Surrealism anew

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Surrealism’s chief artistic invention is probably the “exquisite corpse” drawing. It is created when a group of people pass around a piece of paper, and each participant, unaware of how the folded sheet has been handled by the previous person, adds his or her own contribution and sends it along. (The name “exquisite corpse” comes from a line in a poem that, made in the same group fashion, began with these words.) That most exquisite corpse drawings, including those in this exhibition, end up showing weird but not brilliantly weird standing figures has never dampened the game’s allure. The often could-be-better-next-time results may be why the Surrealists, we are told, found the game “addictive” and why we still like playing it. The corpse drawings on hand are certainly no match for the other kinds of works on display. They include collages, automatic drawings—doodles, essentially, in which the doodler goes as far as he or she can—and calligrams, or word drawings, comprised solely of words, letters, or made-up words in a made-up script. There are works of frottage, formed by putting a piece of paper over a textured surface of some sort and rubbing it with a pencil, say, to bring up that surface.

more from Sanford Schwartz at the NYRB here.

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