Bowdoin College Museum of Art to present exhibition of Surrealist photography opening on Feb. 27

Exhibition features images by leading Surrealist photographers and will be accompanied by installation of Surrealist films

BRUNSWICK — Opening on Thursday, Feb. 27, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art will present an exhibition that explores the radical and multilayered nature of Surrealist photography. “Under the Surface: Surrealist Photography” will feature photographs created by leading Surrealist artists, such as Eugène Atget, André Kertész, René Magritte, Man Ray, and Maurice Tabard.

In addition to presenting works from the movement’s European roots in the 1920s and 1930s, “Under the Surface” will highlight the extensive reach of Surrealist influence both geographically, by showcasing works of American and Central American artists, and temporally, by tracing the movement’s reverberations through the 1960s.

Organized by Andrea Rosen, curatorial assistant at the BCMA, the exhibition will be on view at Bowdoin from Feb. 27–June 1, 2014, and will be shown in conjunction with a film installation, “Surrealism in Motion” featuring Man Ray’s “Retour a la Raison” and Hans Richter’s “Ghosts Before Breakfast.”

To mark the opening of the exhibition, a keynote lecture, “Strange Passion: Ferderick Sommer’s Wartime Surrealism” by Robin Kelsey, Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography and Director of Graduate Studies in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University will take place at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center, Bowdoin College.

A reception celebrating the exhibition will follow on Friday evening from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. A film screening and discussion, “‘Science is Fiction:’ A Selection of Films by Jean Painlevé,” will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, March 3, in Smith Auditorium, Sill Hall, Bowdoin College. All events are open to the public free of charge.

Originating in early 20th-century Paris, Surrealism sought to demonstrate how human psychological impulses could be contemplated and depicted in everyday life. Inspired by Dadaism’s embrace of experimental approaches to the creation of art, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories, and the disillusioned aftermath of World War I, the Surrealists became known for creating bizarre, disturbing, and often inexplicable images.

“Under the Surface” will examine how Surrealists experimented both in front of the camera and in the darkroom to transform a traditionally representational art form into a vehicle for rendering the fantastical. Works such as Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Brussels” (1932) and Erwin Blumenfeld’s “Solarized Double Mirror Nude” (1946) will invite audiences to consider how Surrealists used visual motifs such as veils, mirrors, screens, and filters, as well as technical manipulations such as photograms, multiple exposures, solarization, and photomontage to confuse and unsettle the viewer.

“The exhibition will explore the fundamental tension between ideas of surface and depth in Surrealist photography, and these artists’ distinctive ability to make the familiar strange,” said Rosen. “By illuminating the psychological depth present beneath the surface of these images, we may begin to understand why Surrealist photography continues to be so enigmatic and powerful.”

Featuring over 60 works, “Under the Surface” will bring together the Museum’s rich collection of Surrealist photography and prestigious loans from collections throughout the country, including the International Center for Photography, Yale University Art Museum, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts, among others.

Installed according to the themes of portraiture, still life, bodies, street scenes, and dream scenes, “Under the Surface” will demonstrate the range of subjects that the Surrealists addressed through photography. The exhibition will explore how Surrealist photographers experimented with both literal and figurative forms of layering to create striking, enigmatic images.

Notable examples include one of Man Ray’s first “rayographs,” Untitled (1921), which distorts recognizable objects into an abstract composition, Hans Bellmer’s La Poupée [“The Doll”] (1934), one of the artist’s many depictions of anatomically incorrect “dolls” in suggestive poses, and Eugène Atget’s Cour, 28 Rue Bonaparte, Paris (1910), an eerie documentation of the abandoned streets of Old Paris.

“’Under the Surface’ will provide an exciting opportunity to engage our museum audiences and the Bowdoin College community with work that teases the imagination and tests our sense of how we understand the world around us,” said Anne Collins Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“The exhibition and its accompanying programs will illuminate a critical aspect of the Surrealist movement, and offer visitors unparalleled access to these exceptional works of art,” continued Frank Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

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