March 1st, 2011 by Leo Plaw Other language versions  

Surreal Objects – Dalí to Man Ray – Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

Surreal Things. Sculptures and objects from Dalí to Man Ray.

Salvador  Dalí, „Aphrodisiac Telephone“, 1936.

“Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table” – this is how the poet Comte de Lautréamont describes a key aspect of surrealist art theory. The Surrealists’ strange objects and sculptures manifest the interplay of bizarre contrasts, of a shaken reality that forges unconscious and dreamlike associations.

This is the first, wide-ranging exhibition to focus exclusively on the Surrealists’ three-dimensional works – about 150 of them in all. From today’s perspective, many of them seem surprisingly fresh and contemporary, not historical artefacts at all. The selection presents artists of the surrealist period from 1925–1945, including familiar names such as Duchamp, Magritte, Dalí, Picasso and Miró, but also many other artists whose striking works are still to be discovered by the general public.

At the invitation of the Schirn, the artist group et al.* has developed a special project for the exhibition: “EN PASSANT” is an installation visitors pass through before they enter the exhibition.

Surprise and Shock

The common denominator of surrealist objects is neither its origin nor the operation nor the material used, but their psychological effect, the surprise, the shock and the mental change that should provoke the work in the viewer. “Surrealism is based on the belief in the higher reality of certain, previously neglected forms of association, in the omnipotence of the dream, assigned to the free play of thought. It aims at the final destruction of all other psychic mechanisms and wants to solve the main problems of life”, André Breton wrote  in his 1924 “First Surrealist Manifesto. ” Influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists sought,  to bring the forgotten and suppressed to the light of day, integrating art and life.

The exhibition opens with several objects of the previous Dada movement, which foreshadowed the the Surrealist movement, both in terms of exhibition practice and on the objects. The question of the two movements has been extensively studied, what may be considered an art object. “The crazed Philistine Heartfield” by George Grosz and John Heartfield formulated although a much more direct political criticism than the more ironic and poetic objects of the Surrealists, but in its combination of completely disparate objects is a direct precursor of surrealist art object.

Preference for the Commonplace and Inartistic

The preference of the Surrealists for deliberately inartistic, everyday, banal, borderline, forgotten, repressed and dirty meant that not only artists but also poets and writers in the 1930s began to search the Paris flea markets for suitable artefacts . In such an act of “objective chance”, they created a variety of objects from violins, bottles, watches, cutlery and other products of the consumer world.

A groundbreaking exhibition at the Galerie Ratton in Paris in 1936 was the first exclusively devoted to the objects. It presented works from a variety of materials that were found and further processed, which we would call assemblages today. But following the exhibition of the plaster sculptures by Max Ernst and Alberto Giacometti it can be said that the surrealist object had been further developed. Sculptures and statues were excuded. Giacometti was the first artist who referred explicitly to his work as objects and thus the distance to the term sculpture increased.

In the spectacular exhibitions of Surrealist objects played from the 1930s up to Breton’s death in 1966, playe a large role of blurring the boundaries between exhibition and experience, which left the viewer uncertain as to whether the thing with which they were confronted with spatially and physically, was a work of art or something to use, touch or change. Traditional aesthetics was negated, thus setting in motion a process from which benefits the arts today. It has so to speak, become the backbone of contemporary art strategies.

Surreal Objects – Three Dimensional Works from Dalí to Man Ray

Dates: 11. February – 29. May 2011

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday
10 AM – 7 PM Wednesday, Thursday
10 AM – 10 AM

Cost: Standard 9 €, Discounted 7 €, Family 18 €

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
60311 Frankfurt

Tel +49 69 299882 0
Fax +49 69 299882 240

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