Spotlight on Surrealism

The Department of International Painting and Sculpture in collaboration with the Departments of Photography and Prints and Drawings have recently opened a dynamic new installation of Surrealist Art on Level 2 in the Gallery of 20th Century Art and Design. Paintings, sculpture, film, photography and drawings jostle for attention as they careen across the space.  

The survey showcases the recent acquisition of a complex sculpture (both physically and psychologically) by the French artist André Masson, Ecstasy (Extase), and three new works on paper – two collaborative Exquisite corpse (Cadavre exquis)  pictures by André Breton, Man Ray and others, along with Oscar Dominguez’s The white lion (Le Lion blanc). They join a painting by the English Surrealist artist Reuben Mednikoff, October 17, 1938. 10a.m. (The king of the castle), that was acquired in 2011. Paintings by Glyn Philpot, Paul Nash, John Armstrong and Max Ernst, along with sculptures by Jean Arp and Jacob Epstein and photogaphs by László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray complete the assemblage.

Be sure to look closely at the two works entitled Exquisite Corpse. They are rare examples of an ingenious game adapted by the French Surrealist group from a traditional parlour game, whereby a folded piece of paper is given to each participant in turn and they have to complete the drawing of a person or creature, without seeing what has previously been drawn, before handing it on to the next person. The results are fantastical, evoking the demonic creatures lurking in the paintings of Bosch and Breughel.

The surprise of the space is the insertion of two film sequences. One is an excerpt from Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s controversial 1929 film An Andalusian dog (Un Chien andalou). The original soundtrack by Richard Wagner and the later inclusion of a Spanish tango softly fill the space. The second presents an anti-narrative short film of 1927 by the Dadaist artist Hans Richter, Ghosts before breakfast (Vormittagsspuk). Unfortunately, the original score by Paul Hindemith has not survived but the stop-motion special effects are a treat and more than make up for the silence.

The light sensitive works will be changed in February 2014 so if you are particularly interested in seeing the collaborative works of André Breton, Yves Tanguy, Jeannette Tanguy, Jacqueline Lamba, Man Ray and Max Morise, as well as Oscar Dominguez’s experimental ‘decalcomania’ printing process, make sure you go up to Level 2 when you visit Melbourne Now.