Unreal Nature

September 22, 2015

Such as We Trap Occasionally in Revery and Dreams

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… before it has been hatched into the recognizable coordinates of everyday experience.

Continuing through Modern Painting and Sculpture: 1880 to the Present at The Museum of Modern Art, edited by John Elderfield (2004). This book uses extracts from other books to comment on the featured artists (I’m extracting from those extracts… ) If that text does not refer specifically to the MoMA art that is shown in the parent book, I may choose to use some other work by the artist to illustrate my post. Today’s first is from Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage by William S. Rubin (1968):

… [Magritte] sought an almost total prosaism in the things he represented. … In his greater closeness to de Chirico, Magritte distinguishes himself from the other Surrealists by the technical devices — frottage — and aesthetic formulation — biomorphism — he eschews.

… The paintings produced during the first three years of Magritte’s maturity were dark in mood and in color. The … frustrating isolation of The Lovers [is] more intense than the impersonality, irony, and dead-pan humor his later painting allowed.

René Magritte, The Lovers, 1928

Next is from Miró in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (1973) by William S. Rubin:

… An extraordinary challenge to the conception of easel painting that obtained at the time, The Birth of the World was to enjoy an underground reputation among a handful of the artists and critics who saw it in the studio in 1925-26. However, the response of most viewers — even of those interested in Miró’s work — was negative, and until after World War II this was the prevailing attitude toward all of Miró’s paintings in this style. René Gaffé, the pioneer Belgian collector who purchased The Birth of the World the year following its execution, spoke of the reactions of his collector and critic acquaintances: “It goes without saying that they took Miró for a madman, a hoaxer, or both. But they took me for an even greater fool for having bought the picture. The informed opinion of the day was that I had been taken.”

Joan Miró, The Birth of the World, 1925

Last, this is from Matta by William S. Rubin (1957):

… The title, The Vertigo of Eros (Le Vertige d’Éros), a pun on the phrase “Le Vert-Tige des Roses” (The Green Stem of the Roses), relates to a passage in which Freud located all consciousness as falling between Eros and the death wish — the life force and its antithesis. Afloat in a mystical light which emanates from the deepest recesses of space, an inscrutable morphology of shapes suggesting liquid, fire, roots and sexual parts stimulates an awareness of inner consciousness such as we trap occasionally in revery and dreams. Yet this imagery is wholly opposed to Dali’s “handpainted dream photographs” or Magritte’s dreamlike mutations and confrontations of objects in external reality.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] The components of everything we “see” in a dream, whatever their juxtaposition or distortion, are present in waking life. The flames and giraffes of Dali’s noted enigma are in themselves visually commonplace. But Matta’s language transcends this ultimately prosaic level of imagery. His invented shapes constitute a new morphology that reaches back behind the level of dream activity to the central and latent source of life, forming an iconography of consciousness before it has been hatched into the recognizable coordinates of everyday experience.

Matta, The Vertigo of Eros, 1944

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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