2003-07-04 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance
by Susan Hartenstein
From The Artists Studio Rockaway Artists Alliance by Susan Hartenstein

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was one of the 20 Century’s most fascinating, visible and controversial artists. He was also a self-promoter of the first magnitude. A Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist and designer, Dali passed through phases of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting to eventually join the Surrealist movement in 1929.

The Queens Museum of Art (QMA), located at the site of the 1939 World’s Fair, is presenting an exhibition exploring "Dream of Venus," the Surrealist pavilion created by Salvador Dali for that World’s Fair. One of the earliest full-scale installation pieces (monumental in its scale), the pavilion’s brief existence (it and other pavilions were torn down after the fair) is documented in "Salvador Dali: Dream of Venus" through Dali’s paintings, drawings, manipulated and original photographs, films and archival documents. Several of these have never been displayed before. Also in the exhibit are art and objects from QMA’s own collection. The pavilion included sound and performance, so it was one of the first multi-media artworks.

"Dream of Venus" was a creation of Dali’s unique imagination and was meant by its organizers to introduce the public to the not-always-understood movement of Surrealism. A newspaper of the time stated that it "shrewdly combined Surrealism and sex." The pavilion’s façade combined soft curves, protrusions and partially clothed female swimmers performing an underwater fantasy. Visitors were lured by recorded sirens’ chants to a fish-headed ticket booth. The entranceway was flanked by two towering legs wearing stockings and high heels. Reproductions of da Vinci’s "Saint John the Baptist" and Botticelli’s "Birth of Venus" could be seen through openings in the façade. Inside, a lavish grotto featured a nude Venus lying on a long bed covered in red and white satin, flowers and leaves. In an adjacent aquarium Venus’ dream was presented underwater and scantily clad women, whose costumes were adorned with fins and spikes, milked a mummified cow, answered giant telephones and tapped on giant typewriter keys. Photo­graphs by Horst P. Horst, Eric Schaal and others, that recorded the space the artists who created it and the actors and models who were part of it, are included in this exhibition.

"Salvador Dali: Dream of Venus also explores, through documents such as letters, the problems Dali had in bringing his original concepts to reality. An example is the censorship by the Fair’s Amusement Area Chairing Committee that believed, "A woman with a tail of a fish is possible; a wo­man with the head of a fish is impossible." The artist’s original title was "Dali’s Naked Dream." As a result of the compromises he was forced to ac­cept, Dali published a pamphlet, "Dec­laration of the Independence of the Imagination and Rights of Man At His Own Madness." He then hired a small plane to fly over Manhattan, dropping copies of the pamphlet. This publication is part of the present exhibition.

After the 1930’s Dali’s art moved away from the Surrealists. Some critics believe that his work after that period was of much less consequence. Certainly, however, his work of the 30’s helped to define and publicize a major movement of the art world. "Salvador Dali: Dream of Venus" is on view at the Queens Museum of Art through Sep­tember 7, 2003. The museum is located at Flushing Meadow Corona Park.

The next RAA general meeting is Monday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. in building T-149. Bring your latest artwork (or just your love of art). All are welcome.

Rockaway Artists Alliance wishes to thank all the photographers of "Through the Lens" for making that show such a success. RAA also thanks PhotoVoice, in particular George Car­rano, Tiffany Fairey and Anna Black­man, for their cooperation in bringing "Unbroken," a moving, powerful and important exhibition to our sTudio 7 Gallery. We are grateful to the press that covered these two exhibitions, making them two of the best-publicized shows RAA has presented.

See you at RoCA (The Rockaway Center for the Arts) at Fort Tilden.

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