Exilic Pleasures: Surrealism refuged in America

April 27 – June 17, 2017

William Baziotes

The Butterflies of Leonardo da Vinci, 1942

Oil on canvas

19 x 23 inches


Victor Brauner
Le ecialiste du ide etites announces, 1959
Oil, newspaper, and wax collage on panel
25 3/4 x 19 3/4 inches

André Breton
Pour Elisa, 1947
Gouache and watercolor on paper
12 x 9 inches 

Leonora Carrington
La artista viaja de incognito (The Artist Traveling Incognito), 1949
Oil on canvas
17 3/4 x 13 7/8 inches

Federico Castellon

The Harem Favorite, c. 1940

Oil on canvas

23 ¼ x 16 1/8 inches

Oscar Dominguez

Paysage Surrealiste, 1939

Oil on canvas

12 ¼ x 16 ¼ inches 

Enrico Donati
Shoes, 1945
Oil on leather shoes
6 x 8 x 11 inches

Marcel Duchamp
Priére de toucher (Le surréalisme en 1947), 1947
foam-rubber breast and black velvet on board
10 x 9 in (25.4 x 22.9 cm)

Enrico Donati
La Plume de ma tante, 1947
Mixed Media
15 1/4 x 6 x 6 inches

Enrico Donati
Le Corpuscule et la cite, c. 1940s
Oil on canvas
26 x 44 inches

Enrico Donati
Le Manometre du saug, 1948
Oil and ink on canvas
20 x 24 inches

Max Ernst
Head of a Man, 1947
Oil on canvas
20 1/8 x 5 7/8 in 
Signed lower right 'Max Ernst 47'

Jimmy Earnst
Move On Up a Little Higher, 1947
Oil on canvas
43 x 32 inches

Jimmy Earnst
Drum Improvisation, 1948
Oil on canvas
42 x 33 inches

Leonor Fini
Femme costume (Femme en armure), c. 1938
Oil on canvas
13 3/4 x 9 1/2 inches

Leonor Fini
Femme costume (Femme en armure), 1938
Oil on canvas
13 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches

Leonor Fini

Homme noir et Femme singe, 1939

Oil on canvas

23 ¾ x 29 inches


Leonor Fini
Armoire anthropomorphe (Anthropomorphic Wardrobe), 1939
Oil on Wood
86 1/2 x 57 x 12 1/2 inches

Gordon Onslow Ford
Sketch for "Escape," 1939
Watercolor on paper
15 3/4 x 18 3/4 inches

Gordon Onslow Ford
The Dialogue of Circle Makers, 1944
Oil on canvas
46 1/8 x 35 inches

David Hare
Self-Portrait, 1946
Color ink and collage on paper
21 1/4 x 16 inches

Marcel Jean
Les racine de l'aire, 1948
Oil on canvas
28 1/2 x 36 inches

Gerome Kamrowski
Limitations of Indebtedness to Nature, 1942
Enamel and oil on canvas
32 x 16 inches

Marcel Jean
Surrealist Composition, 1947
Oil on panel
6 5/8 x 10 1/2 inches

Gerome Kamrowski
Unnatural History, 1943
Shadowbox collage
16 1/4 x 15 inches

Gerome Kamrowski
Figures of the Dark, 1941
Ink and gouache on paper
23 x 19 inches

Gerome Kamrowski
The Open Twist, 1944
Oil on canvas
48 x 36 inches

André Masson
La Centaure Porte-Clé, 1947
Oil on Canvas
23 3/4 x 29 inches

Roberto Matta
Black Mirror, 1947
Oil on canvas
34 x 30 inches

Wolfgang Paalen
Orages magnetiques, 1938
Oil on canvas
29 x 39 3/8 inches

Man Ray

Rayograph, 1928

Original rayograph on artist’s mount

Signed and dated 1928 by the artist in lower right corner of image

19 ¼ x 15 9/16 inches

Kay Sage
South to Southwesterly Winds Tomorrow, 1957
Oil on canvas
13 x 16 inches

Kurt Seligmann
The Outcast, 1947
Oil on canvas
30 x 36 inches

Kurt Seligmann
Cybele III, 1949
Oil on canvas
39 1/4 x 26 inches

Kurt Seligmann
Quatuor, 1944
Oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 14 inches

Yves Tanguy

Second Message III, 1930

Oil on canvas

25 1/8 x 28 3/4 inches

Yves Tanguy
Je te retrouve objet trouve, 1938
Oil on canvas
13 3/4 x 10 3/4 inches

Press Release

There is no great expedition in art which is not undertaken at the risk of one’s life…the road to take is obviously not the one with guard rails along its edge; each artist must take up the search for the golden fleece alone.

André Breton


NEW YORK, NY—FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Leila Heller Gallery is pleased to present Exilic Pleasures: Surrealism Refuged in America, from April 27th to June 17th, 2017, curated in partnership with Rowland Weinstein.  Arriving in New York as a refugee from the violence and mortal terror of the second world war in 1941, Surrealism’s founder André Breton, along with a coterie of fellow artists espousing the value of the irrational, subconscious, psychic, avant-garde, experimental, and psychosexual, challenged a generation of American counterparts accustomed to the normalizing ideological conceits of Social Realism. This exhibition, based in part on the pioneering scholarship of Martica Sawin in her opus Surrealism in Exile, features the work of André Breton, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali, Leonora Carrington, André Masson, Roberto Matta, Wolfgang Paalen, Kurt Seligmann, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, Oscar Dominguez, Victor Brauner, Enrico Donati, Kay Sage, Gerome Kamrowski, William Baziotes,  Federico Castellon, Jimmy Ernst, and David Hare. Exilic Pleasures explores of the history and effects of the emigration of surrealism to the New World, which as Sawin states in her headline catalogue essay for the exhibition, “the radical transformation of American art that emerged in the post-war years."


Beginning as a literary movement and manifesto in 1924, surrealism announced itself in the words of André Breton as “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought.”  Born from the ashes of World War I’s apparent failure of rationality as the source for the technical destruction of mankind, not only did surrealists take it to task to rationalism and nationalism, but also sought to enact a social revolution by means of an aesthetic subversion of the conscious mind.  However, the techniques of surrealist art—and their explorations of the oft dark, violent, desirous depth of the human psyche, all of which this exhibition ventures into—were not entirely divorced from their mode of presentation.  “Desire, myth, poetry, taboo, and transgression,” Alyce Mahon reminds us, “these were the key ingredients of surrealism and of the surrealist exhibition.  From the birth of surrealism in [the mid 1920s] to Jean Schuster’s announcement of its demise as a historical movement in 1969…surrealists transformed the notion of art work and dramatically revolutionized the concept of an art exhibition…. as a stage upon which as new reality could be pre-figured.”


Late surrealism, dating approximately from the late 1930s, is marked by two defining historical conditions: one an external exigency enforced upon a group of then so-called ‘degenerate’ artist in the rise of specter of war in Europe, and another the internal drive to extend the logic of the fetishizing of the figure towards the de-figuration of Surrealist space, in a series of exhibitions from 1936 to 1947, which also saw the center of Surrealist gravity move from Paris to New York (and perhaps back again). As Isabelle Dervaux points out, although in 1929, the capitalist, materialist image of America excluded the United States from the Surrealist Map of the World, following Alfred Barr’s exhibition at the MOMA in 1938, and the Salvador Dali’s outrageous Dream of Venus at the World’s Fair, not only was the US public rapt in the fantastic dreamlike imagery of a form Surrealism heralded by Dali, but surrealists themselves recognized not only the necessity, but also opportunity, presented by an avant-garde intervention into post-Depression era America.    Revolution, it seemed, was possible on other shores.


Necessity is the soul of invention, but also intervention.  In the former case, surrealists sought to interrupt the expected forms of exhibition, pushing the bounds of viewing practice into the level of the performance event, as avant-garde techniques, which we have sought to cite or make reference to in this exhibition, sought to challenge bourgeois ways of seeing.  Notably, in 1942, an exhibition curated by a misanthropic André Breton with the aid of Marcel Duchamp, The First Surrealist Papers, held in midtown Manhattan, featured not only a labyrinthine web of one mile of twine, but also hanging bags of coal, and children playing ball between tableaux.  In the former case, in the 1940s, the “idée génératrice” of surrealism, automatic writing, which sought to access and actualize the imaging of the subconscious, leading to a greater the greater development of abstract aesthetic. 


Indeed, throughout this exhibition, the tension between abstraction and the surreal reveals itself as a touchpoint of artistic endeavor in 1940s America.  Indeed, if at the beginning of the decade, the two European born aesthetics were seen as the antithesis of each other, by 1951, a gestural form of abstraction, under the influence of surrealist automatism had become known as Abstract Expressionism—the first properly American art movement, which would not have been possible with the refuging of surrealists in America.


This exhibition is presented and curated in partnership with Rowland Weinstein and Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco. For more information and images, please contact press@leilahellergallery.com.