Archive for Surrealism

Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism. Manchester Art Gallery, 26 September – 10 January

Posted in Art, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by joeshervin
Claude Cahun, Self Portrait, 1927

Claude Cahun, Self Portrait, 1927

Angels of Anarchy is a bold, flagrant celebration of female surrealism, proudly bursting out from the shackles tightened by its overbearing male counterpart. For, whilst male surrealism challenged order in art, it accepted domestic tradition. This exhibition unearths the abundance of female surrealist creativity that thus simmered beneath the surface from the 1930s onwards. Works by renowned artists such as Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim and Lee Miller chart the subsequent rise of the surrealist woman.

Split into themes, the exhibition guides you from the seemingly benign, restrictive ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ ideal to a fantasy, dream-like escape. It is an adventure wherein the norms of female subservience are subtly challenged and then aggressively dismissed.

Portrait / Self Portrait is a theme that mocks the notion of the passivity of women, instead offering a variety of photographs and paintings that promote the complexity and fluidity of the female body and mind. Still Life gnaws at the usual banality of still life subject matter. Here, bowls of fruit, upon closer inspection, transform into mucky female genitalia, fiercely biting at the objectification of women. In Landscape, again, erotic body parts are teasingly merged into mountain ranges and deserts, whilst Interior, in which dark and dingy confinements reflect the confinement of the home, is laced with brazen anatomical hint.

Fantasy, however, is the last step of the journey, representing the liberation and potential of the opened female mind. It mixes folklore and myth to provide a stirring and unexpected finale to a collection that was in danger of becoming a little too stern and repetitive. It is a burst of colour that perhaps highlights the exposure of female surrealism that Angels of Anarchy here affords.

The exhibition offers a different side to surrealism. Little mention is given to Picasso or Dali, so those wishing to discover the core of the movement may be best advised to search elsewhere. What it does provide, however, is a glimpse into a background movement that challenged misogynistic artistic norms. And what is surrealism, after all, if not a defiance of the ordinary and accepted?