For years, the common misconception about Surrealism was that it was mainly a European movement, with René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and others as its leaders. Gradually, that notion is changing. Feminists have added to the Surrealist canon female artists like Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, and Méret Oppenheim, and acclaimed surveys outside the U.S. have brought increased attention to figures like Wifredo Lam, Hervé Télémaque, and Remedios Varo. As a new kind of surrealism takes root among today’s younger female painters, a new understanding of the movement is also blooming.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current exhibition “Surrealism Beyond Borders” reflects this momentum. Curated by Stephanie D’Alessandro and Matthew Gale with Lauren Rosati, Sean O’Hanlan, and Carine Harmand, the show, which heads to Tate Modern in London after its run in New York, aims to prove that Surrealism was hardly confined to Europe. If anything, this survey suggests that, once Surrealism got its start in Paris in the ’20s, the movement’s influence could not be contained. Surrealism’s tendrils wound their way from France to the Philippines and back again, and in the process caught the eye of curious artists who sought to reproduce—and subvert—European Surrealism’s Freud-inspired dreaminess.
“Surrealism Beyond Borders” does feature works by well-known artists—Dalí, Tanning, Lam, and more are well-represented. Yet the overwhelming majority of the 300-plus works on view are by artists who are hardly household names in the U.S. And indeed, many of these artists hail from far beyond Europe. Below is a look at how five lesser-known artists took Surrealism into their own hands and rendered it anew.