Welcome to Wonderland: Surrealist Women Exhibition Opens Sunday

January 26, 2012

Opening to the public this Sunday—and to members starting today—In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States features approximately one hundred and seventy-five works by nearly fifty women artists active in North America who engaged with surrealism in their art. It is the first exhibition to present a view of surrealist art based on this body of work and to depart from canonical histories of surrealism that privilege its male practitioners and European origins. In Wonderland includes a number of Mexico’s designated national treasures by Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, and María Izquierdo. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, and film by such leading figures as Dorothea Tanning, Kay Sage, and Louise Bourgeois are installed in a 1940s surrealist exhibition–inspired space along with works by many women artists whose work has remained little known—until now.

Frida Kahlo, The Two Fridas (Las dos Fridas), 1939, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, © 2011 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo courtesy Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, reproduction of Frida Kahlo governed by Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBA)

The idea for the exhibition was itself surreal—based on a chance meeting between Ilene Susan Fort, curator of American art at LACMA, and Mexico-based curator Tere Arcq at the opening of LACMA: Obras Maestras 1750–1950, an exhibition of LACMA’s core American paintings collection loaned to the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL) in Mexico City in 2006. Both curators discovered their shared interest in women artists and surrealism from their respective countries, and the desire to organize an exhibition to bring them all together was born.

Dorothea Tanning, Birthday, 1942, Philadelphia Museum of Art, purchased with funds contributed by C.K. Williams II, 1999, © Dorothea Tanning Collection and Archive/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York/ADAGP, Paris, photo © Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

The curators identified recurring themes explored by the artists in In Wonderland, such as national and self-identity, domesticity, war and politics, fascination with the occult, and much more. As these women delved into the nature of creative expression and experimentation with surrealist methods and technique, they created a mass of work that is often touching and sometimes a startlingly profound reflection on their personal lives.

Leonora Carrington, Green Tea (La dame ovale), 1942, collection of Hector Fanghanel, © 2011 Estate of Leonora Carrington/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA by Jorge Perez de Lara

In Wonderland is on view through May 6. Reserve your tickets today. Become a member to receive free tickets to In Wonderland and all specially ticketed exhibitions. For upcoming events at LACMA related to In Wonderland, keep your eye on the calendar.

Devi Noor, Curatorial Administrator, American Art