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Photography and the Surreal Imagination : The Menil Collection

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Drawn from the Menil Collection’s renowned holdings of Surrealist art and from extraordinary loans from Houston collections, the exhibition Photography and the Surreal Imagination is on view at the Menil Collection now through June 14, 2020. Presenting 62 works that span the years from Surrealism’s eruption in the 1920s to the present day, the exhibition reveals how photographers during and after the Surrealist movement have explored and distorted the human form, manipulated the photographic surface, and used the camera to transform the familiar into the uncanny. Photography’s inherent tension between documentation and invention emerges in the exhibition as the generative force that has made this medium so productive for artists working in the wake of Surrealism. Menil Director Rebecca Rabinow said, “As a seemingly objective, mechanical medium, once known as ‘the pencil of nature,’ photography would seem to be ill-suited to the project of André Breton, author of The Surrealist Manifesto, in his desire to reveal the ‘real functioning of the mind’ through ‘pure psychic automatism.’ And yet, while many artists affiliated with the movement cultivated drawing and painting techniques...

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