Salon once asked Dorothea Tanning to define the aims of her artwork and the artist responded: "I’d be satisfied with having suggested that there is more than meets the eye." The eloquent painter and poet passed away in January at 101 years old, marking the death of the last of the original surrealists to have graced the earth. Her posthumous exhibition "Unknown But Knowable States" explores the experience of seeing an image that illuminates the bounty of the unseen. Scroll down for a slideshow of the works.
Tanning was an aspiring artist working as a fashion illustrator at Macy's when she met Max Ernst. The German surrealist was already married to art world socialite Peggy Guggenheim at the time, who was hosting an exhibition entitled "30 Women." When Ernst saw Tanning's now iconic self-portrait "Birthday," in which a topless Tanning stands alongside a mutated flying money, he suggested Guggenheim change the show title to "31 Women." Soon Tanning and Ernst had moved in together and the two eventually married in a joint ceremony with Man Ray and Juliet Browner.
Tanning and Ernst enjoyed an art-filled love affair, encircled in surrealist figures including Lee Miller, Yves Tanguy and Marcel Duchamp, yet Tanning's association with Ernst often led to a discrediting of her own artistic merit. A poem of hers lamented: “Many years ago today / I took a husband tenderly / This simple human gentle act / Seen as a hard decisive fact / By all who dote on category / Did stain my work indelibly / I don’t know why that is / For it has not stained his."
There's good news for fans of the female artist, however. The exhibition of 30 works during Tanning's time in Paris entitled "Unknown but Knowable States" reaffirms her status as a force to be reckoned with in art. Rippling muscles and rippling fabric converge in a gorgeous display of femininity and strength from the self-described “oldest living emerging poet." Her epic paintings span the breadth of art history from Michelangelo's muscular divinity to contemporary abstractionists Cecily Brown and Natalie Frank. Renaissance drama, mannerist strangeness and Abstract Expressionist passion all coexist on the canvas, each creating a new genre unto itself.
"Unknown but Knowable States" will show at Wendi Norris Gallery in San Francisco from January 10 until March 2, 2013. See a preview below and let us know what you think of her work in the comments.