Review: Field of Dreams – The Surrealist Landscape

“Surrealism is the ‘invisible ray’ which will one day enable us to win out over our opponents. ‘You are no longer trembling, carcass’. This summer the roses are blue; the wood is of glass. The earth, draped in its verdant cloak, makes as little impression upon me as a ghost. It is living and ceasing to live which are imaginary solutions. Existence is elsewhere.”   David Gascoyne, A Short Survey of Surrealism, 1936

Fans of surrealism (of which I’m at least one) are in for a treat with the exhibition Field of Dreams – The Surrealist Landscape, through December 18 at the Di Donna Gallery. Surrealism is generally thought of as an artistic movement that began in the 1920s, but this show opens with a painting from the 17th Century. This lovely but ordinary landscape becomes a portrait when turned on its side:

Two of the form’s great masters – René Magritte and Salvador Dalí – are well-represented in this collection, with nine works between them. The giant eye of Magritte’s Le Faux Miroir, from 1950 is a classic piece of surrealism. An earlier version hangs in MoMA. The artist Man Ray (whose work also appears in this exhibit) once owned Le Faux Miroir and described it as a painting that “sees as much as it itself is seen.”

Dali’s work, as always, refuses attempts to integrate with the work of other artists. He would stand out among his peers, if he had any. As Sigmund Freud said of Dali in a letter to the novelist Stefan Zweig: “I have been inclined to regard the Surrealists as complete fools, but that young Spaniard Salvador Dali with his candid, fanatical eyes and his undeniable technical mastery, has changed my estimate.” The painting Girafe en feu, included here, employs the image of a burning giraffe, which he used in other painting and film work and described as “the masculine cosmic apocalyptic monster.” He believed it to be a premonition of war.

In addition to those two giants, this collection includes works by Picasso, Miro, Calder, and Ernst, among others. I due soli, from 1969, by Giorgio de Chirico, is one of the most recent paintings in this exhibit and retains the playfulness and absurdity that is the hallmark of surrealism in its depiction of the sun, the moon, and their energy.

The Di Donna Gallery is located on the second floor of the Carlyle Hotel, on the corner of Madison and 76th Street. Admission is free and open to the public Monday – Saturday from 10:00 to 6:00.

In the spirit of surrealist absurdity, I’ll close this post with a surrealist painting of my own, from 1982, named Wrong Number.

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