Imagine the life of “Downton Abbey. Picture Czarist Russia and Rockefellers and Guggenheims on 5th Ave. The music of grand waltzes of Austria and Eastern Europe conjure images of bejeweled ball gowns and luscious elegance. That ordered life for the “haves” with its stylish grace and stayed expression was about to be challenged by many factors including the rise of Social Democracy, World War I, and the ever-changing world of art.
In Paris, the center of the art world, things were roiling. From Impressionists, to Cubists to the Fauves–artists would no longer stand for the status quo. What was the point of doing what had been done? They pushed to expand their expression at every turn. Dadaism was spawned to mock the prevailing culture. Logic, which leaders used to justify WWI, and the order of the day led to the most brutal and bloody conflict the world had ever seen. The antidote, therefore for the artists of the Dada movement, would be irrational thinking. Freud’s theories of the unconscious would inform art as well.
Thus Surrealism is born. Andre Breton, French critic, writer and poet, who trained in medicine and psychology and who worked in a neurological hospital during the war treating shell-shock, wrote the Surrealist Manifesto in 1924. It inspired practically every artist of the day and the Surrealist Movement is considered to be the most influential of the 20th century. The Surrealists thought to heal humanity with emphasizing instinct over rationalization tapping into the unconscious and mining dreams and the qualities of uninhibited expression. The dictionary sites: “Surrealism-… the exploitation of chance effects, unexpected juxtapositions, etc. Expressing visions free from conscious rational control ”
The most famous Surrealist artists, Dali, DeChirrico, Ernst, Magritte, are not among my favorite image-makers, but the methods and the philosophy are effective tools in the creative process.
This week we will play with a Surrealist technique or two to spark the imagination. It may either be the beginning of a painting or you may use it just for warm-up and continuing developing works in progress.
An interesting exhibit at LACMA I was fortunate to see: http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/in-wonderland Apparently, Mexico was a haven for Surrealists—(sounds like an Animal Planet episode.)