Surrealism in Spain 1924-1939

18 october, 1994 - 9 january, 1995 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 1

The exhibition entitled El surrealismo en España (Surrealism in Spain) takes a look back at the output in Spain, between 1925 and the Civil War (1936-1939), of almost fifty artists. The period is defined by, or evolves alongside, French Surrealism. Lucía García de Carpi, the exhibit's joint curator with Josefina Alix, points to two factors that cause so-called Spanish Surrealism to gain so much importance. The first being that within the revival of avant-garde art, the artists start to take an active interest in what is being disseminated by the Surrealists in Paris, going beyond the mere receptive nature of European movements. The second involves an heterogeneous style in Spain in terms of language and conception. Their theoretical, literary, exhibiting and artistic approaches bring at least four locations into the spotlight: Madrid (the residency of students and “Telluric” Surrealists Alberto Sánchez and Benjamín Palencia), Catalunya (the ADLAN Group and Logicofobista Group), Tenerife (the setting for Gaceta del Arte, Óscar Domínguez and the International Surrealist Exhibition organisation in 1935) and Zaragoza (Tomas Seral y Casas and Alfonso Buñuel).

The acceptance of the principles behind Surrealism, converging through links to Sigmund Freud and André Bretón (Psychic Automatism) and Salvador Dalí (Symbolic Automatism), can be explained by the rapid circulation of Surrealist expression and activities via a network of not strictly Surrealist magazines echoing the Parisian art and literature of the time (Alfar, L´Amic des Arts, Helix, La Gaceta literaria and Gaceta de Arte) and the dissemination of Cahiers d´Art and Minotaure in intellectual and national art circles.

This is also a response to the prominence in the French Surrealist group of Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró and the recognition of Pablo Picasso. These figures constitute a direct reference for the work of the Spaniards: the logicofobistas and Ángel Ferrant (who appropriate the poetry of found objects and the assemblage art started by Miró in the Twenties), Palencia (the vocabulary of Picasso in lithic forms) and Juan Ismael and Ángel Planells (the use of oneiric iconography). The significant influence of André Breton, Paul Éluard, Benjamin Péret and André Masson during their years spent in Spain, covered by this exhibition, cannot be underestimated in the momentum of Spanish Surrealism.

In the words of García de Carpi, Surrealism, “not only gave rise to forms of expression that were an alternative to the conventional practices of painting and sculpture, collage, photomontage and the object, but it was also the first to bring the theme of the art of commitment to the fore.” Therefore, when the Civil War breaks out Surrealism becomes one of the outlets for channelling the drama and disasters of the conflict (Luis Fernández, Antonio Rodríguez Luna, Antoni García Lamolla and Miró) and comes to represent the backdrop of their revolution, despite it causing the exile of numerous artists.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Lucía García de Carpi and Josefina Alix
Exhibition Tour: 

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (February 11 - April 17, 1995); Kunsthalle, Vienna (May 12 - July 16, 1995); Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Palazzo Forti, Verona (July 28 - October 22, 1995); Auditorio de Galicia, Santiago de Compostela (selection) (November 10, 1995 - January 7, 1996)