From January 8 to February 23, 2002, Zabriskie Gallery exhibits Surrealist collages by Eileen Agar (1899-1991), Max Bucaille (1906-), Claude Cahun (1894-1954), Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), Enrico Donati (1909-), Max Ernst (1891-1976), Otto Hofmann (1907-1994), Georges Hugnet (1906-1974), Nicolás de Lekuona (1913-1937), Herbert List (1903-1975), Marcel Marien (1920-1999), André Masson (1896-1987), Valentine Penrose (1898-1978), and Franz Roh (1860-1965).
In the same way that automatic writing, concrete poetry, and cadavres exquis function, Surrealist collage was a creative strategy that emphasized free association processes. Collage was a conscious attempt to deviate from rational modes of constructing meaning, and building imagery around disparate chance through random or meticulous cut-and-paste. The results were often unusual and fantastical, producing narrative detours and scenarios of disjointedness that also suggested roots in Freudian fragmentation and the dream, where if things made sense or not, they nonetheless made their presence felt.
There were many instances of the nonsensical, like Hugnet's Septième face du dé collages, where appropriated texts from magazine and newspaper articles mingled with naughty fragments of nudes, creating a new dialogue of aesthetics even as they negated meaning. Others like Bucaille, Ernst, and Penrose, emphasized a more subtle form of displacement in their collage work. Espousing a more assimilative style of visual interruption, they took their references from old Victorian fashion magazines, scientific periodicals, and architectural journals. Images taken from one source would overlay others that were sometimes similar in size, form, and style, thereby further confusing the string of events. The latter two's collages illustrate the surrealist tradition of collage "novels," as initiated by Ernst with his Dream of a Young Girl Who Wished to Enter a Convent, The Hundred Headless Woman, and A Week of Kindness. Like Hugnet, the scenes implied a new narrative through dislocation of objects in time, place, and scale. In other instances, the story was wholly absent and abstract, as in Agar's Ma Muse or Cornell's collection of geometric shapes and astronomical charts.
Collage, as the Surrealists implemented it, above all emphasized the notion and preference of simultaneity. Things that are usually exclusive of each other exist all at once, like night and day, word and image, silence and scream, birth and death, and calm and confusion. Paradox, as we know it through its ubiquity in contemporary art, has many precursoral sources. In this exhibition of mostly works completed before 1950, Surrealist collage stakes its claim as well to this tradition of contradiction.
Zabriskie Gallery currently represents the estates of André Masson and Georges Hugnet, and in the past has shown numerous exhibitions related to Surrealism, including: Surrealism 1936 - Objects, Photographs, Collages, and Documents (1986); Sculpture from Surrealism (1987); The Surreal Image (1989); André Masson in America (1996); Georges Hugnet: Collages (1999).