Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Ugliness that is Surrealism

Where: Hirshhorn Museum

When: through Feb. 15, 2016

My apologies for the recent lack of blogging - Thanksgiving, work busy-ness and some family issues have taken up a lot of time and energy lately.  Now that the turkey and stuffing are nothing but rapidly disappearing leftovers, however, I'm back at my computer.

Of course, the fact that the first two shows I have to review are surrealist works at the Hirshhorn doesn't fill me with a keen desire to put fingers to keyboard.  "Marvelous Objects" is a survey of surrealist art and "Le 'NEW' Monocle" is a recent work inspired by surrealism.  Both of them left me shaking my head, thinking "Why does anyone want to come and look at this stuff?"  It's weird, but so is a lot of stuff that I like quite a bit.  I really puzzled over my negative reaction until I realized - it's all so ugly.  It's depressing and uninspiring.  It's a good thing I got a nice walk out of my trips to see these shows, as that was the only thing I got out of them.

Many famous names are on display in "Marvelous Objects," including Salvador Dali's "Aphrodisiac Jacket."  This was originally filled with actual green peppermint liqueur and visitors were encouraged to drink it.  I can see the complications from that policy, but a few stiff belts would have been welcome.  A piece called "Lobster Telephone" (I neglected to write down whose creation this was, and I just can't be bothered to look it up) was originally meant to be displayed with an actual lobster (deceased) which would decay and smell - I'm sure that's symbolic of something, but I don't want to be in a room with it.  Happily, the Hirshhorn's version has a plastic(?) lobster resting on a rotary dial phone.

The Washington Post reviewed this show and called it offensive to women, due to the many pieces that objectify and supposedly depict violence against females.  I'm as sensitive to objectification and violence as the next woman, but it was hard for me to summon up any offense, as the pieces were incomprehensible.

At the end of the show, there's a shadow box full of objects, and visitors are encouraged to make their own surrealist art.  Since my motto is, "if I can do it, it's not art," this served to validate my feeling that whatever this collection may be, a great artistic achievement it is not.

Shana Lutker is the artist behind the other show, which is part of the "Directions" series.  Apparently, our friends the surrealists, not content to make ugly pieces and feel alienated from society, would disagree with one another (about what exactly, I don't know) and occasionally, these disagreements would become violent.  Her three pieces are meant to represent three famous fistfights engaged in by surrealists; apparently, all that ugliness didn't do much to make them feel friendly towards their fellow man.

I can't really say this exhibit is either good or bad; it's just incomprehensible.  I dutifully read all the wall notes, hoping for some elucidation, but none was to be had.

Verdict: You know perfectly well I'm not going to recommend these shows.  Do yourself a favor and check out the Downtown Holiday Market at lunch time - many lovely crafts on display, and no fisticuffs!

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