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18 May 2017
Art in America: 'A Surrealist Banquet'
By William S. Smith, May 18
The table is set with silverware compressed into blocks by César. The décor includes a still life of a bouquet by Balthus and a towering centerpiece of painted bronze breasts by Hans Bellmer. The main courses include a meatball speared on a fork by Claes Oldenburg, Man Ray’s Pain peint (Blue Bread—Favorite Food for the Blue Birds), 1958, and Salvador Dalí’s crustacean masterpiece Téléphone homard (circa 1977). The guests for this feast, one imagines, are eclectic. Perhaps they are enthusiastic participants in the esoteric ceremonies depicted in Leonora Carrington’s paintings, or maybe they’re the repressed bourgeoisie shown in a coffee advertisement shot by Paul Outerbridge Jr. in 1940.
Featuring more than fifty works, 'A Surrealist Banquet' is a gluttonous survey in the form of a dinner party—many of the objets are arranged on a vast table and the checklist resembles a menu. The show intertwines diverse threads of surrealism in twentieth-century art, and one might imagine some bristling cross-talk and occasional rude remarks from artists ranging from Masson to Ernst to Magritte to Wesselmann. Still, there is an undeniable coherence in this varied spread, with the works collectively undermining the polite social rituals of dining to reveal unconscious eruptions, uncanny shudders, and animalistic desires. This is a spectacular over-the-top gathering of pluralistic sensualities and polymorphous perversity.
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