Saturday, October 06, 2007

Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys by Janet Kaplan

About 12 years ago, a fellow grad student found an art book at a used book sale. The artist was Remedios Varo, and the paintings were enchanting: wispy figures whose mustaches grew into handle bars, and whose beards wound down to their feet and became wheels ; willowy women who floated through magical landscapes with threads connecting them to wings and wheels. I especially liked ten or so of the paintings. Immediately, I began a search for a copy of the book. This was, of course, the days before Amazon and Google, so I had no luck. I kept at it, and about three weeks ago, I found a copy of this book. It came from England via ABEbooks (another favorite website for hard to find volumes). I was surprised I had not come across this before, but here it is. I guess my search had some holes in it!
Kaplan is a Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, and on the graduate faculty of The University of Vermont. This volume grew out of her dissertation.
Of the ten paintings I admired from the original collection, numbers 8 and 10 are here, but not the rest – so the search continues.
Despite this disappointment, Kaplan has written an excellent biography and survey of surrealism. I was surprised to learn Varo was born in Spain, spent time in Paris, and only later immigrated to Mexico. For some reason. I always thought she was Mexican.
If you like surrealism, Varo is a little known artist, but in her paintings, “The familiar becomes extraordinary,” as Kaplan writes. 4-1/2 stars – only for lack of more of my favorites.

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