Museum Exhibitions

Sly and witty: Female Surrealists in Los Angeles

Contributed by Sharon Butler / Past surveys of Surrealism have either largely excluded female artists or minimized their contributions, so the exhibition of lady Surrealists at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that runs through May 6, 2012, is a big deal. The show includes works dating from 1931 to 1968, and some of the later pieces demonstrate Surrealism’s influence on the feminist movement. Early female Surrealists explored identity through portraits, double portraits, self-referential images, and masquerades.

“I don’t think Surrealism has a sense of humor,” curator Ilene Susan Fort told Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Cheney. But, she added, sometimes the movement’s women painters were very witty.
Work by iconic figures such as Louise Bourgeois, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo is included, along with less well known artists. In the LA Times, critic Christopher Knight writes that the show provides a welcome artistic context for Frida Kahlo, who, “accompanied by so many Surrealist women, can be appreciated for her work, rather than for her singular biography.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the show when I’m in LA this month for the College Art Association Annual Conference, but for readers who can’t get there, the accompanying book, edited by co-curators Ilene Susan Fort and Tere Arcq, with Terri Geis, includes more than 250 color images, along with essays by Dawn Ades, Maria Buszek, Whitney Chadwick, Rita Eder, Salomon Grimberg, and Gloria Orenstein. Looks good.

Muriel Streeter, The Chess Queens, 1944, oil on canvas, 13.5 x 17.75 inches.
Bridget Tichenor, Autorretrato (Self-portrait) undated, oil on canvas, about 19 x 19 inches.
Frida Kahlo, Autorretrato con collar de espinas y colibr� (Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird), 1940, � 2011 Banco de M�xico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Rosa Rolanda, Autorretrato (Self-portrait), c. 1945, gouache on paper, 15.75 x 13 inches. @Estate of Rosa Rolanda Covarrubias, photo courtesy of Andr�s Blaisten, by Francisco Kochen.
Kaye Sage, Danger, Construction Ahead, 1940, � Estate of Kay Sage Tanguy, photo � Yale University Art Gallery
Gertrude Abercrombie, Self-portrait of My Sister, 1941, oil on canvas, 26.5 x 21.75 inches.
Dorothea Tanning, Birthday, 1942, oil on canvas, 40.25 x 20.25 inches.

In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States,” organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico. Co-curated by Ilene Susan Fort and Tere Arcq. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA. Through May 6, 2012.

Related posts:
Book of the Day: Coming to That by Dorothea Tanning
Who is Kay Sage?


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