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LACMA presents the first major exhibition to spotlight Surrealist drawing
Installation view, Drawing Surrealism, October 21, 2012-January 6, 2013. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. ©Photo 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Drawing Surrealism, the first large-scale loan exhibition to focus on drawing as a prevailing form of expression for surrealist artists. Co-organized by LACMA and the Morgan Library & Museum, the show features 250 works by nearly 100 artists from fifteen countries. While institutional appreciation for surrealism typically fixates on painting and sculpture, surrealists found drawing to be the most innovative and immediate means of artistic expression. Drawing Surrealism highlights LACMA’s burgeoning collection of surrealist works on paper and is a testament to the museum’s ongoing recognition of surrealism’s vital role in art history, demonstrated by a wealth of relevant exhibitions in recent years, including Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, Dalí: Painting & Film, and In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States.

“Drawing Surrealism is a celebration of innovation through drawing, which, in my opinion, is the medium best suited to experimentation and risk-taking,” says Leslie Jones, Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA. “The exhibition also addresses the international impact of surrealism by including artists from areas beyond Western Europe like Eastern Europe, the Americas, and Japan.”

Surrealism’s lasting impact on drawing is addressed within the exhibition by three contemporary projects by Los Angeles-based artists Alexandra Grant, Mark Licari, and Stas Orlovski that were conceived specifically for Drawing Surrealism. In addition and as part of the exhibition programming, artists Jim Shaw and Sterling Ruby will each be giving walk-throughs of the exhibition from their unique and individual perspectives on October 25 and November 15, respectively.

Surrealism debuted primarily as a literary movement when André Breton published Manifeste du surréalisme in 1924; however, the movement quickly broadened its gaze to include the visual arts as a means of unlocking the imagery of dreams and tapping into the unconscious mind.

While numerous museum exhibitions have extolled surrealist painting and sculpture, Drawing Surrealism is unique in its exploration of drawing as a central process and medium employed by surrealist artists such as André Masson, Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, among others. The exhibition begins with a selection of works by surrealist precursors like Jean (Hans) Arp, Picabia, and Ernst who were first associated with Dada. With the advent of automatic drawing that encouraged aimless (and thereby irrational) meandering of the artist’s hand (demonstrated with works by Masson, Miró and others) surrealism found its first visual form of expression. Subsequently frottage (a rubbing technique devised by Max Ernst), exquisite corpses, collage, decalcomania, and fumage (drawing with smoke), as well as the more traditional yet distorted drawing practices of Dalí and others, all contributed to broadening and ultimately redefining conventional understandings of drawing.

The exhibition also offers insight into the vast geographical reach of surrealism. The inclusion of Czechoslovakian artists such as Toyen and Jindřich Styrsky speak to the history of cultural dialogue between Prague and Paris—the birthplace of surrealism—while works by Ei-kyu and Ai Mitsu demonstrate Western Europe’s cultural exchange with Japan prior to World War II. In the 1930s the movement gained momentum in the Americas through the likes of Federico Castellón, Roberto Matta, and Arshile Gorky in the U.S. and Agustín Lazo and Gunther Gerzso in Mexico.

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