McMullen Showcases Famed Surrealist

McMullen Showcases Famed Surrealist

André Masson is focus of museum's upcoming spring exhibition

By Rosanne Pellegrini
Staff Writer

Seldom-seen works by a legendary figure in the French Surrealism movement will be on display at Boston College beginning later this month when the McMullen Museum of Art hosts the North American premiere of "André Masson Inside/Outside Surrealism: Works from the Gottlieb Collection."

Les oiseaux sacrifiés, 1954. Etching and aquatint. 30. 9 x 25.8 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario.
The exhibition, which contains more than 90 works by Masson (1896-1987), will be housed at the museum from Jan. 28 through April 28.

"We are pleased to present the most comprehensive examination of this important artist, whose work played a key role in the development of both surrealism and abstract expressionism," said McMullen Museum Director Nancy Netzer, an art history professor in the Fine Arts Department.

To commemorate the opening of the exhibition, the museum invites Boston College students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families to attend a special preview on Sunday, Jan. 27, from 1-5 p.m. The event will include a lecture, "André Masson's Picture Politics," at 2 p.m. in Devlin Hall auditorium by Laurie Monahan, assistant professor of art history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a contributor to the exhibition catalogue.

That day also will feature the first of a series of French films being screened on campus as an accompaniment to the exhibition.

The works being shown at the exhibition are taken from the collection of Allan Gotlieb, former Canadian ambassador to the United States, who gathered only the finest impressions of Masson's prints and illustrated books. This is the first public exhibition of the Gotlieb Collection.

Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and curated by Michael Parke-Taylor, associate curator of European art at the AGO, the exhibition also will include four Masson paintings, two from private collections and two from the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. After the exhibition's premiere at the McMullen, it will be shown at the AGO this summer.

Said Parke-Taylor, "The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see André Masson's graphic work and assess his role as one of the central artists belonging to the first generation of French Surrealists.

"The Gotlieb Collection of prints and illustrated books by Masson has long been admired by scholars and includes virtually every print and illustrated book of consequence made by the artist. This exhibition is the first North American presentation to provide a comprehensive focus on Masson's graphic works spanning six decades of his career."

Une saison en enfer, 1961. Etching with aquatint, 38.2 x 57.0 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario.
Masson is regarded as a pioneer in the techniques of automatic drawing and biomorphic abstraction. Netzer refers to automatism as "the visual equivalent of free association in psycho-analytic therapy." Collaborating with Surrealist poets and theorists in their quest to subvert reason and investigate the workings of the human subconscious, he contributed illustrations to many important works of Surrealist literature. His fascination with metamorphosis in all its forms informed Surrealist thought and provided the fuel for a lifetime of creativity.

Exhibition organizers say Masson's complex, poetic and psychologically charged works comment on his struggle against Spanish fascism in the 1930s and his American exile from Nazi-occupied France in the 1940s. In the 1950s, he began to draw on Asian traditions and the Impressionism of Claude Monet and J.M.W. Turner. Masson's boundless creativity is revealed by his experiments with printmaking techniques across the six decades of his artistic career.

The accompanying exhibition catalogue, said Parke-Taylor, "provides the first succinct account of Masson's career as a printmaker-both in France and the United States-which spanned over a period of six decades. Many prints have been reproduced in color in this publication for the first time."

A slate of free public events also will be held during the semester as a complement to the exhibition, including readings of surrealist literature and a concert. These are listed in the Chronicle Calendar section on page 8.

The museum will be open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. Gallery tours will be available every Friday at 12:30 p.m. For more information on the exhibition, the accompanying events or the McMullen Museum, visit the World Wide Web site .


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