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March 12, 2013

“Drawing Surrealism” at the Morgan Library & Museum

By Erin Schumaker | Exhibitions

“Drawing Surrealism” at the Morgan Library & Museum
André Breton, Jacqueline Lamba, Yves Tanguy

Surrealism, the 20th-century avant-garde art movement led by French writer André Breton, is easily one of the most well-known and best-represented art movements of the modern era. (Artists Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Max Ernst help popularize it.) It is, therefore, a credit to the curators at New York’s Morgan Library & Museum—as well as the cocurators at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—that the exhibit “Drawing Surrealism” manages to differentiate itself at all.

It does, in beautiful and surprising ways. The first major presentation composed entirely of drawings (save for a photograph or two), it is also one of the only Surrealism shows with a broad international scope. The work of Peru’s César Moro, Mexico’s Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo and Japan’s Yamamoto Kansuke appears alongside that of their European counterparts. “It’s not just the usual suspects,” says curator Isabelle Dervaux.

The exhibit is loosely organized into five Surrealist drawing techniques: frottage pencil rubbings; the “exquisite corpse” drawing game (pictured above), during which each artist completed a section of a sketch without looking at what the others had done; decalcomania, spreading ink over paper before pressing it onto a second sheet to create new forms; automatic drawing, rooted in Freud and hinged on the absence of control; and collage. But despite its organization and arrangement in rough chronological order (from the late 1910s to 1950, when the movement petered out), irregularities do exist. After all, “We can’t be too rational for a movement that tried not to be rational,” says Dervaux. Through April 21; 29 E. 36th St.; 212-685-0008; themorgan.org.