Unreal Nature

September 5, 2017

Other Art Began to Look Dull By Comparison

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… surrealism was already working to bring about the crisis of consciousness.

Continuing through The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning by Dore Ashton (1972):

… The seminal ideas of surrealism were born in Paris in the mid-twenties but were not carried to America until ten or fifteen years later — and then through the efforts of a few painters and writers … The man who first organized the guiding lines of surrealist polemic was Julien Levy, a young New York art dealer and writer whose intimate knowledge of contemporary French culture was almost unique and enabled him to be faithful to the original texts and directions.

… Their unceasing attacks on Western culture and on received ideas (especially in French culture) appeared in many forms — in Artaud’s frequent contributions such as ‘what I admire, what I crave, is the dumb intelligence that seeks, but doesn’t seek to seek’; in Aragon’s demonology; in Eluard’s defense of Sade who ‘wished to give again to the civilized man the force of his primitive instincts, to free the amorous imagination, and for absolute justice and equality.’

… The most important continuous theme in these publications was the persistent search for a viable tradition. While the surrealists claimed to be rejecting the past, they nevertheless kept scouring their past for the rudiments of their new thoughts, for the support any theory requires. The publicized importance of the unconscious, of the bizarre, of the marvelous, was always in a context of precedents, but precedents as remote in time and space as possible. The distancing the surrealists performed was of singular significance for numerous Americans alerted by the smoke signals coming from abroad throughout those years until the war. It made it possible to sidestep the immediate local tradition and to escape from the bonds of ‘taste.’

… Long before the influx of the surrealists from Europe, there had been lengthy discussions among the artists on the project on psychoanalysis and automatism. … Even those such as de Kooning, who were never to embrace even the most abstract of surrealist notions, nevertheless showed their awareness of its impact in their work. Bradley Walker Tomlin, temperamentally far removed from surrealism, was all the same electrified by the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

[line break added] He was at first deeply repelled but eventually returned again and again, admitting to his friend Gwen Davies that other art began to look dull by comparison. Pollock, as is well known, was already deeply immersed in Jungian analysis in 1937 and had shown marked interest in the surrealist work of Miró and Picasso. Before the advent of the surrealists themselves, surrealism was already working to bring about the crisis of consciousness.

My most recent previous post from Ashton’s book is here.

-Julie

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