in wonderland…

…the surrealist adventures of women artists in mexico and the united states.

living in los angeles, i would be hard pressed to miss the banners advertising this exhibit especially since they are constantly waving outside my door. unsurprisingly, the los angeles county museum of art capitalizes on the fame of frida kahlo who is the most easily recognizable of female surrealists and although that fame is well deserved, she is but one of many women who in my view, dominated the surrealist movement from 1931 to 1968.

the above work of art was created by remedios varo, one of my all time favorite artists of the movement. “celestial pabulum” is one of her featured works in the exhibit and the detail in this like much of her work is exquisite. also featured is the art of dorothea tanning, sylvia fein, kay sage and leonora carrington. aside from kahlo, most of my interaction with these works has been via dim photographs in art books or lo res images on the internet. nothing takes the place of seeing them in the size and perspective they were meant to be seen.

“2 fridas,” frida kahlo

what strikes me as having appreciated surrealism for years, is the way the women seem to express themselves within movement. artists like man ray, jean cocteau, max ernst, magritte and salvador dali may have been the media darlings in a male dominated world, but the women seemed to manage surrealism with a finesse of communication that seems to be lacking in the aforementioned. the men seem to project whereas the women tend to make surrealism more personal and intimate.

looking at a kay sage piece, the stark isolation and loneliness are palpable in her work and draws me in in a way that say a dali piece doesn’t. with dali, i am a viewer but with sage, it’s participatory and those feelings permeate with a heaviness and sadness:

“i have no shadow,” kay sage

the women were not without a sense of humor as shown by dorothea tanning, wife of max ernst, in her ode to chess:

“endgame,” dorothea tanning

and the equally cheeky, “rêve”:

i love the 1940’s graphic styling of san francisco native dorr bothwell’s, “ideograph”:

“green tea,” leonora carrington

then there were artist whom i knew nothing about like sylvia fein whose work is so vibrant and mystical in it’s subject matter and symbolism.

“the lady magician,” sylvia fein

there are so many more images from the exhibit that i can’t post them all but i will end with several more from the incomparable remedios varo complete with close ups of some of the amazing details in her work. those details are like visual breadcrumbs that I’m compelled to follow appreciating the fact that some of the canvases aren’t very big but the amount of information packed in is so well painted and other worldly.

“armonia,” 1956

“the creation of the birds,” 1958

“woman leaving the psychoanalyst,” 1960

lacma’s “in wonderland” runs through may 6.

all photos ©janene dunbar