Dali, Masson at David Barnett Gallery
I have this dream almost every night: the landscape is vaguely familiar, but I’m unable to find my way “home.” Roads lead nowhere; bridges are closed; hotels line the highways and back roads; but the rooms I rent morph and shift endlessly. Signs point to where home is (see there, the glow on the distant horizon?) but they lie, or do they?
It’s likely that the art of Salvador Dali (1904-1989) will appeal to those art fanciers who delve into the world of Freud, where subconscious subdues the “real.” Dali’s dreamscapes are as sparse as his native Catalonia. And, not surprisingly, his career resembles that of another talented showboat, Andy Warhol, who also imagined himself into being. If you haven’t seen the Warhol exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum, it would be an interesting adventure to compare it with Masters of Surrealism: Salvador Dali and Andre Masson at the David Barnett Gallery. The Haggerty Museum of Art shelters a superb 1948 Dali oil painting, The Madonna of Port Lligat. By all means, do your homework.
A slice of the Barnett show pie includes Dali’s beautifully rendered Zodiac Series, and Mr. Barnett himself advised me that there are numerous imposters floating around the universe. There’s an edge of irony to this, for their very existence begs the question, “What is real?”
The Dali/Masson pairing is a first for Wisconsin. It was inspired by a 2009 trip Barnett took to Spain, an adventure involving a visit to the Dali Museum, plus a visit to Dali’s home on the Mediterranean coast. I viewed several works (including a 1979 color lithograph, Vision of the Angel of Cape Creus) and feel confident that Masters of Surrealism is an important event.
Andre Masson wrapped up his career painting conventional landscapes somewhere in Connecticut, but prior to his later years, he experimented with how to best pull up images from the subconscious. His devotion to The Surrealist Movement (which he joined in 1924) ended two decades later, but not before he had established himself as a major player in the French Surrealist mode. Works from his Je Reve (I Dream) Portfolio will be available. I viewed several, and they are as their title suggests, dreamily erotic and subtle, perhaps in the mode of the gentle French perfume, Je Reviens.
David Barnett Gallery, should really be renamed David Barnett Museum, for the rooms on all floors of the historic Button Mansion are rich with all manner of fun, elegance and fabulousness. To my mind, the best part of the experience is an exchange of ideas with Barnett, an artist who has been in the business for four decades. His gallery receives very little attention locally, and why that is, is beyond me; for in my many visits over two decades, I always find it and the proprietor, to be totally and intelligently charming. Before I exited, I tried to recall the name of the architect who designed the quirky buildings in Barcelona. A visitor overheard me thinking out loud. “Gaudi!” she trumpeted.
It was the perfect end to a perfect visit.
Through Jan. 9
David Barnett Gallery
1024 E. State St. @ Prospect Avenue
Tuesdays – Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.