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The Surrealist Movement in the United States

THE AMERICAN SURREALIST INITIATIVE

By: Michael S. Bell, Curator Visual Art Access 1731A S. Cincinnati Place Tulsa, OK 74119 USA

Surrealism, with capital "S", continues in America as it has in every nation at least since the work of Hieronymous Bosch several centuries ago. Conventional art history suggests surrealist tendencies in two forms; i.e. veristic (true to life) and automatist (abstraction). Most of what ordinary people would describe as Surrealism is veristic, typified by the work of Delvaux, Magritte, Dali, Varo, Bosch and countless others.Veristic Surrealism is further sub-divided in these categories:

SOCIAL SURREALISM - work dominated by political and economic content. CLASSICAL SURREALISM - work expressing mythological, whimsical, erotic, imaginary juxtpositions of subjects. VISIONARY SURREALISM - work having primarily religious or spiritual focus.

 The American Surrealist Initiatiive began in 1982 with the aim of showing that automatism is not, in fact, in any sense Surrealism, though it may be surreal. Indeed, for academics to have focused, as they habitually do, upon automatists such as Miro and many others when discussing or exhibiting "Surrealism" seems to have served primarily an economic cartel whose greatest wish is to justify an unbroken historical lineage from Impressionism through Abstract Expressionism and other manifestations of the New York School in the 20th century. Certainly there is ample evidence in the literature, and by inference in the exhibition histories of major American museums, to support such a contention. Not surprisingly, european museums suffer far less from that misnomer. Perhaps this can be attributed to the continent having been the birthplace of what I have termed "The Heroic Period" of true Surrealism in the early 20th century. What usually passes for Surrealism is nothing more than a self-serving effort to perpetuate modernism and to refute formalism. All the while, surrealists continue making their art and having it regularly rejected, if not disparaged, throughout the mainstream market and audiences. The most notable example would be that of the late master painter Irving Norman (aka Nowacowicz) of Half Moon Bay, California.

Whenever two or more disaparate aspects of time or space are shown realistically in the same image, the only possible result is Surrealism.

Exhibitions, writings and archival collections have been realized in support of these assertions, by myself and others; and may be accessed for discussion through online sources and primary source materials at The Oakland Museum of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution/Archives of American Art, and the Sheldon Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden permanent archival collection at th University of Nebraska-Lincoln; or by contacting this author for other references and explanation.



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