If you’re in Los Angeles over the next few months then be sure to head to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where the most influential women surrealists artists from Mexico and the United States are taking over the Resnick Pavilion.
In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States (29 January – 6 May 2012) is the first large-scale exhibition dedicated to this group of artists who have often been overlooked in favour of a European, male-oriented vision of Surrealism, commonly associated with the group of artists that frequented Paris in the 1920s-1930s, and which minimises the contributions of female artists.
This exhibition takes a look at artists such as Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Leonora Carrington, Lee Miller and Dorothea Tanning, and the effects of geography and gender on their work and the surrealist movement as a whole. With around 175 works on show by 47 artists dating from 1931-1968, this is an exhibition that thoroughly explores a new definition of surrealism free from European traditions, in which women were treated as objects of delectation. The world of the subconscious and dreams is a far more personal one that relates to their own questions of identity.
“In many respects these surrealists were similar to Lewis Carroll’s central character — Alice — in his famous nonsensical novels. Their creativity was often stifled or marginalized by what seemed to be a somewhat arbitrary and bizarre world where logic did not always reign,” says Ilene Fort, the curator of the exhibition. “This expansive survey illustrates that North America offered these women a degree of independence they could not experience in Europe. Hence it became for them a land of reinvention, their wonderland.”
We’ve trawled through the internet and rounded up the reasons why you should pop by the LACMA to see this exhibition:
Alexandra Cheney (Wall Street Journal) on the characteristics of female surrealism: “Like their male counterparts, the women of this exhibition adhered to the Surrealist notion of accidental discovery, bucking bourgeois culture in favor of intellectual freedom and self-discovery. This liberation often led to dream and nightmare-inspired imagery, but it also allowed for a more subtle feeling of amusement.”
Sandra Barrera (Daily Breeze) on fetishes: “Many of these female artists took male fetishes and offered new perspectives, including Doris Lindo Lewis, who made breasts part of the natural landscape in Mamscape (1934). Gertrude Abercrombie’s The Courtship (1949) portrayed men’s pursuit of women as a holdup.
Richard Chang (The Orange County Register) on political undertones: “One cannot deny that there’s a certain political element to it, even if the artists do not address politics much as a subject matter in their work. The show inherently excludes men; but in a way, that makes it intriguing to present a show on surrealism and exclude the works of standard-bearers André Breton, Man Ray or Salvador Dalí [...] Essentially, the women artists here portray themselves in ways that indicate they’re not sexual fetish objects, and they’re not subservient to men. Some surrealist men, including Breton, have historically subscribed to those antiquated views on women.
Alysia Gray Painter (NBC) on art you can get lost in: “Lovers of sprawling ideas, deep dreams, and strange worlds will be out in force, for sure, looking for their favorite artist; for us, Remedios Varo is pretty life-changing. Her paintings are at once whimsical and light but also about eight layers deep. If only every painting in the world could boast multiple layers; artists everywhere, look to the oeuvre of Doña Varo for sustenance and inspiration. We’re sure many already have and do.”
Where? Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Resnick Pavilion, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90036
When? 29 January – 6 May 2012, open every day except Wednesdays
How much? General admission to the gallery includes special exhibitions. Adults $15, Seniors $10, Students $10, Children free.
NB: If you’re interested in Mexican art then be sure to head to the San Diego Museum of Art, who are exhibiting Andrés Blaisten’s impressive collection of 20th century Mexican art (ends 19 February 2012). Featuring a selection of 80 paintings dated bwteen 1907 and 1962, Mexican Modern Painting includes works by Diego Rivera – husband of Frida Kahlo – and others.