In honor of the 100th year of his birth, the whimsical, often prescient visions of Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) will be on view in the Concourse of the Dallas Museum of Art from May 23 through Aug. 15, 2004.
Imaginations and Objects of the Future (1976) includes 10 works on paper from the portfolio with the same title, which was acquired by the Museum in 1998 but never before shown at the DMA. The exhibition also includes 24 works on paper from Dalí’s Divine Comedy (1960) series, which was inspired by the trilogy written by the great Italian master Dante Alighieri. All of the works on view illustrate the Paradise section of the poem. The Divine Comedy illustrations were acquired by the Museum in 1996. Both portfolios are gifts of Lois and Howard B. Wolf.
Imaginations and Objects of the Future presents eye-catching selections of Dalí’s late work, which reflects his vital role in modern art. The unique selection shows Dalí’s imaginative world as he entered a more religious and scientific phase of his life and art. After 1960, the surrealist became increasingly obsessed with mortality, nuclear warfare, technological advancement, and his own legacy as an artist. By focusing on his visions of the future and the afterlife, this exhibition not only presents central themes and motifs from Dalí’s career but also grants the viewer a glimpse into his personality.
Imaginations and Objects of the Future is a whimsical portfolio filled with Dalí’s imaginative inventions of convenience and luxury. Using a variety of techniques, including collage, lithography, and etching, Dalí draws the viewer in with explosive color and witty satire. Demonstrating his uncanny ability to predict the future, this portfolio reveals how some of Dalí’s fantasies have indeed become part of 21st-century reality. For example, Dalí’s Anti-Umbrella with Atomized Liquid, which he envisioned as a beach umbrella that not only protects one from the sun’s rays but also emits an atomized liquid that provides an artificial tan, is not unlike the bottled tanning solutions used today. It is also a precursor to the misting machines that are used to cool an outdoor porch or deck in the heat.
Dalí’s Cybernetic Lobster Telephone is, in his words, “an aesthetic variation on the telephone.” In his imagination, telephones would be unnecessary in the future because humans could transmit ideas, words, and emotions by thinking. His image of a rotary-dial old-fashioned telephone with a bulging red lobster in place of the receiver dissuades one from using the telephone manually.
Dalí created his Divine Comedy series partially in response to his shock and dismay over the atomic explosion of Aug. 6, 1945, which leveled the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Following the bombing, he decided to seek an “absolute vision in the grace of reality.” In his ambition to visually express aspects of the Divine, Dalí felt a sense of kinship with Dante, the 14th-century writer who chronicled his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in search of spiritual reconciliation and truth. Dante devoted the last 33 cantos, or chapters, of his trilogy La Divina Commedia to Paradiso, a fantastic realm of saints, angels, and above all, brightness and beauty emanating from his enlightened love, Beatrice. Dalí completed his own Divine Comedy, commissioned by the Italian government to honor the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth in 1960. In some cases, Dalí opts to create fantastic images of otherworldly realms that are not derived directly from Dante’s narrative. Referring to his work, Dalí wrote, “I want my illustrations for the Dante to be like the faint markings of moisture in a divine cheese…Mysticism is cheese; Christ is cheese, better still, mountains of cheese!”
Visitors will find the labels and descriptive panels installed with the exhibition helpful in understanding Dalí’s visions and ideas. In addition to introductory panels that give an overview of the two series, all individual labels for the Imaginations and Objects of the Future portfolio include quotes from the artist referring directly to the specific piece. Labels for Dante’s Paradiso include quotations from Dante’s magnum opus, which Dalí’s series illustrates.
At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, June 2, Lora Sariaslan, the McDermott Curatorial Assistant, and the curator of the show will give a gallery talk entitled Beyond Reality: Salvador Dalí. On Thursday, July 8, at 7 p.m. in Horchow Auditorium, the Museum will present Icons of the Collection: Salvador Dalí, with Dr. William Jeffett, Curator of Exhibitions at the Salvador Dalí Museum, and Dr. Michael Taylor, The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for a lively discussion on the life and works of the controversial surrealist master. Afterward, the audience can enjoy a rare screening of the surrealist classic film Un Chien andalou (1929), the movie Dalí made in collaboration with Spanish film director Luis Buñuel. Un Chien andalou is an iconic film that shows the multi-talented Dalí at work in a different artistic medium. Admission to the lecture is $20 for adults, $15 for members and senior citizens, and $10 for students. Reservations, which are strongly recommended, can be made by calling 214/922-1826.