The Colour of My Dreams – Surrealist Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Edith RimmingtonThe Oneiroscopist, 1947oil on canvasThe Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel MuseumPhoto: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Last week, I finally had a chance to see the newest exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG): The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art.

Once again, VAG has brought an outstanding, world-class exhibition to Vancouver. The Colour of My Dreams is the most comprehensive exhibition of Surrealist art ever to be shown in Canada; it features 350 works by leading Surrealist artists, including André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Leonora Carrington, Brassaï, André Masson, Edith Rimmington, and (my favourite) Man Ray.

Max ErnstThe Forest, 1923oil on canvasPhiladelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950© Estate of Max Ernst / SODRAC (2010)

If your last encounter with Surrealist art was your university roommate’s Dali posters, you will be blown away by this smart, insightful show. Guest curated by Dawn Ades, an internationally-renowned expert on Surrealist art, The Colour of My Dreams demonstrates why Surrealism is one of the most important movements in 20th century art: The exhibition underscores the Surrealists’ radical sense of experimentation, the expansive range of mediums in which they worked (painting, sculpture, collage, photography and film), and how great an impact they continue to have on contemporary art.  In particular, Man Ray’s photographs from the 1930s feel like they could have been produced today, a testament to how thoroughly we’ve absorbed Surrealist aesthetics—we’ve seen so many Man Ray prints and derivatives that we forget how ground-breaking the original work was.

There is a lot of humour in these works, as well as controversy. One room of the exhibition explores artist Hans Bellmer, whose Surrealist photographs and sculptures of disjointed and severed female bodies—using female doll parts—are incredibly disturbing but certainly pack a visceral punch.

There is beauty, too, and incredible visual power, as in André Masson’s The Landscape of Wonders, one of the exhibition’s many vibrant landscapes.

André MassonThe Landscape of Wonders (Paysage aux prodiges), 1935oil on canvasSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Bequest, Richard S. Zeisler, 2007.© Estate of Andé Masson / SODRAC (2011)

This historic exhibition brings together loans from more than sixty of the world’s foremost private collections, museums and galleries, including the Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the Israel Museum, the Musée du quai Branly, the Centre Georges Pompidou, and Tate.

If you haven’t seen The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, go now! The exhibition runs until September 25, 2011, and shouldn’t be missed.

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