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The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2020

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FEB 2020 Issue
ArtSeen

Max Ernst Collages

Max Ernst, <em>Loplop présente</em>, 1931. Pencil, ink and collage on paper, 25 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches. © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris, France. Courtesy Kasmin Gallery. Photo: Diego Flores.
Max Ernst, Loplop présente, 1931. Pencil, ink and collage on paper, 25 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches. © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris, France. Courtesy Kasmin Gallery. Photo: Diego Flores.

On View
Paul Kasmin
MAX ERNST: Collages
January 23 – February 29, 2020
New York

Well, the most wonderful things about this most wonderful exhibition—and goodness knows, we have all seen many exhibitions of this Dada/Surrealist/genius guy—are the “Lettrines". These are the illuminations of various letters, many D’s, some A’s, and some M’s. So many responses are elicited from the observers we are, going up close to the amazing small images whose impact and whose intricacies are enormous. Where to start to say anything? Perhaps with the repetitious details, for to me, this all felt like poetry, in its rhythms, its small figures, and its large resonance.

Why not start with an A, thinking alphabetically? Like the one with two hats reposing elegantly on the crossbar of the A in 1958; or then, to continue with the hat, another A still in 1958, and the little girl standing in the crease of the hat holding a tiny toy, tossing up a little ball… And then, with the D, of 1974, a repetition of the big sword on the male gladiator on the left held up high, and the far smaller one holding her little sword or taper up as high as she can get it. And that truly funny one of 1958 with a mouth-open bird about to bite anything off in its way. But getting to the M, that of 1958, with the two gladiators, one with a female face and hair, and the other, a naked male, those swords forming the angles of the M, and a small child figure demonstrating his own bravado beneath those others, like a warlike offspring.

Ah and Loplop is of course here, in all his 1931 famous autobiographical joy, and the really lovely Le plus beau mur de mon royaume / The most beautiful wall of my realm of 1972.

Contributor

Mary Ann Caws

MARY ANN CAWS is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, English, and French at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Her many areas of interest in 20th-century avant-garde literature and art include Surrealism, poets René Char and André Breton, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, and artists Robert Motherwell, Joseph Cornell, and Pablo Picasso. Conceptually, one of her primary themes has been the relationship between image and text.

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The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2020

All Issues