NASHVILLE, TN – May 23, 2019 – The Frist Art Museum presents “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s,” an exhibition that explores the images created in response to the threat of war and fascist rule featuring works by Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Dorothea Tanning, and others, on display June 21-Sept. 29 in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries.
Through 78 objects, including paintings, drawings, film, and sculptures drawn primarily from the collections of The Baltimore Museum of Art and The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Monsters & Myths highlights the brilliance and fertility of this period, which arose in response to Hitler’s rise to power, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II—events that profoundly challenged the revolutionary hopes that had guided most Surrealist artists in the 1920s.
Since 1924, artists and writers associated with the Surrealist movement had aimed to deconstruct the social order, particularly through targeting oppressive traditions by embracing the irrational and the marvelous in pursuit of psychic liberation.
Through each artist, the psychological power of monstrosities appears in different guises in the exhibition. The first section, titled “The Emergence of Monsters,” focuses on the symbolism of deformation, fragmentation, and hybridity to reflect the inhumanity of war as well as individual psychological torment.
The exhibition continues with the section titled “The Spanish Civil War,” which includes paintings and prints by Dalí, Miró, and Picasso, among others, capturing their despair at the brutality of the fascists in their war with the republican government. “World War II” features works that show the disasters and capture the emotional upheavals experienced by artists during the early years of the war.
The section “Dislocation and Survival” features paintings by Surrealists, including Dalí, Ernst, Masson, and Roberto Matta who fled the war, mostly for the United States. Ernst’s painting “Europe After the Rain II (1940–42)” spans the mutating structures and human wraiths of a post-apocalyptic Europe with the outcroppings of a desert landscape, inspired by Ernst’s experience as an exile visiting Arizona.
The exhibition concludes with “Surrealism in the Americas,” showing the influence of exiled European artists like Masson and Ernst on Americans such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Tanning.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Rizzoli Electra with essays by exhibition curators Oliver Shell, Baltimore Museum of Art associate curator of European Art, and Oliver Tostmann, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Other contributors are Robin Adèle Greeley, associate professor of modern & contemporary Latin American art history at the University of Connecticut and the author of Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War, and Samantha Kavky, associate professor of art history at Pennsylvania State University–Berks and co-editor of the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas.
This exhibition was organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Art Museum’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Art Museum exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at FristArtMuseum.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $15 for adults; $10 for seniors and college students with ID; and $8 for military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615-244-3340 or visit www.FristArtMuseum.org.
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Ellen Jones Pryor