Perfect Surrealist Behavior
October 11, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 11 4-6pm
(the WAAM will be closed October 14 – 20)
Gallery Talks by Derin Tanyol and Mary Ann Caws
Saturday, October 11, 2:30 pm
$12/$7 WAAM members
In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Georges Malkine: Perfect Surrealist Behavior, guest curator Derin Tanyol and well-known art historian and translator of Surrealist literature Mary Ann Caws will discuss Malkine’s life and career.
Georges Malkine (1898-1970) is known to art history for one fact alone: he is the only visual artist named by André Breton’s 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism as a founding member of the Surrealists, originally a literary movement. Important though this is, it is a very small part of the picture. Malkine’s work hung at the inaugural Surrealist exhibitions in Paris from 1925-1928 alongside that of Max Ernst, Joan Miro, and Man Ray. His first solo exhibition in 1927 was nothing short of an artistic coup, with sales to collectors including Nancy Cunard and John Maynard Keynes. Malkine counted André Masson, Robert Desnos, Louis Aragon, E.E. Cummings, and Pablo Picasso among his friends. An innovator in Surrealist techniques, Malkine painted abstractions before a word existed to describe them and commingled eerie landscapes and visual puns, academic realism and absolute fantasy in ways that would become the hallmarks of better-known contemporaries like Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dali.
But instead of reaping the benefits of his 1927 success, Malkine skipped town. He abandoned painting and drifted, developing an opium dependency which lasted until the end of World War II. He worked multiple odd jobs and for 10 years as a film actor, then arrived on American shores in 1948. Malkine lived in Woodstock from 1953-1966, where he took up painting again with greater intensity than he had in the 1920s. His surprise return to Paris in 1966 met with a retrospective exhibition organized by Ernst, Masson, and other luminaries of Surrealism, many of whom had presumed him dead. This presumption was not without the reclusive Malkine’s complicity. His calculated refusal to assign himself a place in history included an unshakeable disdain for personal promotion, which late in life he put thus: “I did everything I could to escape the attention of my contemporaries.” More aggressively self-effacing, Malkine even set flame, twice, to whatever work he had on handhoto of Georges Malkine by Man Ray.
Over 200 of Malkine’s seductively enigmatic paintings have been preserved in collections in the U.S. and Europe. Seven of them were part of the headline-making dispersal at auction of André Breton’s collection—more than 5,000 paintings, drawings, manuscripts, and Surrealist objets d’art—in 2003. A 1999 retrospective at the Pavillon des arts in Paris, Georges Malkine: Le Vagabond du surréalisme, revealed a strong scholarly interest in his work. Opening October 11, 2014, the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s Georges Malkine: Perfect Surrealist Behavior will feature over forty paintings and drawings by Malkine, as well as photographs, letters, and a full-color monograph and catalogue. Given the forward-thinking inventiveness of his paintings, the intellectual vigor of his writings, and his friendships and connections, this exhibition aims to situate Malkine as a key player in critical examinations of Surrealism.