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Discussion: Surrealism

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Max Ernst Celebes

In your reading for this week, you will learn about many different artists associated with Surrealism. Like Dada artists, the Surrealists were fascinated with the way that disparate images create meaning, and also trigger further associations in the minds of viewers. The Surrealists used techniques like automatic drawing and writing to create these juxtapositions, but also created carefully designed works that were intended to express the hidden desires and fears of their subconscious minds. Many Surrealist works operate like visual puzzles and in your assignment for this week, you will try to figure out the pieces of a Surrealist work and put them together to interpret the meaning.

Please choose a painting, sculpture, or photograph to discuss. Analyze it to the best of your ability by observing and describing as many details as you can. Do a little research about the life of the artist to see if this might give you any clues about the symbolism, but also feel free to use your own imagination. In addition to symbolism, how is the artist using color and form? Often artists title their works in a way that offers hints at the meaning or reveals the subject matter, so please consider the title carefully and look up any words or names that you are not familiar with. As you write your analysis, think about your own subjective response. How does the painting make you feel, and why?

Please do NOT choose Dalí’s Persistence of Memory as the subject of your post, but you may want to check out the detailed analysis about it that is linked under this week’s video supplements in order to see how a painting can be decoded. Max Ernst’s Celebes is discussed in this week’s video supplements as well, and please do not write about that painting either. I want to hear your original thoughts. Surrealist works do not have a single fixed meaning, and there is no “right” answer to this assignment. I just want to make sure that you are using your powers of observation and critical thinking skills.

Please include an image in your post and respond to the work of two other students. Additional comments that contribute significantly to the discussion will receive a few points extra credit. You are encouraged to write about a work of art that is not shown in the textbook!

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