116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The real mingles with the surreal, as an elephant stands beneath a chandelier, a coffee cup floats in front of a woman, and staircases seem impossible to climb.
These are just a few of the images wrapping around the walls in “dreamscape: Surrealism from the Collection.” Even the black-and-white works are colorful in this engaging array on display through Dec. 31 in the second-floor back gallery at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
All of the nearly 25 pieces are owned by the museum, either by purchase or gift, and range from oil and acrylic paintings to lithographs and woodcuts.
Especially thrilling are three Salvador Dali pieces hanging side by side, all capturing haunting images from the Spanish artist best known for his upswept mustache and melted timepieces. Instead, viewers will see a wood engraving of one of his illustrations for Dante Alighieri’s “Divina Commedia,” 1951-1964; and color lithographs of his “Anticipation of a Bullfight,” 1968, and “Mystical Rose Madonna,” 1964.
“Surrealism is an art movement that began in the early- to mid-20th century,” said Kate Kunau, the museum’s curator. “Its best-known proponents are artists like Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico and Andre Breton. It was coming out of post-World War I and just questioning what reality was — that art didn’t have to be representational.
“And so I called the exhibition ‘dreamscape,’ because that was a really big tenet of this early form of Surrealism. They were really interested in the unconscious mind — what our brains are doing while we're asleep,” she said.
What: “dreamscape: Surrealism from the Collection”
Where: Second-floor back gallery, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE
When: Through Dec. 31, 2022
Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Monday
Admission: $10 adults; $9 ages 62 and over; $8 college students; $5 ages 6 to 18; free ages 5 and under
“What I wanted to do with this exhibition is look at some examples of this very classic Surrealism that we have wonderful examples of. We have some lovely Dali works, we have Giorgio de Chirico. We have M.C. Escher, who is known both as an optical artist, but his work is very surreal, so I count him as a Surrealist. And then, a look at more contemporary artists and how they’re working in a surrealist style.”
Although Dali has the most name recognition, Kunau is partial to the three optical, black-and-white Escher works in the exhibition, which show such movement.
“I mean, our Dalis are amazing, and we have several really good examples of his work, which is wonderful,” Kunau said, “because he is probably the name most closely associated with Surrealism.”
Works by Eastern Iowa artists also are featured, including “he would never forget he was the elephant in the room,” by Cedar Rapids native Bill Stamats; “Hueco Tanks,” by late Coe College art professor Robert L. Kocher; “Dormancy Series,” by Maquoketa native Rose Frantzen, best known for her portraiture; “Torso with Skirt,” by Sue Hettmansperger, a University of Iowa professor emerita of painting and drawing; and two engraving and dry point pieces by the late Virginia A. Myers of Solon, a celebrated artist who studied printmaking under Mauricio Lasansky and taught in the UI School of Art and Art History.
The exhibit also shows the depth and breadth of the museum’s Surrealist holdings.
“I wanted to explore all of the facets of Surrealism,” Kunau said. “And so the exhibition deals with surreal landscapes, and cityscapes that really evoke Escher’s work, (and) surreal monsters or beings. Those show up in a lot of works, and they’re really fun and colorful.
“And then, surreal portraiture — there’s a whole section on depicting people in a surreal manner,” she noted. “Some are very fragmented and a little bit abstracted. Some are highly symbolic with a lot of iconography around them.”
Most of the pieces haven’t been widely or recently on view.
“It’s been a while for most of them,” Kunau said. "Not surprisingly, works that are surreal don’t naturally fit into other exhibition themes super easily. So a lot of these are things that I’ve really loved in the collection, but we haven’t had a thematic exhibition that really suited them. And so a lot of them I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years.”
She decided now is the right time, so she created the right space for them.
“I’ve always loved the movement, just from an art historical standpoint,” she said. "It took me a while to become familiar enough with the collection to appreciate that we had — some classical examples of Surrealism, but we also have some really wonderful contemporary examples, as well.
“And so I thought that would be a really cool conversation to have — surrealist artists from the early to mid-20th century and then contrast and (show) how they have inspired more contemporary artists who are still working in a surreal style.”
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