Exhibition Details

Location: Steele Gallery
Dates: June 5, 2005
to September 25, 2005


Surrealism is all around us – from TV show opening credits and music videos to our own dreams. Surrealism USA is an unprecedented opportunity to see works by 20th century masters of the genre. This critically-acclaimed exhibition, organized by the National Academy Museum in New York, is the first major survey of American Surrealism in over 25 years, and Phoenix Art Museum is the only other stop for the exhibition in addition to New York. With over 100 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, it examines Surrealism in the United States between 1930 and 1950 and includes the leading Surrealists working in America at the time - Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, Max Ernst, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Frida Kahlo, Alexander Calder, Yves Tanguy, Charles Rain, O. Louis Guglielmi, Isamu Noguchi, Dorothea Tanning and many others. It also includes works on loan from Phoenix Art Museum's collection by Joseph Cornell, Thomas Benrimo, and Lorser Feitleson.

One of the most revolutionary artistic and intellectual movements of the modern era, Surrealism still exerts a strong appeal today. Launched in France in the 1920s, Surrealism gained wide popularity in the United States in the following decade. Several galleries, notably Pierre Matisse and Julien Levy, began showing the work of European Surrealists on a regular basis, while major group exhibitions, such as Fantastic Art Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in 1936, brought it to the attention of a larger audience. As a result, the dream imagery and irrational impulses of Surrealism enlivened American art.

The Freudian-based movement generated two approaches to investigating the subconscious mind. One branch, exemplified by Dali, presents fantastic, dream-like imagery with a traditional, academic style. The second branch of artists – represented by Pollock, Masson and Noguchi – created more spontaneous, abstract forms through automatic writing, an attempt to forgo conscious control in order to reveal the subconscious mind. This experimentation ultimately played a critical role in the invention of Abstract Expressionism in post-war America.

The works in Surrealism USA are borrowed from public and private collections in the United States and abroad, and all aspects of the Surrealist movement in America are represented: the figurative depictions of a fantasy world by Peter Blume, Dorothea Tanning, and Helen Lundberg; the social surrealism of O. Louis Guglielmi, James Guy and Walter Quirt; the imaginary landscapes of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy; Joseph Cornell’s enigmatic and poetic constructions; the lyrical abstractions of Arshile Gorky and William Baziotes; the automatic experiments of Jackson Pollock and Gerome Kamrowski. Sculpture is represented by Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi and David Smith, among others. The exhibition includes works from Phoenix Art Museum’s collection by Joseph Cornell, Thomas Benrimo, and Lorser Feitleson.

A fully-illustrated catalog accompanies Surrealism USA and is available in The Museum Store. A companion exhibition of additional Surrealist works from the Museum’s collection, Dream On: Surrealism and Beyond from Phoenix Art Museum’s Collection , is on view in the second-floor Orme Lewis Gallery.

The New York Times, in its March 31 review, hailed the exhibition as "informative, high-spirited and humbling....a vigorously illuminating show."

Surrealism USA is organized by the National Academy Museum, New York. The Arizona showing is presented by American Express Company with major support provided by APS. Additional support is provided by Accenture, and Richard and Patricia Nolan. Promotional support is provided by The Arizona Republic, News Radio 620 KTAR, Barnes & Noble, KJZZ/KBAQ Public Radio Phoenix, Cold Stone Creamery, Phoenix Magazine, Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, and Latino Perspectives Magazine

Image Credits

Left:Untitled (Dr. Entozoan), Reuben Kadish, c. 1935. Oil and mixed media on canvas. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of the Reuben Kadish Art Foundation and purchased with funds provided by the American Art Acquisition Fund.

Center: Untitled (Horse), Federico Castellon, 1938. Oil on board. Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.Rosenfeld Gallery, New York. Right:Mental Geography, O. Louis Guglielmi, 1938. Oil on masonite. Collection of Barney A. Ebsworth.