THE BLOG
03/12/2013 05:35 pm ET Updated May 12, 2013

Drawing Surrealism

The writer of a paper entitled "Catricide, Matricide and Magic" (Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Volume 44, Number 2) makes the following comment,

"For me, writing is a kind of rite where I strive for a high level of unknowingness. I imitate tribal rituals, building myself up into a state of delirium, burning fires late into the night, exorcising demons, and drawing energy from a war dance of my own creation. Magical thinking is one of the things an analyst might try to disabuse his patient of in the course of the work, but magic, to may mind, is at the heart of artistic production."

Put another way rationality is nice, but it leads to inhibition and artists and writers alike partake of a paradoxical process by which they attempt to produce thoughtful work in a state that avoids the pitfalls of thought. Drawing Surrealism, currently on exhibit at the Morgan Library demonstrates the numerous techniques that artists of the surrealist school used to disinhibit their imaginations. Apollinaire's calligraphy "La mandolin, l'oillet and le bamboo," (1915-17) shows how words can be constructed in an image while Dali's "Study for 'The Image Disappears'" (1938) uses an image, Vermeer's "Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window" to turn the head of a woman into the eye of a bearded man in profile. Dali produced many of the dream sequences in Hitchcock's Spellbound and this early drawing can still produce a nightmare like shock in the viewer. About automatic drawing, another in the pantheon of techniques employed by surrealist artists, including decalcomania (applying paper to another wet surface), frottage (rubbing), exquisite corpse (chance associating by a group) and collage, the curators quote Andre Masson as saying

"the hand must be fast enough so that conscious thought cannot intervene."

As the current exhibition illustrates abstract expressionists like Rothko, Pollock and Kelly would be influenced by the liberties surrealists took with the pencil and pen as well as the brush. Lautreamont's famous description of a boy as

" beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella"

has often been used to define surrealism, though no such aggregation of images is evidenced in the current show.

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