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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II

Roditi, Edouard
Editorial comment: for an American jubilee of surrealism,   pp. 455-[465] PDF (10.6 MB)

Page 455

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by Edouard Roditi
As if to celebrate the Jubilee of the Dada
and Surrealist movements, the first of which
was born in 1917 while the second followed
in 1922, New York's Museum of Modern
Art has devoted one of its major efforts
to an attempt to situate these two
movements, in relationship to others that
preceded and followed them in some kind of
historical perspective. Unfortunately, the
Museum of Modern Art's choice of the
school of art proposed to us as the direct
heir of European Dada and Surrealism is all
too parochial: like an Anglican divine
trying to prove to us that Anglicanism
rather than Calvinism or Lutheranism
derives from Roman Catholicism. The
Museum of Modern Art offers us, as
examples of latterday or revised Surrealism,
mainly works of the New York School of
Abstract Expressionism. But the early works
of Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell,
Theodoros Stamos, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett
Newman, Clifford Still, Alfonso Ossorio,
William Baziotes and a few other Americans
now seem far more dated than much
earlier and more orthodox Surrealist works
by Max Ernst, Victor Brauner or Joan Miro.
Somehow, the ribald quality of fun and
sheer provocation of the European Dadaists
and Surrealists was lost by the American
Abstract Expressionists, who took themselves
all too seriously. Better European examples
of Surrealism in its later forms or of
Post-Surrealism could easily have been
found to show in New York: paintings, for
instance, by Friedrich Schroeder-Sonnenstern,
Richard Oelze and Piet Morell from Western
Germany, or by Modesto Roldan, Yuksel
Arslan, Le Marechal, Juan Breyten and a
few others from Paris.
But even from America, more convincingly
provocative Post-surrealist works might
have been brought to New York, especially
from the Pacific Coast. As one wandered
through the American Post-surrealist section
of the Museum of Modern Art's show, one
indeed became more and more convinced
that many of these choices had been made
under pressure from New York dealers who
happen to represent these artists, or in
order to justify previous purchase policies
of the Museum. All too many Post-surrealists
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