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After a while, the word “surreal” didn’t seem to mean anything at all. Many took it to mean “weird”, but it also stood in rather marvelously on those occasions when no other word quite seemed to fit the situation.

The surrealists couldn’t agree on the definition either. There were those who approached surrealist art from a highly intellectual position. These artists concerned themselves with metaphysical truth and conveying their understanding of Freud’s theory of the unconscious. Other artists were pushing the Dadaist assault on rationality. Still others used the term to decribe the visionary quality of their imagery.

If the debate among artists was serious, the art itself was more often playful. Visual and verbal puns, absurd juxtapositions, radical changes in scale, and soaring flights of fancy were employed to produce wildly disparate works. In Herbert Bayer’s imagination, hard rock could curl like fabric, while for Man Ray, bananas connoted planes. In Howard Warshaw’s world, a radish could be a fish, an eyeball, or just a radish.

Even for artists who were to make their careers in other styles, Surrealism proved important to their development. In the wider world of American art, the intuitive working method known as “automatism” [painting without thinking] led directly to the development of Abstract Expressionism.

The “American Dream” lies here exposed. It is richer, wilder, more raw, and more mysterious than I imagined.

- Jeremy Tessmer

The psychoanalytic theory that underlies much of postmodernism is directly expressed in Surrealist compositions. Many contemporary artists share a fascination with the unconscious dream state, which remains mysterious despite vast scientific investigation.

Wandering through pathways defined by Jessica Foos Jones’ clay doves, visual surprises unfold. David Ligare paints a classically pure white cloth tossed high above ocean waves, seen from a suspenseful angle. Bo Bartlett wonderfully updates Magritte’s conceptual painting of a pipe, while the disturbing works of Fred Stonehouse impart questions, not answers.

With altered scale and a nightmarish, cartoon-like Pop aesthetic, the late Roger Brown’s paintings provide a playful punch. Scott Kahn magically transforms his studio walls into a full moon vista, while Irma Cavat presents her particular Surrealist vision. Classical realism is the vehicle for Steven Kenney’s remake of a twenty-first century still life.

Jeff Sanders references Man Ray with his spring- powered kinetic metronomes that invite audience participation. The fanciful ceramic sculptures of Rebekah Bogard depict imaginary animals that are child-like and gender-specific. Colin Gray, noted for his public art controversy, delivers a dynamic suite of drawings.

The juxtaposition of dissimilar images causes us to think differently, reminding us that much of reality exists beyond the rational. We hope you enjoy our presentation of contemporary artists who continue to explore the realm of imagination.

- Nancy Caponi

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