In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures Of Women Artists In Mexico And The United States

(Los Angeles, November 22, 2011)—The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States. Co-organized by LACMA and the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) in Mexico City, In Wonderland is the first large-scale international survey of women surrealist artists in North America. Past surveys of surrealism have either largely excluded female artists or minimized their contributions. This landmark exhibition highlights the significant role of women surrealists who were active in these two countries, and the effects of geography and gender on the movement. Spanning more than four decades, In Wonderland features approximately 175 works by forty-seven extraordinary artists, including Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Dorothea Tanning, Louise Bourgeois, and more.

“In many respects these surrealists were similar to Lewis Carroll’s central character—Alice—in his famous nonsensical novels. Their creativity was often stifled or marginalized by what seemed to be a somewhat arbitrary and bizarre world where logic did not always reign,” notes Ilene Fort, exhibition curator and LACMA curator of American art. “This expansive survey illustrates that North America offered these women a degree of independence they could not experience in Europe. Hence it became for them a land of reinvention, their wonderland.”

The exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Ilene Susan Fort, LACMA’s Gail and John Liebes Curator of American Art, and Tere Arcq, MAM’s Adjunct Curator. After premiering at LACMA, In Wonderland travels to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) (June 7–September 3, 2012), and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City (September 27, 2012–January 13, 2013).

Exhibition Overview

Surrealism called for the destruction of bourgeois culture and traditional standards and advocated intellectual and political liberty. When promoted in North America, these ideals flourished especially among the supposedly “second sex.” In standard studies on surrealism, female artists have been cast primarily as mistresses, wives, or muses—the inspiration for the male fetishized subject matter. This exhibition however explores the legacy of the movement in the United States and Mexico through its influence on several generations of women artists. Unlike their male counterparts, these artists delved into the unconscious as a means of self-exploration that enhanced an often haunting self-knowledge in their quest to exorcise personal demons. For women surrealists—whether natives by birth, émigrés, or temporary visitors—North America offered the opportunity for reinvention and individual expression, a place where they could attain their full potential and independence.

Image credits:

Frida Kahlo, Autorretrato con collar de espinas y colibrí (Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird), 1940, 2011 © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Kaye Sage, Danger, Construction Ahead, 1940, © Estate of Kay Sage Tanguy, Photo © Yale University Art Gallery

Rosa Rolanda, Autorretrato (Self Portrait), c. 1945, © Estate of Rosa Rolanda Covarrubias, Photo courtesy of Andrés Blaisten, by Francisco Kochen

Muriel Streeter, The Chess Queens, 1944, Photo © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY


Exhibition: In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures Of Women Artists In Mexico And The United States On View: January 29–May 6, 2012 Location: Resnick Pavilion
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