Yesterday, my family and I went to the High Museum in Atlanta to see the Salvador Dali exhibit. It runs until January 9th, so you still have time to see it. It’s an eye-opening exhibit, not just because of the selection of works that are included, but because of what you learn about the artist as you make your way through it.
Most people know Dali for The Persistence of Memory. It’s on display at the High, and is a favorite of many. How can you not remember a painting comprised of melting clocks?
But most of the works in the exhibit pertained to Dali’s career after he rejected surrealism, which I think is a more interesting period of his life and where his work really flourished. You see The Persistence of Memory, which is a memorable painting. But consider one of his later works, Christ of Saint John of the Cross:
Very much a classically composed painting, this. Symmetric, nothing abstract about the composition’s elements. However, the juxtaposition/arrangement of the elements still have a very surreal element to them. Indeed, asat explains:
We have seen many pictures of the crucifixion but never one from this point of view, have we? Well, the regulars are from the POV of the worshipper, but Dali’s is unique. He has rendered his crucifixion from the point of view of God!
It’s like God looking at His Son, after the mission is accomplished. This POV serves another purpose, too. Given that it is God’s view, we see Jesus as the bridge between God and the mortal world, represented by that seascape below. This painting is surreal because Dali has mixed two perspective angles. The seacscape is in our eyelevel, instead of following the angle of the cross and showing a bird’s eye-view of Golgotha.
That certainly makes the painting very modern yet classical at the same time. There were a number of other paintings the High has as part of this exhibit where you can see more examples of how he was able to draw and paint classical elements, yet change them in some way to come up with something completely unexpected and thoroughly modern. To me that’s the true genius of Dali.
There were also photographs on display, some of which were donated by Sir Elton John, who lives in Atlanta. The photographic collaboration between Dali and Philippe Halsman was both playful and surreal. Like a strange dreamlike wonderland in black and white. But it was also obvious from the photos these were done largely out of jest. Often humorous, but always profound. This post has a few of the featured photos in the exhibit, so you can see what I mean.
Some of these works have never been seen before and may never be seen again. So if you have the chance to go see it, go.