June 19, 2014
September 21, 2014
Honolulu Museum of Art
“SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”
André Breton penned this definition in his 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism, a lengthy declaration of the Surrealist movement that called for the liberation of the imagination through mental activity unmediated by rational thought. For the Surrealists, the subconscious—accessed through dreams, conjured by hypnosis, witnessed in automatic writing, and experienced as the uncanny—was a gateway to novel, often disturbing, and always transformative modes of perception.
Through a selection of prints from the museum’s permanent collection, this exhibition traces the development of Surrealism on paper. Artists such as Max Ernst, André Masson, Roberto Matta, and Joan Miró used techniques such as psychic automatism—literally doodling or writing reflexively in a semi-conscious state—to generate imagery uninfluenced by deliberate action, while artists such as Federico Castellón, Kurt Seligmann, and Yves Tanguy recorded the shapes, narratives, and often bizarre scenarios that came to them in dreams. For the Surrealists, the intimate medium of paper was ideal for discovering and transmitting this unadulterated level of consciousness, and printmaking was easily adaptable to image making at its most accidental and spontaneous.