This exhibition surveys the career of the preeminent Dada and Surrealist artist Max Ernst (French and American, born Germany. 1891–1976), with particular emphasis on his ceaseless experimentation.
Ernst began his pursuit of radical new techniques that went “beyond painting” to articulate the irrational and unexplainable in the wake of World War I, continuing through the advent and aftermath of World War II. Featuring approximately 100 works drawn from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition includes paintings that challenged material and compositional conventions; collages and overpaintings utilizing found printed reproductions; frottages (rubbings); illustrated books and collage novels; sculptures of painted stone and bronze; and prints made using a range of techniques. Several major, multipart projects represent key moments in Ernst’s long career, ranging from early Dada and Surrealist portfolios of the late 1910s and 1920s to his late masterpiece—a recent acquisition to MoMA’s collection—65 Maximiliana, ou l’exercice illégal de l’astronomie (1964). This illustrated book comprises 34 aquatints complemented by imaginative typographic designs and a secret hieroglyphic script of the artist’s own invention.
Organized by Starr Figura, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Talia Kwartler, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture.
Above: Max Ernst. The Gramineous Bicycle Garnished with Bells the Dappled Fire Damps and the Echinoderms Bending the Spine to Look for Caresses (La Biciclette graminée garnie de grelots les grisons grivelés et les échinodermes courbants l’échine pour quêter des caresses). c. 1921. Gouache, ink, and pencil on printed paper on paperboard. 29 1/4 x 39 1/4″ (74.3 x 99.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase, 1937. Photo: Robert Gerhardt. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.