The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University will present Jimmy Ernst: Transcending the Surreal from Saturday, January 10, through Sunday, April 4, 2004.
Paul Klee changed his diapers. Jean Arp gave him piggyback rides. As the son of the great Surrealist artist Max Ernst, Jimmy Ernst grew up among the most important artists of the twentieth century. As an adult living in America, he developed his own independent artistic vision. He produced innovative paintings that forged a link between Europe’s traditions and the exciting new developments in postwar American art.
This retrospective exhibition features over 35 major paintings. It covers five decades of his art and looks at how he absorbed and transcended Surrealism to create his own unique mode of abstract painting.
Jimmy Ernst’s paintings were influenced by a number of powerful talents and vital currents in the art of his time. He drew upon the biomorphic and surreal compositions of his father, as well as Arp, Klee, André Breton, and Lyonel Feininger. His mature oil paintings, which emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, reflect the Atomic Age aesthetic of the period. Often, they resemble crystals or webs; many look like vast labyrinths and are interpreted as symbols of the unconscious mind.
Ernst was always interested in spirituality and drew inspiration from the lofty structure of Gothic cathedrals of his native Germany. His color is gentle but seductive and invites the viewer to dwell mentally in his imaginative compositions. A consummate craftsman, he painstakingly created each composition using dozens of layers of paint, which symbolize the depth of human consciousness.
Jimmy Ernst (1920-1984) was born in Cologne, Germany. His father and mother, art historian/journalist Louise Straus-Ernst, divorced when he was a small child. He was raised in Germany by his mother, who was later killed in the Nazi concentration camps. With the help of collector Peggy Guggenheim, teenaged Jimmy fled Germany in 1938 and arrived in New York,
During the war years, many of the European Surrealists lived in New York. Their presence inspired a younger group of New York artists who were on the verge of developing a new style known as Abstract Expressionism. Jimmy Ernst thrived in this milieu. Although he did not speak English at first, he quickly assimilated to the culture of his new home. He developed a keen interest in American film, urban jazz and Native American art, which influenced his own paintings.
By the late 1940s, Jimmy Ernst was accepted as a key member of the Abstract Expressionists, a group which revolutionized American art with "Action Painting." He was featured in Life magazine’s famous 1951 group photograph of the "18 Irascibles," which also included Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko.
Jimmy Ernst became a U.S. citizen in 1952 and lived in New York City and East Hampton, NY. His autobiography, A Not So Still Life, recounted details of his fascinating life and was published just before his death in 1984. His art is represented in over 80 museums around the world.
Jimmy Ernst: Transcending the Surreal is accompanied by an exhibition catalog, featuring an essay by art historian Phyllis Braff. This exhibition was organized by the Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri, and is circulated by ACA Galleries, New York City. The exhibition gives West Coast audiences a rare opportunity to see the work of this fascinating and important American artist.
Works will be on view in the Gregg G. Juarez Gallery, Ron Wilson–Designer Gallery, and West Gallery, in the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art.