Surrealism in American Art
Centre de la Vieille Charité, Marseille, France
May 11–September 26, 2021
In 1941-1942 a group of surrealist European artists departed a war-torn Europe from Marseille, France and arrived in New York. By that time, surrealist art had already been exhibited in America for a decade and had impacted myriad American artists. Surrealism in American Art presents an alternative history of post-war American art, revealing the enduring surrealist thread that runs from the first generation of abstract expressionists to the varied artistic movements and explorations of the 1960s in America. This story includes some of the most famous artists from several key movements and periods, emphasizing underestimated but essential aspects of their work. It also features lesser-known artists rarely exhibited in France.
The exhibition examines the ways in which surrealist methods and strategies were kept alive by American artists through the late 1960s. Rather than lining up a succession of distinct movements (Pop, Minimal, Post-minimal and Conceptual art), it cuts across a variety of oppositions and promotes a more global tendency that unites both well-known and underrated artists. The exhibition presents what the critic and exhibition curator Gene Swenson referred to in 1966 as “the other tradition”—one he felt was rooted in Surrealism.