark
Dream Power Image Rita Kernn-Larsen, "Fantomerne (Ghosts) ", from 1934. Credit ... Jeenah Moon for The New York Tim es
Surrealism was born in Paris in 1924,but the group set out from the start across Europe, and organized around ten official exhibitions abroad. The first of them was in Copenhagen, where Rita Kernn-Larsen quickly assimilated what Andre Breton, in the "Surrealist Manifesto", called "the omnipotence of dreams". In " Phantoms ”(1933-34), two balloon-shaped spectra with pin eyes hover against pink, purple and turquoise stripes: floating or falling, gliders or drowners, it's hard to say which one. Kernn-Larsen would continue to exhibit with the Surrealists in London and Paris - one of the very few women in these official exhibitions - and would become the first Surrealist to exhibit with Peggy Guggenheim.
Koga Harue, Japan
Scientific surrealism Image Koga Harue, "Umi (The Sea)" from 1929. Credit ... Jeenah Moon for Hfrance.fr
But even before the first international exhibition, artists abroad were held in check against the Parisian bosses of the movement. and industry the same importance as the human subconscious. 'The Sea', his most important painting, sparked a firestorm in the Tokyo art world when it was first shown in 1929: a cross-sectional submarine floats in the sky. feet of a giant swimming pool, while a zeppelin glides (or plunges?) towards a half-submerged factory.
Ladislav Zivr, CZECHOSLOVAKIA
S hoes waiting Image Ladislav Zivr," Incognito Heart (1936). Credit ... Jeenah Moon for the Hfrance.fr
Perhaps more than painting, the most representative works of art of surrealism are objects: curious little fetishes, usually made from found materials and sized to fit in the hands, that collide with everyday good taste. The Met Show has a case of a dozen or so. objects of this type, including that of Ladislav Zivr, who would become famous in the surrealist Prague collective Group 42. The heart of his “Heart incognito” is in facta pair of high-heeled shoes, tangled in fishing nets, strung with a rosary, impaled on l rods.
Paul Paun, Romania
Freedom to doodle Image Paul Paun, "The Cloud " of 1943. Credit ... Jeenah Moon for Hfrance.fr
Another classic surrealist technique: automatism, or unchoreographed doodling, by which artists believed they could escape the shackles of conscious composition to reveal a truth beyond rationality. In addition to works by Miro and Masson, this exhibition features automatic works of art from Hungary, fromu Peru, Japan and New Zealand - and this drawing from wartime Bucharest, where artist Paul Paun joined a local surrealist circle that was to exhibit in secret. (Paun and several other Romanian surrealists were Jewish; they published in French.) In his 1943 ink drawing "The Cloud," an arched human figure appears to be pushing dendrites from his arms, amid tangles rhizomatics that seem as confined as a thread of rope.
A new form of nationalism Image Center, Ted Joans, "Long distance" (1976-2005). Right wall, works by Byon Yeongwon, Salvador Dali and Mayo's “Sticks” of 1937. Credit ... Jeenah Moon for Hfrance.fr
Anyway, where was the greatest influence of surrealism beyond Europe in the 1930s? It was in Cairo - where the group Art et Liberte has joined forces with artists abroad to condemn the British colonial power and to campaign for a left-wing revolution ("Long live degenerate art!" A shouted his first manifesto.) The painter Mayo, born to a Greek family in Egypt, finished his confused battle scene "Sticks" in 1937, the same year as Picasso's "Guernica": it was not enough to look at it. inside; surrealism was also a language of speech.
Aime Cesaire, Martinique, and wifredo lam, Cuba
A release tool Image A 1942 Spanish edition of the "Carnet d 'a return to his native land "by Aime Cesaire, translated by Lydia Cabrera and illustrated by Wifredo Lam. Credit ... Jeenah Moon for Hfrance.fr
Surrealism was a deeply anti-colonial movement - and long after it had brutalized it in mainland France, its languages of opposition found their highest expression in the Caribbean. "I lick you with my tongues of seaweed / And I get you out of piracy ", declares the narrator of the classic "Notebook of a return to native land " by Aime Cesaire, which merges the surrealist poetics withthe shapes of the black Atlantic in a new philosophy called Negritude. Breton wrote the introduction to the French edition, but the copy presented here is in Spanish, with illustrations by Cuban painter Wifredo Lam: hybrid beasts with many heads, beautiful but formidable, and unafraid You're welcome.
Cecilia Porras and Enrique Grau, Colombia
An experimental partnership Image A photograph from the series " La Divina "by Cecilia Porras and Enrique Grau (1958). Credit ... Fundacion Enrique Grau Araujo, Bogota; Fundacion Casa Grau
For many surrealists worksIlluminating under dictatorships, the medium most conducive to experimentation and dissent has become photography. In the blurry black-and-white images of Cecilia Porras and Enrique Grau, made in secret after a coup in Colombia in the 1950s, women 's faces disappear behind veils, and sleepers become entangled under water. Driftwood. (Porras herself has modeled several of the images shown here.) Their search for free space for creativity has also extended to the cinema: the couple's 1954 film, "The Blue Lobster," directed with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and highly indebted to Bunuel, cut from documentary footage of Colombian fishermen with a strange painting of an American smuggling radioactive shells.
Jung HaeChang and Limb Eung-sik, Korea
The everyday strange Image Limb Eung-sik, "Jeongmul II (Still Life II ) "(1949). Credit ... Jeenah Moon pour le Hfrance.fr
The photograph had the same outward orientation in Korea under Japanese domination, where artists (not all explicitly surrealists) used a distorted scale to represent the madness of colonial occupation. In Jung Haechang "A Doll 's Dream I " small action figure booth overshadowed by household items, and the grainy development makes it look like a cinematic horror story. Limb Eung-sik, in "Still Life II ", depicted a hand, deadly white, emerging from the ground as if buried alive.
Malangatana Ngwenya, Mozambique
Revolution, first and always Image Malangatana Ngwenya, "Untitled " ( 1967), oil on hardboard. Credit ... Malangatana Ngwenya; Tate
The anti-colonial potential of the movement has reached south-eastern Africa, where artists from Angola and Mozambique mingled with the surrealists fleeing Portugal from Salazar. In the 1960s, Malangatana Ngwenya, known by her first name, painted dense panoramas of men and monsters, the ferocity of whichreflected both opposition to Portuguese rule and darker, more inner anxiety. Freedom as an artist and freedome as a citizen could not be so easily dissociated outside the West, and the language of dreams and nightmares could too well be used to imagine the world outside your door.
Ted Joans, United States
Drawn by one hundred hands Image A detail of Robert Lebel's drawing can be seen on "Long Distance " by Ted Joans (1976-2005). Credit ... Jeenah Moon for Le Hfrance.fr
Perhaps the most extraordinary re-evaluation of this show is happening closest to home. Ted Joans , born in southern Illinois in 1928, discovered surrealism as a child and applied his strange techniques to oral poetry and free jazz. (He moved to Canada in 2000 to protest the murder of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant, by four New York City police officers. Joans died in self-exile three years later.) The Met show ends with Joans 'extraordinary "Long Distance ". , which stretches over 9 meters: an "exquisite corpse", or collective drawing in which each participant extends the work of the previous one, which Joans transported from Europe to Africa to America. It brings together more than 100 artists, poets, intellectuals and musicians whose style and geography would normally be worse: malangatana with john ashbery, michel leiris betye saar. their connections are strange, unexpected, but also intractable - forged inthe fire of movement and dream. "Jazz is my religion," said joans. surrealism my point of view. "
Surrealism beyond s
Until January 30, 2022, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org .