Friday, March 4, 2016


4'x3', charcoal on brown paper
In the 1920s, a new movement appeared on the art scene, Surrealism, literally, a form of Super Realism based on dreams and hallucinatory states. Unlike the cubists, the expressionists and the abstractionists of the previous decade, the Surrealists did not reorder reality, but created a world of their own. As is the case in all art movements, it coincided with what was going on in literature and science; psychoanalysis, with its examination of dreams, was particularly important. Manifestos, mostly unintelligible rants (at least in translation) came fast and furious as a bunch of ‘wildmen’ rallied to the surrealist banner. They wrote poetry, plays, fought with each other over philosophical fine points and were generally a disagreeable and unlikable lot. Too egocentric for politics, they reflected the cynicism of Post World War I Europe. With few exceptions, their paintings were technically adept, “hyper-realistic” images of a world that never existed except in their imagination. Dali, Magritte, Duchamp and de Chirico were among the more prominent names in the movement. I was brought up to dislike the Surrealists, considering them brilliant but morally empty. Who knew I would end up being one?

4'x3', charcoal on brown paper
If I had to pick one who influenced me most, I would have to say de Chirico, although I wasn’t aware of it when I started on my current series. The “rooftops” started as semi-realistic studies of city water towers and cornices. The more I worked on them, the more unreal they became. Pipes turned into menacing, robotic figures, arched window openings revealed nothing but sky and clouds behind them. Mysterious people stood alone on rooftops while menacing crows flew overhead. Blue skies appeared everywhere, even at street level or in reflecting puddles. Everything came from the subconscious; the creative FLOW process at work. Is it as easy as I make it sound? No; and there’s no way I could produce the work I am doing without decades of experience. My left hand is now so skillful it reads my mind. I feel blessed to have lived long enough to reach this level of accomplishment and when things are going well, I literally bounce around the room.

I know you are going to laugh at me, but I am convinced that one of the reasons artists don’t make any money is because they are having too much fun. No one wants to pay someone else to play.

P.S. I own a great book of surrealist games designed to be played at (preferably) drunken parties to unlock the imagination (the surrealists gave great parties, as you can imagine.) One of them is called The Exquisite Corpse; it has been around forever and most of you have played it without realizing its origin. You take a piece of paper, fold it horizontally into six parts and pass it around. The first person draws a head, the second a chest and so on. Since the paper is folded over, no one knows what the previous people have drawn. At the end, the paper is unfolded and a surrealist figure appears. Voila!

Happy dream states!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed today's blog, one of your better ones ! DGP