Leonora Carrington is a painter, sculptor, printmaker and writer of the fantastic who discovered her métier at age twenty among the Surrealists in 1937 Paris. Now ninety, and living in Mexico, she has sent a selection of over twenty oils, gouaches, watercolors and drawings to San Francisco’s Frey Norris Gallery. Five years in the making, “The Talismanic Lens” is the first Bay Area showing of her work in any quantity since her Mexican Museum solo show in 1991.
The work on view, spanning some forty-five years, commingles alchemy, Tarot and the re-imagined mythology of Old and New Worlds to depict mysterious, grotesque, and playful tableaux of metamorphosis and hybridity reminiscent of Bosch, Bruegel, and Carrington’s mentor and lover, the Surrealist Max Ernst. Her mixture of the personal and the universal speaks to contemporary artists in search of authenticity and freedom from the dictatorship of bourgeois taste. Surrealism, like Carrington (who hates to be categorized, and, indeed, plus surréaliste que les surréalistes, même, labeled arty Parisian sexism and sexual politics as “bullshit”) is about nothing if not esthetic freedom; her art from the 1940s to the present has been aptly characterized by Carlos Fuentes as “a gay, diabolical and persistent struggle against orthodoxy.”
Look for the 1948 oil, “Le Bon Roi Dagobert,” the title of which refers to an ancient Merovingian king; it was painted as a present for the Spanish Surrealist film director Luis Buñuel. A handsome 60-page catalogue featuring an essay by Stanford scholar Ara H. Merjian and commentary by the artist’s son, poet and writer Gabriel Weisz-Carrington, is available.
(*Images, top: Leonora Carrington, the Talismanic Lens, February 7 - March 30, 2008; Frey Norris Gallery, Le Bon Roi Dagobert, 1948, oil on canvas, 35 3/8 x 23 5/8 in., courtesy of Frey Norris Gallery. Left: Leonora Carrington, the Talismanic Lens, February 7 - March 30, 2008; Frey Norris Gallery, Birdbath, 1978, acrylic on canvas board, 56 x 71 cm (28 x 22 in), courtesy of Frey Norris Gallery. Right: Leonora Carrington, the Talismanic Lens, February 7 - March 30, 2008; Frey Norris Gallery, Quería ser pájaro, 1960, oil on canvas, 119 x 90 cm (46 3/4 x 35 1/2 in), courtesy of Frey Norris Gallery.)