Surrealism is the twentieth century’s longest lasting and arguably, most influential art movement. From the 1920s to the 1960s and beyond, its writers and artists denounced utilitarian values and established alternative perspectives that dramatically challenged the prevailing, longstanding norms.
This group originally formed in Paris as a reprieve from the chaos and destruction of the WWI. Surrealism evolved from the Dada movement, and both groups shared the same unease about the world’s uncertainties. However, unlike Dada’s pessimistic vision, the Surrealists celebrated the power of the subconscious, and its ability to confront contradiction, difference and change. The Surrealists believed that the only bonds to our world are the self-imposed limitations of our minds, and its verbal and visual expression. They believed that by allowing the unconscious mind to be liberated, one can unlock the power of the imagination, and ultimately achieve a more thorough understanding of humanity.
The Surrealists created art that revealed the inner psyche and exposed the complex and repressed worlds of sexuality, desire and violence. The result was a new perception of the world, where the everyday and the imaginary converged. Surrealists often intertwined the lyrical and creative with the scientific and logical, believing that concepts such as night and day, life and death, past and future are not opposites, but rather complementary, coexistent states. By defying the conventions of everyday life, the individual could step away from the confines of social constructs, opening his mind to a world where anything is possible.
There is a wide variety of expressive techniques within Surrealism including collage, automatic writing, fumage, grattage, surrealistic object, paranoia criticism and rayography. Such highly influential Surrealists as Salvador Dalí
, and Joan Miró employed dream imagery and symbolism. Max Ernst used the collage technique, while André Masson experimented with automatic drawings, and Man Ray became well known for his camera-less photography. While quite diverse, each of these artists and each of these mechanisms share a similar purpose—to diminish the role of the conscious and to liberate and empower the unconscious.
The first Surrealist group exhibition was held in Paris in 1925. Soon after, the movement spread abroad with exhibitions in London, New York and Tokyo. Surrealism achieved international renown and continued to evolve and expand. For nearly a century, the Surrealist movement has enabled the viewer to share a unique connection with the art, awakening a new sensitivity to the unusual, and revealing latent truths that dwell within the subconscious.