Photography and the Surreal Imagination at The Menil Collection
We continue to share exhibitions that are no longer available to public access. Photography and the Surreal Imagination is currently on display.
Conversation between two people walking along (six feet apart). Question, ’Did you see the speed that COVID 19 is spreading in Europe?’. Answer, ’Yeh man, it’s surreal’. The word surreal has slipped into popular culture meaning weird, bizarre. It has only a passing acquaintance with the Surrealist art movement that was founded on values far more nuanced.
The Menil Collection Exhibition, ‘Photography and the Surreal Imagination’ of 62 works offers an excellent guide to these values. It is interesting to view art movements as the product of pendulum swings, reactions running counter to prevailing social trends. Surrealists were reacting to the forces of reason and science born in the Age of Enlightenment and were part of the post WW1 burst of creative energy. They embraced Freudian philosophy, seeing the sub-conscious as key to a new world of art. Their ideal was to free the mind from rational thought. They set out to shock through writings, paintings, drawings, and photographs involving symbolism and chance. The camera was a tool not simply to reproduce but to reinvent and revolutionize reality.
Surrealism is associated with Andre Breton who published The Surrealist Manifesto in 1924 but the Menil Collection exhibition goes further. It is well rounded in covering the works of artists associated with the movement both prior to and after the manifesto. So, in addition to the well-known Surrealists like Max Ernst and Man Ray, there are also works by Atget, Cartier Bresson and even a color image from Allison Janae Hamilton from 2015. It is the inclusion of these images from artists working in the Surrealist style that adds depth and breadth to this exhibition.
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