Magritte Opens at SFMOMA and Surrealism Lives On

Posted in Inside Scoop by Lori Zimmer on 17th May 2018

The imagery of René Magritte’s Surrealist masterpieces from the mid 1920s and 1930s continue to influence art and fashion today. Superfluous clouds, shrouded lovers, men in bowler hats, shiny green apples, a pipe (which isn’t a pipe of course!)… These fantastical and witty images come to mind when thinking of the Belgian Surrealist master.

 

René Magritte, Son of Man, 1964; oil on canvas; private collection; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

But a new exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art delves deeper into the mature artist, who departed his Surrealist style to explore other oeuvres. René Magritte: The Fifth Season, which opens on 19th May,celebrates the artist’s mid-life departure from his Surrealist aesthetic, which he returned to later in life.

 

René Magritte, Personal Values, 1952; oil on canvas; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

Spread over 9 carefully curated galleries, the exhibition shows off 70 of Magritte’s mid-life works. During these years, Magritte flirted stylistically with art historical genres, borrowing the sensual strokes of Renoir,the lurid palette of Fauvism, the exaggerated markings of Expressionism, and pop imagery.

 

René Magritte, The Anniversary, 1959; oil on canvas; Art Gallery of Ontario, purchase, Corporations' Subscription Endowment; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

These pieces, although a departure from Surrealism, still feel exquisitely “Magritte”. The artist’s famous wit, his playfulness with scale, and his love of challenging context by placing ordinary objects into extraordinary scenarios, remained through his dalliance into other artistic styles.

 

René Magritte, The Happy Donor, 1966; oil on canvas; Musée d’Ixelles, Brussels; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

The paradoxical exhibition will cover Magritte’s artistic practice from the 1940s through the 1960s, showing art lovers a new side to the Surrealist master, with a promise of unique immersive environments designed especially for the show. René Magritte: The Fifth Season runs from 19th May through to 28th October 2018.

 

René Magritte, The Enchanted Domain I, 1953; oil on canvas; Würth Collection, Künzelsau, Germany; © Charly Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

Artists continue to be influenced by Magritte, both by his Surrealist style as well as his mixing of juxtaposition and scale to recontextualize ordinary-seeming objects, scenes and landscapes. Here are 3 artists whose work has that Magritte touch:

 

1. Peter Horvath

Canadian artist Peter Horvath uses collage to create evocative tableaus that touch on Surrealism, drawing from his vast collection of mid century magazines and periodicals.

 

Corn Flakes by Peter Horvath

 

Starting with vintage portraiture of pop icons and old Hollywood, Peter mixes saturated landscapes, text and scientific drawings to create spliced collages that deconstruct beauty and fame ideals of years past. With their billowy clouds and obscured faces, Peter’s pieces immediately call to mind Magritte’s “The Son of Man”.

 

2. KEELERTORNERO

Chin Keeler and Emma Tornero, working together as KEELERTORNERO, abandon their individuality in order to do a Surrealist act: painting collaboratively as one. Their paintings evoke the aesthetics of the 1940s and 1950s, mixing vintage fashion and styles with their own brand of oddity.  

 

John of the Stagbeetles by KEELERTORNERO

 

A clan of Marlene Dietrichs show off red lobster claws, while John Wayne meditates amongst  stag beetles. The resulting pieces are at once kitsch and contemplative, challenging context and scale just as Magritte did.

 

3. Super Future Kid 

Surrealist in name, Super Future Kid is a London-based artist whose work is a futuristic take on Surrealism. Mixing the fantastical with the everyday, her dreamy work is a mash up of cartoons, space-agey imagery and classic Sci-Fi, painted in a sickening sweet candy colored palette.

 

Unnaturally Lazy by Super Future Kid

 

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