The primary goal of the surrealist movement was to liberate the modern mind by demonstrating how deep psychological impulses could be explored, depicted, and fused with everyday reality. Despite the perception that photography presented the most direct depiction of surface reality, or perhaps because of it, the medium presented an ideal arena for surrealist artists to explode the traditional bounds of visual representation in ways that continue to influence artists today. Surrealists experimented with unprecedented technical manipulations, both before the camera and in the darkroom, turning the so-called realist medium of photography into a vehicle for depicting the fantastical. Even their most “straightforward” images make the familiar strange and reveal the psychological depths that underlie surface reality. It is this constant tension between surface and depth that gives surrealist photography its distinctive impact, which this exhibition demonstrates with highlights from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s rich collection of surrealist photography, supplemented with prestigious loans from public and private collections.
The exhibition focuses on five themes: portraiture, still life, the body, the street, and dream. While the surrealists resisted such categorization of their work, these groupings serve to demonstrate how surrealist photographers radically experimented with traditional forms of representation, simultaneously referencing and departing from typical art historical genres.
The exhibition is accompanied by Surrealism in Motion, an installation of surrealist films in the Museum’s media gallery.
Click on the highlighted links above for more information on these exhibitions and on the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
Click here to see a video interview with Andrea Rosen, curator of Under the Surface: Surrealist Photography, produced by student assistant to the curator Kiyomi Mino ’16.