Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Real/Surreal at the Akron Art Museum

Real/Surreal Exhibit at the Akron Art Museum
by Joanna Wilson

Jared French's State Park (1946) is a traditional composition of those at the beach.  However, the stiff and confrontational figures create a feeling of awkwardness and isolation.  Not exactly a fun vacation day at the beach!

There is a brand new exhibit at the Akron Art Museum entitled Real/Surreal that opened last week.  This provocative show includes more than 60 paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs that question our expectations, assumptions and understanding of Realism and Surrealism.  This show asks viewers to consider: is it possible to merge what many consider two distinctly separate approaches to art?  and what would that look like?

Astor Place (1932) by Francis Criss.  I love this one!  A somewhat realistic city street--with a distorted perspective, and long shadows that cover the lonely, empty streets--except for two nuns. 

This thoughtful exhibit was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art to consider a collection of art from several twentieth century artists who were influenced by the political movements, tumultuous events, and new philosophies during World War I to the 1950s.  These artists began expressing themselves about the new ideas of Sigmund Freud, the rise of Fascism, the Depression and life in the Dust Bowl, the horrors of Nazi Germany, and the atomic bombings of Japan, by adding surrealistic elements to influence traditional realist art--with surprising effect.

Anatomical Painting (1946) by Pavel Tchelitchew.  Wrap you head around this one--a portrait of one's literal interior life.

Many of these art pieces in the new exhibit remind viewers of the blurry lines between reality and the fantastic, between the rational and non-rational.  I just loved this show.  You don't have to over-intellectualize the show.  There's a lot here for the whole family to enjoyThe exhibit is interesting on many different levels and is appealing to the curious, the casual, and the educated viewer.

The Subway (1950) by George Tooker.  Is this painting more realist or surrealist?  Where would you place it along a continuum between the two approaches to art?

There are also two fun interactive opportunities in the gallery.  There's a magnetized board with some of the outstanding art pieces from this show on cards--where you are asked to place each art piece somewhere along a continuum between Realism and Surrealism.  Not an easy task!  You can also participate in an interactive doodling activity called Mind Games. It features a technique made popular by the Surrealists, wherein one draws on top of geometric figures to reveal aspects of your personality! It's a fun eye-opener.

No Passing (1954) by Kay Sage. 

Real/Surreal runs now through November 3rd, 2013.  I encourage you to not only check out the exhibit but to partake in the many supplementary activities organized by the Museum to enhance the exhibit.  Thursday nights at the Museum offer the Downtown@Dusk Summer Concert series--still running now through Aug. 15th starting at 6:30pm.  Those same Thursday nights also offer the ArtTalks@Dusk now through Aug. 15th, at 7:30pm inside the Museum in the auditorium.  And there's more.  Check the Museum website for a full schedule of exhibition-related events.

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