“That’s totally surreal!” – a common buzz-phrase we hear these days, usually when someone finds something weird or utterly unbelievable. But, did you know that the word “surreal” is a very specific term that has its roots in a 20th-century artistic, literary, and intellectual movement? Believe it: surrealism is real.
And you’re in luck! Tomorrow (Friday, April 25th, 4-7pm) is an art opening at the Eisenhower Library that will have as its centerpiece an exhibition called, “Surrealism at Mid-Century.” To complement two other art exhibitions in the building – one featuring artists from nearby MICA and one that reveals the winners of the Sweren Student Book-Collecting Contest – this student-curated exhibit will showcase rare materials from our very own Special Collections from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
Surrealism emerged in Paris in the early 1920s with writer André Breton as its leader; it remained a vibrant force well into the 1960s. Over the course of its long history, it spanned many countries both in Europe and the Americas.
Students enrolled in a course taught by Professor Molly Warnock – crossed-listed with the History of Art department and Museums & Society program – worked throughout the semester to curate this show, focusing on inventive periodicals published to convey the Surrealist message. The periodicals were chosen from an extensive avant-garde collection, carefully accumulated over the years by Sue Waterman, the library’s Curator of Modern European Literary Collections.
This exhibit pays special attention to the midpoint of the movement as its influence spread geographically: from Paris and London to the Americas by way of New York and Mexico. The student curators worked diligently to shed light on Surrealism’s global reach in the middle part of the 20th century. The periodicals on view in this exhibition served as social media does today, linking Surrealist intellectuals in Europe and the Americas and spreading the word.
If this topic piques your interest, be sure to come to the opening tomorrow – or any time until the show closes on May 30th. Also, the library has an abundance of material about Surrealism and more generally about the avant-garde, so feel free to look at books we have about key figures of the movement (such as André Breton, Max Ernst, and Simon Hantaï). And you can find many interesting articles about Surrealism in the databases on the Art History Research Guide, such as Art Full Text, Art Retrospective, and ARTbibliographies Modern.