Image Above: Photo Eye (Foto-Auge),1927, printed 1938–40. Anton Stankowski (German, 1906–1998). Gelatin silver print, montage, from negatives with handwork; 10.9 x 14.5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 2007.122. © Stankowski-Stiftung.
The Cleveland Museum of Art presented in October Forbidden Games: Surrealist and Modernist Photography, a fascinatingly varied group of over 160 surrealist and modernist photographs from the 1920s through the 1940s. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue of the extraordinary vintage prints, acquired by the museum in 2007-2008 from the renowned collection of filmmaker David Raymond, represent the collection’s first appearance in print or at a museum. The exhibition will also include six short films and two books.
The Raymond collection tells two stories: one of a radical moment in early twentieth-century art and the other of an impassioned collector whose adventurous spirit and vision harmonized perfectly with his subject. Beginning in the 1990s, art collector and filmmaker David Raymond judiciously sought out vintage prints from the 1920s through the 1940s that reflect the eye in its wild state (l’oeil a l’état sauvage), remaining true to the spirit of André Breton, a founder of surrealism. Raymond’s holdings of surrealist and modernist photography were distinguished by their quality, breadth, and rarity of subject matter. In 2007, the Cleveland Museum of Art made a major, transformative acquisition by procuring that collection, one of the most important holdings of twentieth-century surrealist photography that remained in private hands.
The Crystal Ball (La Boule de Verre), 1931. Jacques-Henri Lartigue (French, 1894–1986). Gelatin silver print, toned; 23.7 x 29.9 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 2007.149. Photograph by Jacques Henri Lartigue © Ministère de la Culture - France / AAJHL.
Vertiginous camera angles, odd croppings, and exaggerated tones and perspectives are hallmarks of the two principal photographic movements of the period, surrealism and modernism. As with surrealist efforts in other media, artists making photographs also aimed to explore the irrational and the chance encounter—magic and the mundane—filtered through the unconscious defined by Sigmund Freud. Eventually, photography became a preeminent tool of surrealist visual culture.
Photographs by 68 artists from 14 countries in the Americas and Europe, representing diverse artistic pathways and divergent attitudes toward photography, come together in the collection. It includes works by notable artists such as Hans Bellmer, Ilse Bing, Bill Brandt, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Brassaï, Marcel Duchamp, Germaine Krull, László Moholy-Nagy, René Magritte, Man Ray and Alexander Rodchenko as well as numerous rare examples of equally provocative but less well-known photographers. Special highlights are bodies of work by Georges Hugnet, Marcel G. Lefrancq and 23 photographs by Dora Maar, one of the largest holdings of her work in a public collection.
The Doll (La Poupée), 1936. Hans Bellmer (German, 1902–1975). Gelatin silver print; 11.7 x 7.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 2007.27 © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris; Young Couple wearing a two-in-one Suit at the Bal de la Montagne Sainte Geneviéve, 1931. Brassaï (French, 1899–1984). Gelatin silver print, ferrotyped; 29.8 x 22 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 2007.40. © The Brassaï Estate – RMN
**Forbidden Games will be on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art from October 19, 2014, through January 11, 2015.