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Monday, November 17, 2008

Surrealism at the Smithsonian

At the Smithsonian Associates’ recent presentation on “Surrealism,” the Institution’s representative described Judy Pomeranz, the evening’s featured speaker, as one of its favorite guest lecturers in art.

Ms. Pomeranz is an attorney, a freelance writer, and an art aficionado and clearly one impassioned by art, but I suppose it was information from a professional I was seeking rather than art commentary which was delivered.

I wanted to hear the “why,” the “how come,” and analysis which form the basis for Dadaism and Surrealism, but I heard little of it at the lecture. More of the history of these two movements would have been desirable.

World War I, its death and horror gave birth to Dadaism, Ms. Pomeranz said.

What connected Dadaism and Surrealism? How are they different? Little explanation was offered other than Dadaism (the name came from where?) began as a completely absurd movement whose artists rejected all tradition as they responded to the War. When it became too mainstream, Surrealism took over around 1922, Ms. Pomeranz said. (A definition of each with contrasting examples would have been welcomed.) If she included criticism it was so mild it was hidden.

Man Ray, Marcel Deschamps, Giorgio De Chirico, Magritte, Joan Miro and lots of Salvador Dali were the highlighted artists whose works were shown. Since just a third of the paintings were familiar to me, how can I complain about lack of satisfactory content?

But I do. Others may have felt the same since several left before Q&A ended. Of all the educated and trained art critics in this town, why isn’t one of them delivering lectures?

Lecture specifics:
Cost: $30, SA members; $40, others
Average attendee age: 55
Number who attended: 60 approx.
Location: Ripley

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