Undercover Surrealism installation

Undercover Surrealism

Picasso, Miro, Masson and the vision of Georges Bataille


11 May - 30 July 2006

Paris in the late 1920s was the intellectual and artistic heart of Europe: Surrealism was the dominant avant-garde movement, jazz and talkies had just arrived, and a new world culture seemed in the making.

Georges Bataille's magazine DOCUMENTS, which ran from 1929 to 1930, confronted this moment head-on, with a radical questioning of Western values, of notions of the primitive, ritual, popular culture and of the whole ediface of high art.

DOCUMENTS juxtaposed art, ethnography, archaeology and popular culture in such a way that conventional notions of 'primitive' and 'ideal' are overturned, as sacrifice is linked to the slaughterhouse and pilgrimage to Hollywood. Bataille, an influential philosopher, writer and erotic novelist, described himself as Surrealism's 'enemy from within'. His dark, materialist vision of human desires and radical pessimism challenged the idealism of the surrealists.

This subversive climate is recaptured at the Hayward Gallery this Summer with masterpeices by Picasso, Miro, Masson, Dali and Giacometti, as well as photographs by Boiffard and Blossfeldt. The principle of juxtaposition, of the unexpected visual links that animated DOCUMENTS, are played out throughout the exhibition, with startling counter positions such as that of Hollywood film and Picasso's Three Dancers, photographs of Parisian slaughterhouses and Masson's paintings together with the rhythm of Duke Ellington.

Curated by Dawn Ades, Simon Baker, Fiona Bradley and Caroline Hancock.

Installation shots. Photo: Marcus Leith.

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