Max Ernst: Beyond Painting

Exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US.


From September 23, 2017 until January 1, 2018
Surveyed here is the career of the preeminent Dada and Surrealist artist Max Ernst, with particular emphasis on his ceaseless experimentation. Ernst began his pursuit of radical new techniques that went ‘beyond painting’ to articulate the irrational and unexplainable. Featuring approximately 100 works, the exhibition includes paintings that challenged material and compositional conventions; collages and overpaintings utilising found printed reproductions; fro ages; illustrated books and collage novels; sculptures of painted one and bronze; and prints made using a range of techniques. Several major, multipart projects represent key moments in Ernst’s long career, ranging from early Dada and Surrealist portfolios to the illustrated book: 65. Maximiliana ou l’exercice illégale de l’astronomie (1964).
This illustrated book comprises 34 aquatints complemented by imaginative typographic designs and a secret hieroglyphic script of the artist’s own invention.
Organized by Starr Figura, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Talia Kwartler, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.
A key member of first Dada and then Surrealism in Europe in the 1910s and 1920s, Max Ernst used a variety of mediums—painting, collage, printmaking, sculpture, and various unconventional drawing methods—to give visual form to both personal memory and collective myth. By combining illusionistic technique with a cut-and-paste logic, he made the incredible believable, expressing disjunctions of the mind and shocks of societal upheavals with unsettling clarity. After serving for four years in World War I, the German-born Ernst returned traumatized to Cologne (near his birthplace of Brühl) in 1918. Ernst is most closely associated with Surrealism, an artistic and literary movement in Paris in the 1920s that prized the irrational and the unconscious over order and reason. A key contribution to this movement was his invention of frottage, a technique of placing paper over a textured material, such as wood grain or metal mesh, and rubbing it with a pencil or crayon to achieve various effects.