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American Surrealism 1930-1950

Explores the adoption and evolution of surrealism in America between 1930's and 1940's. Has a bit of my own art too.

Matthew Delagdo

on 26 September 2013

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Transcript of American Surrealism 1930-1950

American Surrealism
As the Dada (free thinking art) movement ended, surrealism took it's place. Surrealism began in Paris in early 1920’s by a group of artists led by poet Andre Breton. They adopted the word surrealiste (super real). Surrealist ideas explored irrational, unsettling, and wild aspects of the world and one’s own mind and imagination to create art that was unlimited in possibilities and free from rationality. Surrealism focused mainly on visual arts and literature. Some techniques included drawing/painting/etc. with as little conscious control as possible, combining different elements in unique ways, creating stunning or shocking images, or depicting dream like environments. The surrealist group in Europe wanted to create a revolution in consciousness. Some members of the group hoped that surrealism would lead to a social transformation and a more peaceful world. The European surrealists’ revolutionary ideals never diffused to the United States, however, in the 1930’s Americans took surrealist techniques and ideas, and combined surrealism with other elements to create hybrid forms of art. Surrealism gained wide popularity in the US in the 1930’s. Many galleries began to show the work of many European surrealists. Dream imagery and irrationality invaded American art. It even had a hand in mixing with social realism, one of the most popular art movements at the time.
Social Surrealism
In the 1940’s European artists came in exile to the United States because of World War II. One of them was the famous Salvador Dali. One of the effects of this was American adoption of automatism, which consisted in drawing/ painting/sculpting with little control of reason in order to display the creative unconsciousness within oneself. Some artists include Knud Merrild, Arshile Gorky, and Jackson Pollock.
This form of art was created in Southern California in 1934 by Helen Lundeberg and Lorser Feitelson. This was a branch off the European earlier surrealism (Automatism) where there existed an unconscious use of materials and of the mind. This form was different in that it was created with a plan or conscious purpose that would describe an idea or show a conscious message, however, through an irrational way. It is similar to social surrealism in that there is a purpose, however, it is less specific. Post-surrealism often uses still-life and odd arrangement of objects. Another known post-surrealist was Philip Guston.
Magic Realism
Another effect of European artist in exile was American adoption of Magic Realism. This form of art blends realism and surrealism. It combines realistic imagery with irrationality; many contain enigmas or paradoxes. The situations could usually not possibly exist in Magic Realism. Magic Realism combines the ordinary with a sense of mystery and conveys strange contrasts and feelings of unreality. Some artists include Andrew Wyeth, George Tooker, and Paul Cadmus.
By: Matthew Delgado
The Potato, 1928 Joan Miró
Nude Standing by the Sea, 1929 Pablo Picasso
The Accommodations of Desire, 1929 Salvador Dalí
Here are some examples of early European surrealism
During the Great Depression the everyday struggles in American society were apparent. Because of this, different parts of American life became heavily politicized. Social realism was the dominant art force during the Great Depression because it was easily understood and appropriate to show or express social conditions. Some artists, however, used surrealist techniques which, in fact, contained some of the greatest protests. Some social surrealists include Peter Blume, Walter Quirt, and James Guy.
This painting by American artist, Peter Blume,
can be considered social surrealism. Instead of portraying the situation in America, Blume shows Rome (The Eternal City) being corrupted by Mussolini who is shown as the green head jack in the box. This art differs from social realism because it shows illogical elements.
The Eternal City (1934-1937), Peter Blume
Walter Quirk was a major social surrealist
during the 30's and 40's. He hoped to form
a better society in America with "propaganda" art. In this powerful and metaphoric painting, Quirk shows the poverty and unemployment of the Great Depression and the destruction of capitalism (shown on the left as phantoms/skeletons/etc).
Conflict (1935), Walter Quirk
James Guy, artists and political activist,
focused on national problems during the
1930's and used social surrealism to portray his ideas. The young man in the foreground of the painting is the "hero" and represents workers who want more rights during the Great Depression. The background is with direct contrast with the hero as it contains cowardice actions and a brewing storm. There are also strike breakers or "scabs" that go against the goals of the striker in the front. The theme of the painting is the difficult struggle of workers to gain worker rights.
On the Waterfront (1937), James Meikle Guy
The conscious message behind this peice
makes it an example of post-surrealism. Feitelson shows the cycle of life and death, and
how physical evidence does not uncover the mysteries of life, death, and the universe. He shows this with the use of various objects. The conch and melon on the left represent female
sexuality. Moving to the right, the egg shell and baby face show the idea of birth. The baby face becomes a skull, showing the process of consciousness to death. Inventions such as the light bulb and telescope are the physical evidence in the painting.
Genesis #2 (1934), Lorser Feitelson
This painting by Helen Lundeberg is also an example of post-surrealism. It was made in a trapezoidal canvas with the moon on the top. The message of this artwork is that the moon's tidal force has effects on some of the smallest creatures, showing the interrelationship between different objects.
Cosmicide (1935), Helen Lundeberg
American artist, Philip Guston, painted murals, inspired by the Mexican muralist movement, for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In this image, he shows post-surrealism by conveying the theme of fighting children.
Gladiators (1940), Philip Guston
Arshile Gorky pursued automaism in the last eight years of his life and tapped into his unconscious being with paintings like this one.
Arshile Gorkey had a major impact on the creation of a later art movement, abstract expressionism.
The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944), Arshile Gorky
This painting appears to be a bunch
of random paint splatters, however, this
is a portrayal of the creative unconsciousness
of Jackson Pollock, a great American surrealist.
Number 8 (1949), Jackson Pollock
This painting (original not in grey scale) was created using the drip method where Merrild dripped house paint on a fluid surface. Knud Merrild experimented with surrealist automatism in the early 1940's
Perpetual Possibility (1942), Knud Merrild
Wyeth painted this to portray his neighbor
who was crippled with polio but, mentally and spiritually there was no limitation. This is considered an example of magic realism because of the poetic mystery permeated into the artwork.
Christina's World (1948), Andrew Wyeth
Tooker shows the damaged people imprisoned by modernity in this New York subway. This is an example of Magic Realism because it uses ordinary objects, however, a scene like this is illogical and doesn't exist in real life.
Subway (1950), George Tooker
Here is another example of Magic realism by
Paul Cadmus
Aviator (1941), Paul Cadmus
Surrealism later led to the creation of abstract expressionism in the 1950’s.
Surrealism still influences all forms of art today with imagination and dreaming.
This is my take on
social surrealism. I show the damaging effects
of poverty and unemployment, during
the Great Depression, on the average person.
Matthew Delgado
Photo Manipulation
This is my modern take on post-surrealism.
Using still-life, I convey the message that music is
explosive, happy, and lively. I used grey scale to show it's simplicity while I put splatters to show it's simultaneous complexity.
Matthew Delgado
These two space-scapes
are more examples of post-surrealism.
I give a theme of balance in the world
and convey a message that the universe is
unlimited in possibilities.
The following is my digital
version of automatism. It is difficult
to be very "unconscious" when using
a digital program. However, when choosing
colors, shapes, and layout I used as much reflex
and unconscious behavior as I could manage.
Matthew Delgado
Matthew Delgado
Matthew Delgado
In this more pure form of automatism,
I relaxed and let the brush go where it wanted to. I achieved on putting my unconscious creativity along the canvas.
Matthew Delgado
Matthew Delgado
This image of mine is
an example of magic realism. It
has realistic objects (the moon, the buildings, the road, the sidewalk, etc.) but, it has a never ending distance and mysterious elements.
This image may also
be considered magic realism.
It has normal imagery with a magical
dream-scape feel.
Matthew Delgado
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