Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dali in Depth

The Sun of Dali, 1965, Salvador Dali
In writing about art and artists, day after day, I make a conscious effort to showcase artists whose work I don't like. I try to be objective. I try not to let my distaste for their work color what I have to say, although I sometimes mention the fact that a given artist is not my "cup of tea" if for no other reason than to alert the reader to the fact that there might be some unconscious bias in my words. On the other side of the coin, for the same reason, I guess I should also alert the reader when I talk about the work of an artist whom I really like. I've often mentioned the fact that Salvador Dali is an idol of mine. Well, BIAS ALERT, Dali was not only a master of Surrealism, but also one of optical Illusions. In seeking after this aspect of his painting, we uncover a little more "meat" in the artist's work than may have been known in the past.

Dali flirted rather unhappily with Hollywood in the
Hitchcock-Selznick production of Spellbound.
Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea,  1976 Salvador Dali.
At a distance, painting becomes a pixilated image of Abraham Lincoln.
(If you can't see it, try squinting a little.)
For better or worse, all too many people think first of Dali the showman, or Dali the limp watch painter when his name comes up. There's little of the former and none of the latter in Dali's optical illusions. Instead, we see work done in the 1940s for Alfred Hitchcock's and David Selznick's 1945 movie, Spellbound. There in his original 20-minute dream sequence (which Selznick cut, then cut again, eventually eliminating it entirely) we find much of Dali's little-known experiments with three-dimensional illusions. The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC once rigged up several of Dali's paintings in stereoscopic fashion, employing mirrors and other optical devices to allow viewers to enjoy the genius of Dali as he intended. Particularly noticeable was a harbor scene employing a rather enormous female nude (above).

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans, 1936, Salvador Dali
Nieuw Amsterdam, 1974, Salvador Dali
There was also a political side of Dali. His Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (above), painted during the Spanish Civil War, depicts a dissected human body strangling itself. When the Second World War forced Dali to flee to the US, he did a painting of a bronze bust of the Native American, Chief White Eagle. It's titled Nieuw Amsterdam (right). Reflected in his eyes are Dutch burgers congratulating themselves on the purchase of Manhattan Island for the proverbial twenty-four dollars, toasting one another with  bottles of Coke.

Moreover, Dali should probably be thought of as an important 20th century artist despite his crass showmanship, but only if we allow Dali to be Dali. It's impossible to divorce Dali from limp watches,  but he's also painted a floppy cello and wavy piano keys.  We must also give a nod toward Dali, the egotistical clown, as seen in his The Sun and Dali (top) complete with his trademark long, thin, curly mustache. But to see all of the man, we must look at, if not all of his work, at least some of his less famous images where the man's optical illusions bloom unexpectedly.
Salvador Dali, one of his most famous optical illusions.

No comments:

Post a Comment