Surrealism in Review at the Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery has been host to The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art since May 28, featuring 350 works by renowned Surrealist artists. This is the most comprehensive exhibition of Surrealist art to be shown in Canada. Curated by Dawn Ades, an internationally celebrated expert of Surrealist art; this exhibit features such artists as Salvador Dalí, André Breton, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, and Man Ray.

The exhibit includes journals, books, and periodicals that propelled the Surrealist movement. Displaying La Révolution Surréaliste, a journal that published the radical essays of the Surrealists from 1924 to 1929; Les Vases Communicants, a book by André Breton that explores the redemptive forces of dreams in everyday life; the Minotaure, a journal utilized by the Surrealist artists for its visual opportunities, founded by Albert Skira; and other texts provided a rounded intellectual experience.

Beginning with the origins and comprehensible aspects of the movement, the layout was an attempt to show a picture of the history of Surrealism, with gradual transitions easing into the incomprehensible. It showcased artists such as André Breton, the creator of the surrealist movement, and others like Man Ray and Valentine Hugo. Renowned artists like Joan Miró, with the simplistic painting “Photo: ceci est la couleur de mes rêves”, were integrated with others of contrasting style – such as Yves Tanguy with his paintings “Death Watching his Family”, “The Doubter”, and “Second Message III”.

Other famous artists in the exhibit include Salvador Dalí (“Agnostic Symbol”, “Sin Tutúlo”, “Gala and the Angelus of Millet immediately preceding the arrival of the Conic Anamorphoses”), Paul Delvaux (“El Viaducto”), and Man Ray (“Swedish Landscape”) among others.

As the exhibit progressed, the subjects became more eclectic, following the development of the Surrealist movement. There are rooms of specific ideas – Max Ernst’s displays paintings such as “Day and Night” as well as his essay “Les Mystères de la forêt”; other rooms are that of Cadavre Equis, a drawing game often played by young children, Surrealist objects, sculptures composed of found objects of contrasting nature, and film. Pieces of erotic nature were placed together in a room with an advisory preface.

“I liked the way it was presented.” said a regular Gallery patron, “We came in with preconceived notions of what surrealism is, though for me this sort of conformed to it.”

The exhibit, as well as showing the works of Surrealist artists, gave examples of things that influenced the movement: Native American carvings, and early Hollywood film to name some. Loans from places like the Israel Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Soffa in Madrid are also on display.

Although the exhibit seemed to be well liked, the Surrealist movement received mixed reviews.

“Some you had to just think about and stand in front of it for a really long time, where others you get the message right away.” said Jenna Andres, a grade eleven student from Langley Fine Arts School.

Another visitor had a different perspective. “I liked the multi-media aspect of it, the films and sculptures.”

For those who wish to form their own opinion of the Surrealist movement, The Colour of My Dreams: A Surrealist Revolution in Art will be displayed in the Vancouver Art Gallery until October 2, 2011.

Article by: Grace Kennedy

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