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Surrealism Takes Center Stage at This MCA Show

On the eve of a new blockbuster exhibit, the eccentric art movement remains as influential as ever.

When surrealism arose in 1920s France, it was the first truly global art movement, says Lynne Warren, who is curating Surrealism: The Conjured Life, a massive new survey opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art on November 21. “There was a lot of rethinking of identities and a great deal of experimenting with ideas.” Today, nearly 100 years later, surrealism’s influence endures. Just check out the similarities between five pieces from the MCA show and five contemporary pieces by artists who are exhibiting in town this month.

‘Rust Colored Belt’ by Kay Rosen
Rosen, Rust Colored Belt, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of the artist
‘Untitled’ by Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder, Untitled, c. 1944 Photo: Nathan Keay/MCA

Kay Rosen

Taking after Calder, the Indiana artist plays with simple colors and shapes. “Humor is an important ingredient in the work,” says Rosen, 72, whose sign-like paintings (another of which is on the previous page) double as pithy phonetic jokes.
See her work Kavi Gupta Gallery through January 16. kavigupta.com

‘Ben (Nu Dutch series)’ by Tom Van Eynde
Van Eynde, Ben (Nu Dutch series), 2011 Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Linda Warren Projects
‘Self-Portrait (The Mystery of Adam)’ by Claude Cahun
Claude Cahun, Self-Portrait (The Mystery of Adam), 1929 Photo: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, fractional and promised gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, © Estate of Claude Cahun

Tom Van Eynde

The Forest Park photographer, 67, dresses local culturati—Judith Geichman, Ben Foch (pictured)—as 17th-century Dutch aristocrats, a stunt that mirrors the popular surrealist trope of the masked disguise. “The photo captures time and makes everything a little weirder as it gets older,” says Van Eynde.
See his work Linda Warren Projects through January 16. lindawarrenprojects.com

‘Affect of a Painting Practice’ by Srijon Chowdhury
Chowdhury, Affect of a Painting Practice, 2015 Photo: Chris Adler
‘Seascape with Sun’ by Forrest Bess
Forrest Bess, Seascape with Sun, 1947 Photo: Nathan Keay/MCA Chicago

Srijon Chowdhury

Like Bess’s bleak, hallucinatory landscapes (painting was a catharsis for the famously troubled American artist), Chowdhury’s rich light sculptures evoke a dreamy portrait of the creative mind. “It’s a romantic self-portrait,” says Chowdhury, 28, who lives in Los Angeles.
See his work Sector 2337 through November 21. sector2337.com

‘Never as Young as Yesterday’ by Fred Stonehouse
Stonehouse, Never as Young as Yesterday, 2014 Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hammer Gallery
‘Les merveilles de la nature’ by René Magritte
René Magritte, Les merveilles de la nature, 1953 Photo: MCA Chicago

Fred Stonehouse

“My work operates on a principle I call dream logic,” says the 55-year-old Wisconsin folk painter, whose fantastical creatures recall those of Magritte’s painting. “I create an enchanted world of my imagination.”
See his work Carl Hammer Gallery through Novmeber 6 to December 23. carlhammergallery.com

‘When the Big Ones Eat the Smart Ones’ by Marcos Raya
Raya, When the Big Ones Eat the Smart Ones, 2015 Photo: Courtesy of the artist
‘Let’s Phosphoresce by Intellection #1’ by Roberto Matta
Roberto Matta, Let’s Phosphoresce by Intellection #1, 1950 Photo: Courtesy of MCA Chicago

Marcos Raya

Raya, who moved to Chicago from Mexico in 1964, has spent his career creating dark, psychological canvases that depict the struggles of Latino immigrants in the United States. “I love the aesthetics of the sublime,” says Raya, 67, who is influenced by Matta’s palette and futuristic landscapes. “It’s like finding beauty in the most monstrous things in life.”
See his work Art NXT Level through November 14. theartistnextlevel.com


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