After Kurt Seligmann (1900 – 1962) settled in Paris, his sinister, biomorphic compositions gained the attention of Andre Breton, who invited him to join the Surrealist group in 1937. With the outbreak of World War II, Seligmann became the first Surrealist to arrive in New York, and he was instrumental in the emigration of most of the movement’s leading figures. Transformed by contact with new cultures, Seligmann’s work continued to evolve, and as the Surrealist’s acknowledged expert on magic, he infused his paintings with mythology and esotericism. Indeed, the year he made this work, Magnetic Mountain(1948) he published The Mirror of Magic, a history of the occult. The winding forms and mystical quality of this canvas would influence a new generation of American artists, including his student, Robert Motherswell.
Chicago-based surrealist Gertrude Abercrombie (1909 – 1977) was acclaimed for her enigmatic paintings of stark interiors and illusory landscapes. On first glance, Self Portrait As My Sister (1941) appears to be relatively straight-forward representation, lacking the idiosyncratic imagery of her complex, dreamlike works. But Abercrombie was an only child, and the title’s allusion to a sister heightens the paradox of the painting. She frequently used self-portraiture as a means of trying on new guises and personas, later observing, “It’s always myself that I paint, but not actually, because I don’t look that good or cute.” Indeed, in her records she referred to this work as “Portrait of Artist as Ideal.” Her reference to a fictitious and prettier sister hints at desire to be a different person, a longing she could satisfy through her painting.
This unknown-titled work from 1926 shows French Surrealist painter Yves Tanguy’s debt to the still and imaginative landscapes of the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico. The influence is apparent in the perplexing array of imagery that includes a small school of fish and a child flattened by a cart. The plain white tower in the background — a favorite iconographic motif of de Chirico — secures the connection between the two artists.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Max Ernst was fascinated with microscopic images, which were first broadly distributed in the early twentieth century. For The Gramineous Bicycle Garnished with Bells the Dappled Fire Damps and the Echinoderms Bending the Spine to Look for Caresses (1921), he created an overpainting on the ambitious scale of traditional oil painting by using a commercially available teaching chart. Ernst inverted the found poster, which contains magnified views of brewer’s yeast cells, and selectively painted in a black background. He then painted gears and bands, as well as humanizing details including eyes, noses, limbs, and whiskers to create a virtual circus of tightrope walkers, clowns and cyclists. The inscription lands amusing sexual connotations to the hairs, orifices and protrusions of these microorgasms.
Max Ernst painted the first state of Woman, Old Man and Flower in 1923, the year after he moved from Cologne to Paris to join the nascent Surrealist group. He subsequently modified elements of this picture. Most astonishingly, he added the mysterious, partially transparent, partially modeled, fan-topped figure in the foreground — presumably the flower referenced in the painting’s title. Even before leaving Germany, Ernst had been thinking about translating the collage and overpainting strategies of his small Dada works on paper into oil on canvas. The results achieved included radical leaps in scale, intensified colors, and what he described to fellow Dadaist Tristan Tzara as “a much insaner effect.”
Photographed as part of the Exhibit, Max Ernst: Beyond Painting, Up Through January 1st, 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art.
The New York Contemporary Art Scene’s very own Teen Idol, Jim McKenzie, will launch his first solo exhibit at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica on June 4th, and if you are anywhere near LA, you had better plan to be there! Lost Magic will feature a collection of Jim’s Pop Surrealist sculptures that must be seen to be believed. Jim’s creations for Lost Magic include seemingly fun and playful characters such as a Scarecrow with an ironic phobia of crows, a half-raccoon, half-unicorn appropriately named Raccoonicorn, as well as a variety of other brightly hued animal hybrids. Despite their candy-color coating, the pieces of Lost Magic were crafted with a darker undertone in mind. Jim explains, “I wanted to showcase the intersection where beauty and sadness intertwine within. I’ve chosen to create contrasting hybrids and, though they have these brilliant colors and seemingly majestic qualities, ultimately, they are all outcasts. This show is for those who’ve lost touch with the magic this world has to offer and for those who still want to see it.”
Watch Jim in the process of creating a few of the fantastic pieces that you will see in this show, in the theatrical trailer below:
Jim McKenzie’s Lost Magic will be on Exhibit from June 4th Through July 2nd, 2016, with the Opening Reception on Saturday June 4th from 8:00 – 11:30 PM. Copro Gallery is Located at 2525 Michigan Ave. T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404.
Neo Rauch (born April 18th, 1960) was raised in communist East Germany. Upon encountering a united Germany in the early 1990s, Rauch assimilated and parodied the social realist ruins of communist art along with the popular imagery of capitalism. His unusual style, which renders contradictory and often competing sensibilities intelligible and seemingly unified, has given rise to a generation of painters in the Leipzig area as well as a dynamic gallery scene.
Rauch’s paintings share certain affinities with surrealism, namely the invocation of dreams as an escape from a rule-driven consciousness. Rauch himself, however, distances his work from easy readings. “I have no use for the cultishness of classic surrealism or for its tight repertoire of methods,” he says. “In fact just the opposite is true: on my canvas, as in my mind, anything is possible.” Although highly interested in his own East German origins and the nature and limitations of its society, Rauch also channels German iconoclasts like Jörg Immendorff and Georg Baselitz to present a figurative work full of chronological fissures. His painting reflects the influence of socialist realism, and owes a debt to Surrealists Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, although Rauch hesitates to align himself with surrealism.
Der Laden (The Store), painted in 2005, is part of the Permanent Collection at The Broad Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown Los Angeles.