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"Yves Tanguy Retrospective"
2001-06-01 until 2001-09-16
Menil Collection
Houston, TX, USA

Organized by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and presented at The Menil Collection in Houston (in its only U.S. venue) from June 1—September 16, 2001, this retrospective exhibition honors the French painter Yves Tanguy (1900—1955) on the centennial of his birth. A member of the Surrealist group, founded by André Breton in October 1924, Tanguy’s paintings are entirely individualistic and meticulously painted. They consist, typically, of unidentifiable objects, somewhat like marine forms and rock formations, scattered in a vast landscape of unreal, dreamlike perspectives.

Tanguy succeeded, more than any other Surrealist painter, in creating a tangible but inexplicable reality of the unreal atmosphere of a dream. This anniversary exhibition assembles 55 paintings, 15 works on paper, and one sculpture, all created during the twenty-five years of Tanguy’s artistic career. Essentially self-taught, Tanguy’s earliest works show the initial influence of Cubism and Futurism. After he met Breton in 1925, Tanguy’s art assumed the idiosyncratic imagery that would become its hallmark. Inspired by the harsh peninsulas, rough cliffs, and Neolithic rock formations of his native Brittany, Tanguy embraced and transformed this miraculous landscape in abstract compositions of amoebic or bonelike forms dominating a far horizon.

In 1939, Tanguy immigrated to America with painter Kay Sage, whom he married the following year. In the early 1940s, Tanguy created a number of pictures that differed from his earlier style in size, boldness of color, and richness of form. He often remarked that the vast expanse of the western American landscape (where he made two impressionable trips) and the strong light were contributing factors to this change. The colorful and veiled formations of his American period absorb over half of the picture’s height, radically altering their compositional space. In these later works, Tanguy also pushed his objects more towards the bottom edge of the canvas, balancing the contrast between hard and soft, metallic and organic. In the last years of his life, the biomorphic elements so characteristic of Tanguy’s compositions become sharp, stalagmite forms almost sculptural in their placement on the picture plane. His two last pictures seem to leave modern civilization far behind; not only do they foreshadow the demarcation line of the artist’s life, but they also make visible life at the end of time.


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