Mary Ann Caws In Conversation with Stephanie D’Alessandro

Oct, 09 2018 | 7:00 PM

Mary Ann Caws In Conversation with Stephanie D’Alessandro

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cover image of the book The Milk Bowl of Feathers

Born at the famous Café Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 from the avant-garde Dada movement, surrealism aimed to free the creative act from rational thought. Max Ernst, André Breton, Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, Philippe Soupault, and Louis Aragon created a movement that spread like wildfire to all corners of the globe, inspiring new, groundbreaking poets as well as artists like Joan Miró and René Magritte and cinematic masters such as Antonin Artaud, Luis Buñuel, and Salvador Dalí. As the editor, Mary Ann Caws, says, “Essential to surrealist behavior is a constant state of openness, of readiness for whatever occurs, whatever marvelous object we might come across, manifesting itself against the already thought, the already lived.”

Here are the gems of this major, mind-bending aesthetic and political movement: not only works by Aragon, Breton, Dalí, René Char, Man Ray, and Robert Desnos, but also works by key, often overlooked female surrealists— Mina Loy, Alice Paalen, Gisèle Prassinos, Kay Sage, and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. The Milk Bowl of Feathers provides a grand picture of this revolutionary movement that shocked the world.

Mary Ann Caws is Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature, and Emerita and Resident Professor at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. She has translated and written on many surrealist writers including André Breton, René Char, Paul Éluard, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.

Stephanie D’Alessandro is the Leonard A. Lauder Curator of Modern Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art and Curator-in-Charge of the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art. Before joining the Met in May 2017, D’Alessandro was the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of International Modern Art and organized such major exhibitions as Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 (2010), Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 (2014), and Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil (2017). She has also published widely on German and Latin American modernism and Surrealism; she is currently at work on an exhibition for The Met and Tate Modern on the topic of “global surrealism” (2021).