Published: January 16, 2012
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States,” on view January 29⁍ay 6 in the Resnick Pavilion.
Co-organized by LACMA and the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) in Mexico City, “In Wonderland” is the first large-scale international survey of women Surrealist artists in North America. Past surveys of Surrealism have either largely excluded female artists or minimized their contributions.
This landmark exhibition highlights the significant role of women Surrealists active in the United States and Mexico and the effects of geography and gender on the movement. Spanning more than four decades, “In Wonderland” features approximately 175 works by 47 artists, including Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Dorothea Tanning and Louise Bourgeois.
“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,” notes Ilene Fort, exhibition curator and LACMA curator of American art. “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.”
The exhibition is co-curated by Dr Ilene Susan Fort, LACMA’s Gail and John Liebes curator of American art, and Tere Arcq, MAM’s adjunct curator. After premiering here, “In Wonderland” travels to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec June 7⁓eptember 3 and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City September 27⁊anuary 13.
In standard studies on Surrealism, female artists have been cast primarily as mistresses, wives or muses †the inspiration for the male fetishized subject matter. This exhibition, however, explores the legacy of the movement in the United States and Mexico through its influence on several generations of women artists. Unlike their male counterparts, these artists delved into the unconscious as a means of self-exploration that enhanced an often haunting self-knowledge in their quest to exorcise personal demons.
For women Surrealists †whether natives by birth, émigrés or temporary visitors †North America offered the opportunity for reinvention and individual expression, a place where they could attain their full potential and independence.
“In Wonderland” illuminates the work of a diverse group of artists †both well-recognized and lesser known †who were active during a period that witnessed both the internationalizing of Surrealism and the professionalizing of women in the visual arts in urban centers such as Mexico City, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The survey presents an extensive range of work, including paintings, works on paper, sculpture, photographs and film. The works date primarily from about 1930 (the period when Lee Miller and Rosa Rolanda first experimented with Surrealist photograph techniques) to 1968 (the year that Yayoi Kusama, working in New York City, presented one of her landmark happenings, “Alice in Wonderland,” in Central Park). A selection of later works is also included to illustrate Surrealism’s historical overlap and influence on the feminist movement.
Most prominent in the show are portraits and self-referential images, ranging from bluntly honest to disturbing, that reveal unresolved issues haunting the artists. Equally telling are the many double, couple and group portraits, and narrative fables that exemplify the women’s relationships and the difficulties and dramas often involved in such relationships.
The exhibition’s accompanying book includes more than 250 color illustrations, along with several essays exploring the major themes of “In Wonderland.”
The museum is at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard at Fairfax Avenue. For information, 323-0857-6000 or www.lacma.org .
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