- First American exhibition of this iconic
Surrealist painter in nearly 10 years.
- Over 25 paintings and works on paper from 1935 to 1987.
- 54-page catalogue with essays by Ara H. Merjian, Stanford scholar, and Gabriel Weisz Carrington, writer and artist’s son.
-San Francisco Art Institute to host academic forum dedicated to art and legacy of Carrington.
- San Francisco Art Institute to host academic forum dedicated to art and legacy of Carrington on February 6th in SFAI’s auditorium.
Frey Norris Gallery presents “The Talismanic Lens,” the result of a five
year endeavor of collecting, studying and getting to know Leonora Carrington, one of the last surviving
Surrealist artists and writers. It has been almost ten years since such a major collection of her work has
been on display (her last solo exhibition in California was at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco in
1991). Our exhibition and its accompanying 54-page catalogue commemorate the 90 year since
Carrington’s birth and this nonagenarian plans to travel with her family to attend the exhibition opening.
Only a comprehensive retrospective could do justice to the breadth of Carrington’s output, encompassing
as it does an astonishing range of media and materials: lithographs, temperas, oils, watercolors, gouaches,
tapestries, etchings, graphite drawings, polychrome sculpture, bronze sculpture, masks… And these works,
in turn, merit juxtaposition with the artist’s closely related literary corpus, including numerous short
stories, poems, plays, novels, and novellas. Still, the present show offers a representative – if humble –
selection of Carrington’s oeuvre, from the early 1940s to the late 1980s.
Ara H. Merjian, Stanford scholar and art historian
The English born Carrington has oft been noted for her dramatic and compelling life story. Born at the
close of World War I, from early childhood until today, she naturally gravitated to the occult—to
practices such as alchemy, esoteric religious rituals and witchcraft. In her early 20s, she left an
aristocratic family and fortune in England to live in Paris with a much older and married Max Ernst. In
1941 she suffered a nervous breakdown in Santander, Spain only to blossom as an artist in the
unparalleled intellectual community of New York during the war; here Surrealist exiles and Abstract
Expressionists were radically reconfiguring the nature of art and the future of art history. In 1943
Carrington settled in Mexico with the post-revolutionary writers, poets and artists, among them Benjamin
Peret, Wolfgang Paalen and Remedios Varo. In the sixty-five years since, Carrington has produced an
overwhelmingly rich oeuvre that encompasses paintings, murals, set design, poetry, novels and seemingly
nonsensical essays in the classic Surrealist tradition.
Carrington’s path in life has certainly informed her paintings, but it is her paintings as repositories of her
knowledge, imagination and yearnings that illuminate a world that is entirely and distinctly her own. Her
work is a visual and literary adventure populated by miraculous transformations and mixtures of human,
animal and vegetal ritualistic actors. In the exhibition catalogue, Ara H. Merjian, Stanford scholar and art
historian, contextualizes Leonora Carrington’s art—perhaps the first scholar to approach and posit art
historical theories based on her work (as opposed to her life). Carrington’s elder son, Gabriel Weisz
Carrington, invents a playful narrative, done with the cooperation and much to the amusement of his
mother, alongside the paintings included in the exhibition catalogue.
San Francisco Art Institute Roundtable
On February 6th, 2008, The San Francisco Art Institute will host the first roundtable forum dedicated to
the art work and the legacy of renowned Surrealist artist and author, Leonora Carrington (b. 1917). The
roundtable will begin at 5:30 in SFAI’s auditorium followed by a reception in the Diego Rivera Gallery.
Confirmed roundtable participants include Whitney Chadwick, Professor of Art at San Francisco State
University and noted scholar of feminist art history; Susan Aberth, an art historian from Bard University
and Carrington scholar; and Ara Merjian, Stanford Professor of modern art and architectural history and
theory. The discussion will be hosted and moderated by Lynn Hershmann Leeson, filmmaker, artist and
newly-appointed Chair of SFAI’s film department.
About the Art
The exhibition will include eleven oil paintings, several gouaches and watercolors, and a few drawings—
spanning nearly forty five years of her career.
“The Talismanic Lens” refers most directly to the first two works in the exhibition—two gouaches
“Untitled” (1942) and “La Nave Espacial” (1943). These two works bookend Carrington’s arrival in New
York and further migration to Mexico City, and likely served a talismanic purpose in helping to heal and
protect her battered psyche. These two pieces perhaps best illustrate the seemingly unfamiliar yet
shockingly contemporary nature of Carrington’s work.
The largest oil painting in the show is the 1960 “Quería ser pájaro”, a commission executed for Maria
Felix, the late actress and Mexican celebrity icon. The painting, a very rare portrait of Maria Felix’s son,
Enrique, depicts the young man encircled by a menagerie of fantastical animals, casting an alchemical
incantation over a giant spinning egg as he slowly transforms himself into a bird.
“Le Bon Roi Dagobert” (1948), a painting that the artist gave to her dear friend, the Spanish Surrealist
film-maker Luis Buñuel, will be included in its first public exhibition as it has been with Buñuel and his
family for more than 50 years.
Two of Carrington’s most familiar works—“Darvault” (c. 1950), the cover from the recently published
Carrington book, Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art by Bard College professor and art
About Frey Norris Gallery Annex
Unlike many galleries that deal broadly in the secondary market, the Frey Norris Gallery Annex is highly
specialized. The Annex focuses on the underappreciated careers of many important Surrealist artists and
thinkers, and contains the finest collection of art for sale in the United States by the women artists
associated with Surrealism.