Wolfgang Paalen: Philosopher of the Possible features a selection of works by one of the twentieth century’s most catalyzing Surrealist artists. In its second solo show for Paalen (Austrian, 1905-1959), Gallery Wendi Norris presents works dating from 1932 to 1954, including the artist’s largest sculpture and painting ever produced.
The exhibition has several centerpieces, works that have rarely been exhibited. Les Cosmogones (The Cosmogons)(1944), the largest painting Paalen created measuring 96 x 93 inches (244 x 236 cm) reflects the intersection of art and ethnology. It was originally exhibited at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of this Century gallery in 1945 and later in Dynaton, an exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1951. Projét pour un monument (Project for a Monument) (1945), Paalen’s largest sculpture, standing at nearly 8 feet or 2.4 meters in height, was produced in his San Angel studio, built by the German architect Max Cetto. Two paintings on view were produced during Paalen’s most riveting era, when he introduced the technique of fumage to the art world. La balance – rêve interprété, vue gothique (The Balance – Interpreted Dream, Gothic Sight)(1937) contains a central monumental figure as if to predict its future fate with war on the horizon. Combat des princes saturniens III (Combat of the Saturnian Princes III) (1939), once owned by Andre Breton, depicts a tree-like structure bursting out of the smoke-filled sky, a direct reference to the state of the world in 1939.
A 60-page catalogue will accompany the exhibition, with an essay by Amy Winter, Director of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and author of Wolfgang Paalen: Artist and Theorist of the Avant-Garde. Winter makes critical observations, the first ever published in English, as to Paalen’s direct and indirect influence on the New York School of artists, including Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, and William Baziotes, among others.